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NOV

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APRIL 3 2016

 

The Blessedness of Giving

 

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 9. Read entire chapter. PRAY.

 

[I. Introduction] There are a lot of religious charlatans out there on the airwaves. One of them was selling “Miracle Spring Water,”  complete with testimonies: “They said she would never walk again…now she is walking!” “I used the Miracle Spring Water and I then got the best job!”

 

Another was giving away (I’m not making this up.) “No Evil Oil” for a gift of any amount. Others have sold prayer cloths. We may not be taken in by this kind of nonsense, but prosperity theology has enough bits and pieces of truth in it to dupe many. But it is just as bad if not worse because nothing is sold, you are just persuaded to keep giving more, only to expect that you will become prosperous because you gave. Take Mike Murdock’s prosperity theology. What you give to God, Murdock said, he will return to you a hundredfold.

 

One observer of Murdock’s antics describes them this way: “He repeatedly referred to this as "planting a seed," and used his own life as an alleged example. He'd had only a few thousand dollars to his name and given most of it away, when suddenly strangers approached him with expensive gifts: a rare vintage car, a $10,000 check, a luxury van. His premise doesn't even make mathematical sense: if everyone receives dramatically more than they give, where's it all coming from? Is God stealing it from the non-givers or something? It's all nothing more than a religious Ponzi scheme, one invented wholesale simply to jump-start the first layer of the investment pyramid.

 

Then came the actual requests for cash: Murdock urged viewers to get up from the sofa and plant their $1,000 seed. You sometimes hear about the questionable practices televangelists employ, but it's a bit surreal to watch one of them gaze right into the eyes of the home audience to ever-so-fervently bilk them out of their hard-earned money. Interestingly, I never heard any specific information about where the money would go. Both in his TV sales pitch and on his horribly garish website, he says only that it goes toward "spreading the gospel." Sounds awfully fishy—and sure enough, it turns out that he spends most of the donations on himself. Less than one percent goes to charity.

 

Murdock specifically makes people in financial trouble the targets of his exploitation. He promises that your debt will vanish, that you'll make your mortgage payment, if only you plant your seed. He's intent on wringing every last coin out of them:

"Maybe you've got money in a closet somewhere, in a coin collection, in stocks and bonds. I don't know where you're going to get it, but you know."

One last bit of abuse that really made my jaw drop was his promise of "household salvation." He said that after one woman had promised to write him a check, the Holy Spirit had come to him and said:

"Tell her that because she's planted a seed to spread the gospel, every member of her family will be saved."

All those who planted the seed, Murdock said, could receive this wonderful blessing as a "fourth harvest" in the next 90 days.”

 

There is a blessedness in giving and there is a divine principle of sowing and reaping but it is nothing like the prosperity theology peddled by the televangelists.

 

What are the true and biblical principles of giving that the apostle has laid out for us in this passage?

 

The church in Corinth had many serious problems. 

 

  • The church was full of divisions. Division is a very serious sin under the New Covenant. We are to be one in Christ, not divided.
  • There was fornication in the church.
  • There were lawsuits against one another.
  • Weak believers were stumbling because some were eating food sacrificed to idols.
  • They were disdaining the Lord’s Supper.

 

Despite all these sins the apostle commends them for something. He says in verse 2 that they had a readiness to give. This idea is repeated two more times. In verse 5 he writes that he is sending some brothers, one of whom is Titus, to them to help them arrange their monetary gift so it will be a willing gift.

 

In verse 7 he again writes something similar: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

[II.] This then is the first principle: We are to give with readiness, willingly, not reluctantly. Why? Because God loves a cheerful giver. It is a fact that God loves every follower of His Son, Jesus Christ. Even if you think you are the most insignificant Christian, the least respected, the often failing and stumbling Christian, even if you’re ugly and your hair is falling out, if you belong to Christ then God loves you. He not only loves you but He loves you more than you know. If we could see how much the Lord loves us it would change the way we live. It is a fact that God loves every believer.

 

But it is also a fact that He does not love every believer equally. He loves every single one, but He loves some more than others.

 

Now, God loves a cheerful giver. Do you want a semblance (it will only be a semblance) of how much God loves you? Then ask yourself how cheerfully you give. Giving without reluctance, getting excited about the privilege of giving to the kingdom of God is a measure both of how much you love God and how much He loves you.

 

[Illus] There were two boys that grew up together in the same town. One went to Bible school and studied to become a missionary. The other went to an agricultural school and became a successful farmer. The young man, just as he was about to go out on the mission field, went back to his hometown and ministered at his old church. His friend came up to him and said, “I’m so happy to see you. I think it is wonderful that you are obeying the call of God. You know if I had two cars I would give you one. In fact if I had two houses I would give you one. Even if I had two million dollars, I would give one million dollars to you.”  The missionary replied, “That’s wonderful. Tell me, if you had two pigs, would you give me one?’ The farmer answered, “Now, that’s not fair. You know I have two pigs.”

 

That’s what you call a reluctant giver. God doesn’t want what you don’t have. He wants what you have, but He also wants you to give happily.

 

[III.] The second principle is found in verse 6: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” We have had a tract in our entryway entitled Sowing and Reaping. It was written in the 1800’s and is a powerful message. We can’t seem to keep it in stock. They go fast whenever we get them in. It pertains to spiritual things as obedience and service to Christ and it addresses disobedience as well. The Scriptures teach that there is a spiritual sowing that results in spiritual reaping in this life and on into the next. Here, however, Paul applies the principle of sowing and reaping directly to monetary giving.

 

This is where the prosperity teachers contort the teaching. When you listen to what the prosperity teachers say, they teach that God wants you to be wealthy and the way to that wealth is through giving to their ministry. But look at what the inspired apostle says in verse 8: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work.”

 

Grace is God’s undeserved favor upon us. Most often it pertains to the spiritual blessings and insights that are bestowed upon us by the Lord; here though it pertains to physical blessings. This passage is saying that God is going to bless you materially when you sow money into His kingdom, when you give cheerfully.  That part the prosperity teachers get right. But the next part of the verse is the key: it is so that you may abound in every good work. It is not to spend it on yourself. It is not to get a new car, a new house, or a membership at an exclusive club. Now, there may come a time when the Lord will bless you with a new car, house, or membership. But that is not the purpose of the reaping. It is so that you will have the resources to expand God’s kingdom and to bless others.

 

Verse 9 makes this even more clear. “As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor, his righteousness endures forever.’”

 

For years when I read this verse I thought it was referring to God. I probably thought that because of the second half that says “his righteousness endures forever.” That phrase is used often to describe the Lord. I thought Paul was saying, “Look, God distributes freely. He gives to the poor. So should you.”

But this entire verse refers to man not to God. Let’s look at it. Paul is quoting from Psalm 112.

 

So, we see that it is the practical righteousness of the one who fears the Lord, the one who trusts in the Lord, the one who gives generously, who distributes freely…that person’s righteousness will go on forever.

 

Returning to our passage in 2 Corinthians, in verse 10 Paul writes, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing…” When you sow seed it will be gone for a while. Having it gone from our possession is what prevents people from giving. They think, “How will I pay my utility bill? How will I make my car payment? How will I save up to get a better car?” God is saying, “Yes, it will be gone for a while. But I am the One who gave you the money and the food to begin with. When you give those away I am going to give you even more.” Do you see that? Paul writes that God will supply and multiply your seed…for what? So that you can live in luxury? No! “Multiply your seed for sowing.”

 

He will give you more so that you can give more. So that the harvest of your righteousness will be increased. There is coming a day when the righteous things that we do will result in a harvest. Paul is again, as he does so often, alluding to a Judgment day for the believer when we will be rewarded for the things that the Lord has gained in us and which we express here and now.

 

[Illus] Two visitors stopping by farmhouse. If fallen people can multiply what you give how much more the Lord?

 

Verse 11 continues this doctrine. So that is four verses in a row saying the same thing. “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way…” I will be frank here. The reason why some of you are not enriched is because you have not been generous. You can be generous even when you have almost nothing. [Illus] There is a city on the outskirts of Manila called Pasig. A mother and her two children started packing a box for shipment to help the victims of the recent typhoon…30 pesos…

 

All of this will result in Thanksgiving to God.

 

It is not just Paul that teaches this truth, but the Lord Jesus. In Luke 6:38 Jesus said:

 

            give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

 

Sowing and reaping even in monetary terms is a divine principle, a promise from Jesus, that can be trusted. If you doubt it, put the Lord to the test, see what happens.

 

[IV.] The third principle is found in verse 3 of our passage. Paul wants the Corinthians to be ready. However, the passage does not specify how they are to be ready. Proverbs 3:9,10 tells us how we are to make ourselves ready.

 

            Honor the LORD with your wealth

                        and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

            then your barns will be filled with plenty,

                        and your vats will be bursting with wine.

 

God does not want what is left over after you pay your bills. Firstfruits are exactly what the word describes: they are the first of what you harvest. Most of us are not farmers so, in principle, that would be the first of what we earn. Under the Old Covenant the people of God were to give ten percent. They actually gave more than ten percent because there were other offerings, such as the free will offering, that were given in addition to the tithe.

 

Under the New Covenant we are not commanded to tithe, but we are recipients of greater blessing than they were under the Old Covenant, both spiritually and in every way. Since we are to give in accordance of how the Lord has blessed us this means that we should be giving more than ten percent. This is evident by so many passages in the NT that I do not have the time in one message to review.

 

But, if you have not been faithful to do that then ten percent is a starting point to get into the good habit of “being ready.” The ten percent (or 12 or 15) that you set aside should be the first priority. It should be your firstfruits not your lastfruits.

 

[Illus] Martyn Lloyd-Jones told a story about a farmer who went into the house one day to tell his wife and family some good news. "The cow just gave birth to twin calves, one red and one white," he said.

He continued, "We must dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes, we will sell one and keep the proceeds and we will sell the other and give the proceeds to the Lords work." His wife asked him which he was going to dedicate to the Lord. "There's no need to bother about that now," he replied, "we'll treat them both in the same way and when the time comes, we'll do as I say."

A few days later, he entered the kitchen looking unhappy. "What happened?" his wife asked. "I have bad news," he replied, "The Lords calf is dead." "Wait," said his wife, " you didn't decide which calf was the Lords." "Yes" he said," I decided it was the white one, and the white one died. The Lords calf is dead."

 

That was an example of “lastfruits,” not firstfruits! The principle of being ready means to set aside first, before all other expenditures, money to give to the Lord.

 

[V.] The fourth principle is found in the words of our Lord. Turn with me, please, to Matthew 6:

 

            “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

            “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

 (Matthew 6:19-23 ESV)

 

The fourth principle is this: our heart follows our money. In verse 19, what “treasures” are being referred by our Lord? They are material things. This is clear when he speaks about “moth and rust” destroying what one has and thieves stealing it. When we think of treasure we most often think of money itself. Whether it is money or what can be purchased with money, one thing is true: money is the medium by which all other commodities are acquired.

 

Next, our Lord tells us to lay up treasures in heaven instead of on earth. What treasures are those? In context, they must be the same treasures as in verse 19: material things. This passage does not exclude activities of a consecrated heart such as service and care for the less fortunate, prayer, devotional time, and such; but it’s primary application is the use of material possessions for the kingdom of God.

 

Paul rehearses this principle in even clearer terms when he writes to Timothy about the wealthy in the church:

 

            As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

(1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV)

 

Note in verse 19 he specifically says that when they share of their monetary wealth they are storing for themselves treasures for the future!

Returning to our passage in Matthew 6, Jesus says that where our treasure is there will our heart be also! In other words, our heart follows our money!

 

This is true because the Lord said it! But we also know it to be true because of our own experience. Where and how we spend our money leads to ever stronger affection to those things.

 

[VI.] But this also means something else is true! The principle of reciprocity teaches us that the opposite is also true. How we spend our money reveals where our heart already is. Put another way: How we spend our money reveals what we love. It is a far better revealer of what we love than our words!

 

A father of a six-year old girl says he loves his wife and their daughter. He even feels warm feelings for them. But he left them and spends his nights carousing. He calls now and then and says he loves them…but never sends them a dime. You see, love is not a feeling. It is a commitment. It is loyalty. The man’s actions reveals that he is committed to having a good time, not to his family.

 

How we spend our money reveals what we love.

 

This is true in every avenue of life. How much money you give to God reveals how much you love God. Some may not like to hear that. But it is simply true.

 

Some may be thinking: “I suppose, then, that I do not love God as much as I thought I did.” That may be true! Hope is not far away, however. There is a remedy. We have just seen what Jesus said about this. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our heart follows our money. One way to increase our love for God is to place our treasure into His kingdom now.

 

[VII]Last, where are we to give? The local church. [Illus] We'd all like a reputation for generosity, and we'd all like to buy it cheap. There is a recent study that seems to affirm the effectiveness of this priority system by demonstrating that church dollars accomplish far more than television dollars. Robert Polk, director of the Cooperative Program Promotion for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, came to this conclusion after analyzing the 1986 expenditures of leading TV ministries as compared to the Southern Baptist Convention.

First, he studied how the $684 million given to six leading TV ministers was used. Beside paying for TV time, he discovered that the donations supported 4 schools, 1 hospital, 3 churches, 2 ministries to needy children, 1 ministry to others in need, and 1 home for unwed mothers.

He then studied how the $635 million given to the Southern Baptists was spent. The contrast is startling! For the Baptist donations supported 52 children's homes, 48 hospitals (including 23 overseas), 67 colleges and universities (enrolling over 200,000 students), and 33 nursing homes; it also supported 3,756 foreign missionaries, 3,637 missionaries in the USA, and ministries to students on 1,100 campuses. These funds also supported six seminaries (enrolling a fifth of this country's seminarians), and the ACTS television network carried on cable in many cities.

 

[VIII. Conclusion] Let us remember the principles for giving that are revealed in the Bible. For if we remember them and put them into practice then we will, indeed, experience the blessedness of giving. We will know that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

 

1. Give cheerfully

2. Know that you will reap what you sow. (There is a reward even in the here and now.)

3. Give to God first.

4. Know that how much you give reveals how much you love.

5. Our love for the Lord will increase as our giving increases.

6. Give to your local church.