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Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
We all want to experience joy and pleasure in this life. No one desires to go through life unhappy and weighed down. Our desire for joy and pleasure is a God-given desire because we are created in God’s image. Our God delights, He is pleased, and He finds things to be good and very good. This is innate in us as well.
Why do so many of us not experience true joy and pleasure? Is it because joy and pleasure are elusive or just hard to attain? The opposite is true – there are many things that bring us joy and pleasure, they simply aren’t lasting. The issue is that we are all too easily pleased by temporary things, and when they are gone, our joy and pleasure is gone.
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. -C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
A guy moved to California and everyone at work told him to try an avocado. One day after work, he finally buys an avocado. The next day they asked him about it. “Have you tried an avocado yet?” “Yes! It was horrible. It was hard and bitter.” “Oh, it probably wasn’t ripe.” “It was ripe, I had the produce guy pick it out for me. Not only was it hard and bitter, but it was gross to scrape off all that soft green stuff to get to the middle and eat it.”
The guy didn’t understand what part of the avocado to eat, so his experience was disappointing. When we don’t understand the source of true joy or seek pleasure apart from God, it is often hard and bitter and disappointing. We tend to seek our joy and pleasure in temporal things, but we are to find those in Jesus. God designed giving to flow out of the joy and pleasure we have in Jesus. Being in the presence of Jesus makes us givers. Joy and pleasure are found in the presence of God:
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and joy are in His place. 1 Chronicles 16:26-27
And the sons of Israel, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. Ezra 6:16
You will make known to me the path of life;In Your presence is fullness of joy;In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, Jude 1:24
God gives us joy and the fruit of the Spirit is manifested when we walk with God.
What does this have to do with giving? Everything – we give because we’re overflowing with joy already. Giving is a natural expression of finding our joy in Jesus. Giving only becomes a burden when we don’t have joy in Jesus.
In Matthew 6, Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you. He talked about the beauty of flowers and how they fade; the single sparrow who dies and that God is aware. We are far more valuable than sparrows and God will take care of us.
After Jesus fed the 5,000 He crossed over the lake to the other side. The disciples forgot to bring bread with them. Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They immediately thought He said this because they forgot bread… even after they saw Jesus feed the four thousand and five thousand, their mindset was concerned with the temporal and not the eternal. God will take care of the temporal things of life and provide the bread we need. He’s promised to provide all we need when we need it! Our temporal thinking robs us of joy and robs God of His glory.
Last week we looked at 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, concerning the collection for the saints. We saw that giving is born out of God’s great generosity by going to us the first and best, His son Jesus, so that we may have new life. The Corinthians wanted to give to the saints in Jerusalem and expressed that desire. Today’s passage from 2 Corinthians is from a year later. Paul reminds them of their desire to give and what it means to give, and he uses the Macedonians as an example.
1. Giving comes from the Grace of God – “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,” (v. 1) Giving comes from God based on His grace in our lives. We give grace because of God’s gift to us and grace always gives! The Gospel cannot stop with us, it must be given away. We love God because He first loved us. We love others because of God’s infinite and perfect love toward us.
2. Giving is not based on circumstances but on joy – “that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.” (v. 2) The Macedonians were afflicted and in poverty, but they gave freely out of their joy in the Lord.
Their joy was not based on their circumstances. They were afflicted and in great distress and poverty, yet they had joy. The joy was not a result of giving but the giving a result of joy, which results in even greater joy or pleasure.
God loves a cheerful giver and does not want us to give out of duty but to find joy in giving. When we give with joy, God is pleased. There is joy in giving because Jesus gave to us. We find our joy and pleasure in God, and this pleases Him. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
Giving doesn’t just apply to our finances. It can also apply to the way we use our time and gifts, and how we serve the Body. Are we serving out of obligation and duty, or out of an overflow of joy? Do we serve cheerfully as a grace gift to God?
3. Giving is a matter of the heart – “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,” (v. 3-4)
Giving is measured in the heart, not the hand. The Macedonians gave what they could and then even more because it was their great desire. There was no coercion or guilt or duty; it was not about the amount but about the motivation.
The Body needs all to participate for the common good. Giving is a matter of the heart or an act of love. Loving others is an overflow of joy by which God meets the needs of others. The widow gave sacrificially because she trusted Jesus:
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
Giving is a desire, not a duty. The Macedonians wanted to give, they begged to give. There was no conflict between what they wanted and what God wanted. God did not coerce them to give or force them to give against their will.
Giving to the kingdom has eternal value:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Our issue is not that we are too heavenly minded. We are usually too earthly minded, putting our hope and trust in the temporal. We spend most of our lives investing for retirement and not for eternity. Where are we putting our hope and trust? Where is our security?
4. Giving begins with Surrender to God – “and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” (v. 5) They gave themselves to the Lord, meaning they found their satisfaction in Him. They first found pleasure in Jesus which resulted in an overflow of joy. Joy is deep abiding joy in our souls, the joy of the Lord. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
5. Giving is a demonstration of Love – “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also” (v. 8) For God so loved the world that He gave… giving demonstrates love.
6. Giving glorifies Jesus – As we give, it glorifies God.
For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:12-15
7. Jesus the Greatest Giver – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (v. 9) Although He was equal with God, He left God. Jesus gave Himself – this is the greatest gift! God will not hold back bread from us because He’s already given us the very best in Jesus.
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
We give because Jesus gave to us. He gave Himself out of obedience, with joy, even in the face of suffering. Our challenge is to lay it all down at the cross.