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First in a four week Stewardship series (Point: Our Motivation is Joy in Christ) September 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Emotions, Stewardship.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF JOY IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:1-2 and 9:7

FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND MATERIAL

The church of Jerusalem was a problem church. From the very beginning they found it difficult to meet their own needs. They were burdened financially with local Jews who were kicked out of their families because they believed in Jesus and with Jews from throughout the Roman Empire who were in Jerusalem to learn from the disciples the truth of Christ. Before long, people began to sell property to care for the poor in the church. Then the out of town Jews began to complain that their widows were being ignored in the financial program of the church. Then came persecution and as often is the case, those with the most money were best able to escape to other areas. Then famine came. The church of Jerusalem could not care for itself and so Paul spent much time among the new believers in areas where he ministered raising funds for the Jerusalem church. At the end of 1 Corinthians he asked for money to be gathered and now he writes and encourages them to give as they had apparently promised.

Interestingly, Paul does not in this letter (2 Corinthians) appeal to the poverty of the Jerusalem church to motivate them to give but rather to the believer’s abundance of joy in Jesus Christ as the key motivating factor to give.

JOY COMES FROM THE GRACE OF GOD. 

It takes the grace of God to make a cheerful giver (8:1 and 9:7). Although the word cheerful and joyful are not the same, they are near synonyms the way Paul is using them in this chapter.

It is fun to watch people give with joy. At Christmas time we see people giving with joy. During our VBS we watched the children give with joy. The joy of competition – boys against the girls. The joy of participation – I get to do something with the others. In fact, these kids had so much joy that last week we got a letter from our Awana missionaries, Jeff and Melanie Davis, received $390 much needed dollars through the joy of those children and adults who participated in the Vacation Bible School offering.

Now the joy those kids experienced was real joy. They were cheerful givers. Their joy though was childish. It was the joy of competition and participation. I do not mean that as a criticism. They are children. They are supposed to be childish. Competition and participation are not sinful but can be very positive motivations. The joy though that these people had was the joy that comes by the grace of God.

If Paul had been sending out a mailing, he would not have sent out pictures of starving Jerusalem believers to motivate the Corinthians. He would have sent out pictures of Jesus on the cross, the very act of God’s  grace to mankind. Under that picture he would have written, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. Show your joy by giving to your brother. The overflow of your joy is the love that you show to them.”

HE USES THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES AS AN EXAMPLE. 

The Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) had reason to give grudgingly with sorrow or annoyance (8:2 with 9:7). They were broke. They had not always been poor. Lydia had been a business woman in Philippi. They had been homeowners like Jason in Thessalonica. They had been prominent people in the synagogues of Thessalonica and Berea but now they were financial nobodies. Business? Gone. Property? Gone. Connections at the synagogue? Gone. They were now impoverished. Yet they gave not out of duty, not out of sorrow, and not grudgingly but with joy. Joy in the grace of God.

Because of Paul’s authority, they could have felt pressured to give (Compare 9:7 with 11:5-9) but in actuality they did not (Philippians 4:10-17). In fact, it may be that Paul tried to spare them from the responsibility of giving but they would not let him (see verse 4).

In fact, they purposed in their heart. They made giving a permanent purpose (9:7), a priority in their lives. If they had a budget, they planned giving in that budget. If they did not have enough to even budget with, they planned to give in some way at any opportunity that God might bring into their lives. They begged for an opportunity to give. They gave not out of annoyance or out of pressure from man or even God but because they had joy in their lives and the reason they had joy in their lives was because of the grace of God (8:1). God made the Macedonian churches rich but not in material possessions but rather rich in joy!

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY.

Paul is applying this principle to a benevolence offering but this principle of joyful service applies to all manner of service.

John Piper: “Consider 1 Peter 5 when Peter tells the elders how to go about their ministry of shepherding the flock of God. Peter applies the same principle to the pastoral ministry that Paul applied to financial stewardship in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Verse 2:

Tend the flock of God that is in your charge, not under constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly.

Which may be summed up: God loves a cheerful pastor…”

(From “Love: The Labor of Christian Hedonism” by John Piper).

Now what I am about to say is tough but it seems to be consistent with what we see in both of these passages and specific ministries. God is pleased with a cheerful giver and he is not pleased with a grudging and coerced giver. God is pleased with a cheerful pastor and not with a coerced or covetous pastor. God is pleased when you rejoice to be with God’s people and he is not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice in taking the Lord’s Table and not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice to pray with God’s people and He is not pleased when you feel like you have to do it. God is pleased when you rejoice to keep nursery or clean the church or stack chairs for Awana and is not pleased when you feel like you have to. Not rejoicing does not excuse you from service. Service (or giving) rather is our excuse to show our joy which God has given to us in abundance by His grace!

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAVE THE JOY FROM THE LORD?

Often, it takes a great test of affliction to reveal a cheerful giver (8:2, 9).

Three components of their test (8:1-2):

  1. Their test was deep or extreme poverty. This testing is of the type that metals are put through to prove their genuineness and purity. The oven is heated to the highest degree possible. They were on the bottom of the economic totem pole.

  2. God’s grace and their joy were tested. God’s grace had given them an abundant joy. This joy was of highest and purest quality. It’s motivation came from God.

  3. The proof of their joy was their liberality. Liberality is not indicated solely by the amount on the check but by the eagerness of the giver to give.

THE JOY OF CHRIST WAS TESTED.

Christ is the ultimate example of poverty revealing a cheerful giver (8:9). He was rich but became poor, became a beggar. The suffering of Christ included more than just the cross, it included His whole life. His poverty was necessary for our salvation and necessary for the resulting joy, the resulting liberality, and the resulting show of God’s love from our hearts.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us why Jesus endured this suffering. It says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” He found it a joy to be crucified because He knew that a day was coming when He would be on the right hand of His Heavenly Father with those who He redeemed sitting with Him as joint heirs of God’s kingdom.

WE CAN MEASURE OUR GENUINENSS… 

…not by being afflicted by poverty but by comparing our motives with that of the Macedonians and of Christ (8:8). We may not be in the same situation but we can evaluate ourselves by their lives. Ask yourself, “Why do I give? Why do I give the amount I give? Why do I give where I give? Does God give me my motivation or do I have to come up with it on my own?”

This goes much deeper than whether tithing is an Old or New Testament command. This cuts right to the heart. An honest giver is a joyful giver and because his joy is so full, he is also a loving giver. God may or may not test your motives with deep poverty and great affliction but you can prove your joy and your love and God’s grace in your life by giving with the attitude that the Macedonians had and that Christ Himself had.

We can also measure our genuineness not by being afflicted by poverty but by giving cheerfully when the opportunity comes. “A collection is a test of one’s love for Christ, not the only test, but a real one.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures) I would also say that a collection is a test of one’s joy in Christ.

GIVING AND SERVING WITHOUT JOY IS UNPROFITABLE. 

Conclusion: You might ask, what if I give but it is not based on joy in Christ? What if I pastor and it is by constraint? What if I do what I do because of guilt, because I feel like I have to? According to Hebrews 13:17b, “Let them [in this situation pastors] do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” That word means “hurtful, harmful”. Our attitudes and our motivations do matter. Again, the answer is not to quit giving, to quit pastoring, to quit serving but to learn to rejoice in Jesus Christ.

Some of you today did not realize what Christ did for you when He became man. He became poor so that you might be rich. He rejoiced in the cross because He saw an opportunity to give you joy in God that is utterly impossible for man apart from God to have. You can have that joy and you can have it abundantly right now through Jesus Christ.

 

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Comments»

1. Sue Geschwender - August 21, 2012

This article touched me deeply at a time where doubts and negativity were settling in. Thank you


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