Sermon: Today, Tomorrow, Together – The Attitude for Giving
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8.1-9
Preacher: Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley
Location: First Presbyterian Church, DeLand
Date: November 5, 2017
My beloved, this morning we are going to look at one of the dirty words you can’t say in church. Last February, we spent time looking at the first dirty word people don’t like speaking in church and that was the E-Word: Evangelism. This morning we are going to begin a two-week look at two other dirty words for many in the Church: S and M – Stewardship and money! Christian stewardship is a Christian practice that has brought much conversation and strife in the life of the Christian church for the last 2,000 years. People typically hate it when the proverbial pledge season arrives. “My money is my business.” “The church is always asking for money.” “Why can’t we focus on the real Gospel message?” Well, the reality is, money isn’t your business, it’s God’s business! Our finances are a deeply spiritual issue. The fact our giving is $53,000 below budget is a spiritual issue. The church will always raise the need for funds because it’s about the Missio Dei, the mission of God, in the world. The what and how Christ-followers relate to their money is a deeply spiritual issue as it is one of the measures of our fidelity to God.
We’re going to spend the next two weeks in the book of 2 Corinthians spending time in it to determine a biblical understanding of money and our relationship to it both personally and corporately as a Body of Christ. Go ahead and turn to 2 Corinthians 8.1-9.
Corinth is located on an isthmus and is a strategic crossroads for both land and sea; as such, it was an active commercial center. One could make the comparison that the Corinthian church was what we would call the large, more prosperous downtown church as compared to the small, often poorer churches in the small towns and byways like the churches in the backwater areas of Macedonia. It was a church whose members had heard of Paul’s list of spiritual gifts as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. The members of the Corinthian churches seemed to be the movers and shakers of the day – gifted with the gifts of deep faith, of wise Christian rhetoricians, of intelligently gifted people whose very intellects raised them in social status in comparison to the masses.
It’s a church that knew it had resources and it openly declared it wanted to share those resources with other Christians. Sadly though, the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions comes into play. Their talk of a pledge campaign to help the poor in Jerusalem hadn’t materialized into results. So, Paul sends Titus on a couple of trips to make sure the Corinthians are going to make good on their promises of support for the poor. This is where we pick up in the story.
As we listen to this text I’d like for us to keep author Timothy Bagwell’s words in mind. He says, “Jesus avoided conversations that tried to persuade by analyzing fine points of the law. Rather, Jesus helped people picture the Kingdom of God, and he incited them to see themselves in the picture.” So my beloved, listen to the Word of the Lord and see yourself in this picture!
2 Corinthians 8.1-9
And now brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that our God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in a rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
So, my friends, where do we see ourselves in this picture? Where do we see First Presbyterian Church? I’ve been mulling over this text and the picture that I see Paul painting in the first nine verses is the biblical attitude Christ-followers and churches are to have with respect to giving. Let’s walk through our text and highlight three attitudes presented in the text.
The first giving attitude is found in verses 2 and 3: We’re to give what we have and not what we don’t. Ironically, Paul uses the smaller, poorer churches as the bar to measure the generosity of the larger churches like Corinth. The Macedonian churches were small, they were steeped in gross poverty but they possessed something the big city/suburban Corinthian church didn’t have: A joyful spirit of giving that poured forth rich generosity. I find it interesting that their joy is directly related to their giving habits. Though they didn’t have much but they gave from what they had. The Macedonian churches had heard how the Corinthians had decided to make a pledge and then take up an offering for the Jerusalem poor. The Macedonians wanted to join with the Corinthians in making a gift as well to show their gratitude to God. The Macedonians were under no illusion that their gift could match what the richer, larger Corinthian church could provide but what they lacked in amount was made up from their liberality. Their liberality with what they had produced an exuberant joy in them. It wasn’t the amount that gave them joy – they gave what they had according to their means; rather, it was their commitment and making good on that commitment that brought the Macedonians overflowing joy.
My friends, let’s all of us give from what we have and not from what we don’t. This year, Paul reminds every single one of us to come together to make a difference with what we have. It is not fair to those who are sacrificially giving to bear the entire burden of bestowing generosity to others for God when each of us has a responsibility to take part in it. Even the widow gave a simple mite and it was counted to her as righteousness. Beloved, all of us are called to give from what we have and not from what we don’t. That’s not the Preacher talking, it’s Paul my Beloved.
The second giving attitude is found in verse 4: A giving spirit begins with a personal enthusiastic desire to give as opposed to giving with a spirit of guilt. We read how the Macedonians, entirely on their own volition, pleaded and begged for the privilege of giving. Pleaded to give. Begged to give. The members of the church pleaded and begged to give. That’s the sweetest music a pastor would love to hear! How’s that for an attitude for Christ-Followers to have?
What would the Kingdom be like in West Volusia County and beyond if members of this congregation enthusiastically begged and pleaded, not for the chance to give but for the privilege, the privilege to give to the work of God through this congregation! Beloved, if God saw that everyone in this church was faithfully giving what we each had no matter how little or much that is, God would see in us as a congregation an eagerness for the Kingdom and a dynamic demonstration of our faith. If we witnessed to God in this way, God will throw open the floodgates of heaven in order that we might be blessed to be a blessing to others.
The third giving attitude we learn of is found in verse 5: The first act of giving is to give our very selves totally to the Lord. Why would Paul include this? You would think it would be an obvious issue to folks. “Of course, Paul, I’ve given myself to the Lord that’s why I’m giving through the Church!” Paul replies to the Corinthians, to us, “Really? You haven’t made good on your pledge yet!”
Paul reminds the Corinthians how the Macedonian giving was a natural overflow of their commitment to the Lordship of Christ. The first century Christian understood Lordship in ways we don’t. We give our leaders ‘votes’ but we don’t pledge our lives to them. I don’t think any of us in this room would pledge our very lives to our President and Congress at the moment! You see, pledged lives are what the Lord requires. When we say, Jesus is Lord, it means we hand over everything to him – our lives, our families, our jobs, our finances, our talents and spiritual gifts. When we say, Jesus is Lord, we sign the deed of everything we own and hand it all over to him. It’s no longer ours; we sign it back over to God.
But American Christ-Followers like the concept of Jesus as Savior more than Jesus as Lord. We want to be saved. We want to go to heaven. We want to have our prayers heard and answered. We want to be delivered from hardship. We want all the benefits of our Divine Life Savings policy. But we fail to remember the Lordship part. We make Jesus’ Lordship provisional depending upon our circumstances or convenience. We forget that our Lord doesn’t understand provisional lordship and is grossly puzzled why we do.
Paul and church leaders from time immemorial have heard statements like, “I don’t like the pastor so I’m not going to give.” “I’ll simply give of occasional volunteer time in lieu of any money.” “I don’t like the ministries we support so I’m not going to give.” “I’m sick of money talk so I’m just not going to give.”
Whenever Jesus, not Paul, not me, hears these arguments, the Lord says deep in himself, “Don’t they realize they’re not holding out on my church but they’re cheating me! They’re withholding from their Lord!”
Beloved, our heart, life, body, soul, checkbook, house, car, children, job, boat, motorcycle, jet ski, hunting gear, or cabin are turned over to Christ’s care and use when we profess him Savior and Lord. The beauty of it is that when we realize it’s all the Lord’s, we relate to all those items differently. We realize we’re Jesus’ stewards of the blessings we have been given from our checkbook, house, car, children, job, boat, motorcycle, jet ski, hunting gear, or cabin and invest them and in them, not for ourselves, but for our Lord.
Biographer Evan Thomas notes in his biography of Robert Kennedy that Kennedy grew up living the life of a privileged child of wealth. He rarely carried cash but relied on those in his entourage to pick up his tabs. One day, Robert went to the Catholic Church for Mass. When the offering plate came by, Kennedy looked at his friend who tossed in a $1.00 bill into the plate on Kennedy’s behalf. Kennedy leaned over and whispered, “Don’t you think I’d be more generous than that?”
You got to love it! What if we were to place ourselves in a similar situation like Kennedy and we asked the person next to us to place an offering into the plate on our behalf? What if we asked the person next to us to fill out our Estimate of Giving and pledge card for us? How much would he or she put in for you based on their understanding of your generosity? Interesting question, isn’t it?
Beloved, remember: All Jesus asks is that we treat him though he was really our Lord and eagerly seek ways to invest his money that we have been entrusted with. My prayer is that we as a church, and each of us as Christ-Followers, will gain a Macedonian spirit of giving. And all of God’s people said – Amen!
Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
724 North Woodland Boulevard
DeLand, FL 32724
© 2017 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 Timothy Bagwell, Preaching for Giving: Proclaiming Financial Stewardship With Holy Boldness (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1993), 55.
 Scripture is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. I added sisters for inclusivity.
 See Mark 12.41-44.
 There are two more attitudes of giving in our text today. The fourth attitude from verse 7 is: Our giving is a spiritual gift that God expects us to use. The fifth attitude is in verses 8 and 9: Giving of our financial means is a tangible expression of love expressed through the Church for the benefit of others.