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God Loves a Cheerful Giver

Date: Jan. 31, 2021

Author: Michael Mark

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 9:7

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

It’s that time of year again where you get all of your financial reports from the last year in preparation for Tax Day in April.  One of those things you might receive is a Contribution Statement from the churches you have given offerings to, and our ministry sent ours out earlier this week.  I am thankful for all of the contributions made this past year, for any amount, from everyone.  It all added up and showed how God graciously provided to supply our ministry needs for worship service, fellowship and the Bible House, along with maintenance and repairs.  We have finally paid off the mortgage after 10 years last November.  But in addition to that, part of your offerings went to contribute to World Mission, a fund supporting UBF’s missionary work around the world, and to a relief fund for UBF missionaries in other countries impacted by the pandemic.  But mainly, most the offering is used to support the work of God here, ministering to students at IIT through the uses mentioned above.  As treasurer, I get to see and compile all of the offering statements, and it has been an encouragement to me, and I hope also that your own giving, no matter what amount or how often, has been an encouragement to you.  Or, I pray that through this passage you can see why you can be encouraged and cheerful about the offering you have given.

“God loves a cheerful giver.”  This verse sounds almost familiar as “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35),” and seems to have a universal and wide application.  But in today’s passage, it refers specifically to the Christian who gives an offering in the church.  We are coming to the third part of 3 passages where Paul talks about Christian giving in 2 Cor.  At this point in time Paul was going around the Greek churches in Macedonia and Corinth to raise funds for a relief offering for the Jews stricken by a famine in Judea.  The Corinthians had started strong, but over time neglected the collection, most likely due to the period where they were in rebellion to Paul.  Having since repented, Paul now urges them to excel once again in this grace of giving, empowered by the grace of Christ.  Last week we learned about how Paul took pains to do what was right both in the eyes of the Lord and the eyes of man to assure them that their offering would be in good and trusted hands.  He prepared them to receive those coming to collect the funds, and exhorted them to prepare in advance, so that their gift would be ready by the time the men arrived.

From here we jump into v.6, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”  Paul is using this metaphor to encourage the Corinthians to give as much as they are able, and not to hold back.  This was probably a proverb well known in Paul’s time, but the principle isn’t hard to understand.  If a farmer plants 50 seeds, he will get a crop worth 50 seeds.  If a farmer plants 500 seeds, he’ll get a crop worth 500 seeds.  This sowing is the offering, and the simple principle is that the more you give, the more you will receive.  While this is a principle, there are no rules.  This is true generally, but there are no specific quantities or times.  Think about the widow Jesus saw at the temple, who only put in two copper coins.  He said she gave more than anyone else. 

Does this mean that we should mortgage our houses or cut into the grocery budget to give to the offering?  While this might sound consistent with the principle, it is inconsistent with God’s commands. And soon, when we find out who is the giver of the harvest, we will understand more.  Paul Washer, a well known contemporary preacher and founder of a missionary society, issued this statement at the end of last year.  He thanked everyone for their contribution to the missionary society, he also said this: if you cannot afford to give at this time, that is ok.  You have first a responsibility to your family, then to your local church, and only after that, you can support the missionary organization.  Our families are God-ordained responsibilities, their needs should be taken care of first.  Make sure your spouse and children have a roof over their head, food to eat and clothes to wear.  Then, if your church has a full-time pastor supported by the ministry, they should be taken care of since they have no other job.  The point is, we give as much as we can, while also keeping the commands and priorities God has given us.  Now, a little bit of entertainment is ok too, and we need internet and cell phones to survive these days. It’s also wise to have some savings.  But if you subscribe to 4 streaming video services, 2 streaming music services, etc, you can consider cutting down some non-essentials.

After giving the proverb, Paul gives the main principle in v.7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  There are no rules in New Testament giving, only this principle, and it is very liberating.  How much should you give?  Whatever you have decided in your heart.  Your choice, you choose, it’s up to you.  It’s not 10%, or any other number.  Some people may not be able to give 10%, and support their families.  While others may be able to give 50%, and still have enough to live on.  And it’s not the pastor or the elder that decides what you give, it’s each one of you.  Paul said the churches in Macedonia were extremely poor, but they gave beyond their ability.  That was their choice, and maybe it pleased them to do so.  Maybe some families were in agreement to add just a little extra.

It’s what you decide to give in your heart, which should give you a smile and good cheer.  So it’s not reluctantly, where you give against your will.  It’s also not under compulsion, where you feel some external pressure to give.  You should feel free to give according to your desire, and that’s what Paul is saying here.  Note it is also a decision you make.  It is not a neutral, “I don’t care whatever” attitude, but it’s a decision you made in your heart, that you are satisfied with.  Only in this way, and only with this freedom, without reluctance or compulsion, can your giving truly be cheerful.

Give cheerfully then, and why?  Because God loves a cheerful giver.  In the rest of this passage, we will see three reasons why God loves a cheerful giver.  God loves a cheerful giver because God himself is a cheerful giver.  He loves a cheerful giver because they do a good work, serving his people.  And lastly, he loves a cheerful giver because their generosity results in thanksgiving to Him.

First, God himself is a cheerful giver.  Verse 8 says God is able to bless you abundantly, verse 10 says he will enlarge your harvest of righteousness, and verse 11 says you will be enriched in every way.  God is by no means a stingy giver, he holds nothing back.  When he blesses, he blesses abundantly.  He not only supplies but increases to overflowing.  And he enriches not in a few ways but in every way.  God is able to bless because He is God, He is the Creator of all the earth, and he owns everything in it.  God actually does not need our offerings, but he is looking at our hearts.  He stands ready to bless, and bless abundantly.  Mal 3:10 says “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.’  ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  Although it says tithe, since this is the Old Testament, you can also consider it an offering in the New Testament.  In any case, God has access to throw open the floodgates of heaven.

Look at v.11, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”  Who supplies the seed?  God does.  Who supplies bread?  God does.  Who also increase the store of seed?  God does.  So not only do you have seed for today, and bread for today, but you have an abundance of seed overflowing for tomorrow, with some to be able to share with others.  And who is it that enlarges the harvest?  It’s God as well.  Who is the supplier of what you have to offer and give?  It’s God.  God himself is the source of your offering.  He is the one who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deut 8:18).  This is the reason why your offerings also need to be in line with his commands and laws, and this why God also does not selfish and greedy types of offering.  It is true, that God can bless abundantly, but you are not his master.  Rather, he is your master.  He will take care of you.  He will shepherd you.  He will provide material and spiritual blessings.  But he does not submit to your commands.  Rather, we submit to his commands.

This brings us to our second point – God blesses us abundantly for this purpose: that we may serve Him.  In these past two chapters, the act of giving is the service.  In Ch. 8, Paul talked about the Macedonian churches who desired to give, and “pleaded to share in this service to the Lord’s people (v.4).”  Ch. 9:1 Paul says, “There is no need to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people.”  And v.12 says “This service that you perform.”  Giving is a service, and a good work, and it comes with rewards.

Look again at v.8-9, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things and at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’”  Paul quotes from Ps. 112:9, and this refers to God’s people.  They freely give their gifts, and they receive righteousness that endures forever.  V. 12 says God enlarges the harvest of righteousness.  No good deed will ever be forgotten by God.  If you serve him, through this act of giving, you will be rewarded.  Even if you don’t become very wealthy on earth, though I believe God provides what is sufficient for you, you will have still stored up for yourselves treasures in heaven that will never perish, spoil or fade.  Your good deeds, your righteousness, will last forever.

But even so, the rewards of righteousness manifest in our lives now also.  Your impatience gives way to patience, your greed melts into contentment, your pride gets knocked down to humility, and your hatred or indifference gets swallowed up by love.  Giving up some things of what you have, in order to serve, love and meet the needs of God’s people will teach you these things.  And still, these things are from God, but given in abundance, more than we can think of asking.  When we see the brilliant value of the gifts of God, it helps us cheerfully give our temporal things to serve the needs of his people.

Third, our good works yield another reward, and that is glory to God.  Look at v.11, “You will be enriched in every say so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  The result is thanksgiving to God.  V.12 tells us that those you serve will overflow in many expressions of thanks to God.  It’s hard to see this as a half-hearted thank you to God.  When it’s a result of generosity, and when Paul says an overflowing thanksgiving of many expressions, this sounds like a joyful thanksgiving.  To see God thanked and praised, especially because of an action we have done, should bring us great joy and satisfaction also.  As you may have heard often, the 1stquestion of the Westminster Catechism says, “What is the chief end of man?”  Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Our purpose, the purpose of all humanity, the purpose of all creation, is to glorify God.  This was wrecked in sin.  But when we thank God, and when others thank God by our actions, we see that our purpose has been restored, and God has enabled us to glorify him.  What can be more fulfilling than living out the purpose of your life: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  Only one thing might be more satisfying: seeing others glorify God because of what we’ve done.  This is the result of generous giving, and makes the service of giving all the more worthwhile.

Look at v.13, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”  We have heard this before also: that our good works don’t save us, but they show that we have been saved.  We are saved first, then we do good works as a natural consequence.  Verse 13 says the same thing.  This service, our giving, is not so that we can be saved, or win any additional favor with God – but this service shows that we have believed in the gospel of Christ, we have submitted to him as Lord, and we give and we love out of his command to love one another.  Paul was dealing with two major contentious churches in the early church days.  The Jewish Christians looked down on the Gentile Christians as lawless, and the Gentile Christians scorned the Jewish Christians as legalistic hypocrites.  But by this act of giving through this offering, it revealed a unity, and equality as brothers and sisters in Christ, and a love for one another.  The Jewish Christians would praise God for the Gentiles’ obedience, and the Gentiles would praise God for the new unity and bond of love.

Verse 14 says, “And in their prayers for your their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”  The love and joy has come full circle.  The Gentile churches gave joyfully, and the hearts of the Jewish churches went back out to them.  And through their prayers, God would multiply their grace even more.  What is this surpassing grace of God?  As we saw a few times in the previous verses, it is the grace of God that not only satisfies, but overflows causing good works, righteousness and thanksgiving.  And the Jewish Christians would be convinced fully that God had also given the Gentiles repentance unto life.  That is the surpassing grace of God.  The cheerful giving resulted in thanksgiving, that resulted in even more joy.

On the topic of thanksgiving, Paul ends this interlude on Christian giving with an outburst of thanksgiving and praise to God.  On the subject of giving, and in thinking about our gifts and giving, he reminds us all of a gift greater than anything we can offer, a gift that words cannot even do justice.  Look at v.15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Paul here refers to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus is God’s indescribable gift.  He is God’s gift to us.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us.  He is the ultimate expression of God’s grace.  He is the source of all our blessings.  It is in Christ, we have all received the free gift of life.  It is in Christ, all of our sins are forgiven. It is in Christ, that we have been adopted as children of God, and given the great promise of an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  We have been clothed with Christ, and have been given a righteousness that endures forever.  Such love!  Such grace!  Such indescribable gifts through Christ!

God himself is a cheerful giver, so God also loves a cheerful giver.  He gives us a good work to do; to share and be generous with others, and pours out gifts on us for his glory.  What does it look like to give cheerfully?  It should be in response to God’s grace.  Think about God’s grace to you, what abilities has he given you, what gifts has he given you?  Then, decide in your heart what you want to give.  Be free, and be cheerful.  Thank you again for the offerings, God has truly provided.  We have done much with them, and used almost 100% last year.  Though offerings are not required, I only encourage you the way Paul has encouraged the Corinthians.  Don’t give reluctantly, or under compulsion, but only as you are able.  God is providing, by His grace, so I don’t want to put anyone under obligation to give.  The principles here are to give voluntarily to support the needs of others, to support Christian workers, and outreach.  Perhaps in future times, we may do fundraising for these.  If you are so moved to give, by all means do so.  I pray by your giving, God may enrich you in every way, so that you can be generous on every occasion, that he may enlarge the harvest of your righteousness, so that you may give cheerfully, and all of it will result in each and every one of us giving praise and thanks to God for his great grace!

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