Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:6-9
I. FIRST OF ALL THERE IS THE GOAL: TO EXCEL IN THE GRACIOUS ACT OF GIVING [v.7]
Giving is a ministry, a practice, the exercise of a gift and like all other disciplines, it can be improved with practice and work. Our goal should be to excel in the gracious act of giving but to excel at anything, there must be a commitment to excellence. Do you want to become a generous person? Would you like to excel in the matter of giving?
Have you heard of the man who moved men and mountains? Chances are, I have mentioned him before: his name is Robert Gilmore LeTourneau. He is perhaps the most inspiring Christian inventor, businessman and entrepreneur the world has ever seen. A sixth grade dropout, Robert Gilmore “RG” LeTourneau went on to become the leading earth moving machinery manufacturer of his day with plants on 4 continents, more than 300 patents to his name and major contributions to road construction and heavy equipment that forever changed the world. Most importantly, his contribution to the advancement of the Gospel ranks him among the greatest of Christian Businessmen of all time. Famous for living on 10% of his income and giving 90% to the spread of the Gospel, LeTourneau exemplified what a Christian businessman should be.
I want to ask you an honest and simple question: Do you think RG LeTourneau had a goal in his giving? Do you think he aimed at excellence? Or do you think his giving 90% of his income just happened without any forethought or planning?
Several years ago, I challenged you to set a goal for your annual giving and June and I set a goal for our giving. I don’t remember what our goal was but it was impossible or at least very challenging. I was shocked as the year progressed and the LORD Himself made it possbile for us to reach our goal. The sad thing is: I don’t think we have done it since.
Would you make generous giving a goal in your life?
II. THEN NOTICE THE TEST: TESTING THE GENUINESS OF YOUR LOVE [v.8]
I wouldn’t say that Paul is using pressure but he is putting the Corinthians on the spot. Paul understand the age old truth that you can give without loving but you can’t love without giving. It is utterly impossible. No one geniunely loves who is not willing to give or even sacrifice. I don’t know what it is about people that makes them believe that people can be decieved about their sincerety when they are miserly in their giving.
I use the illustration of a husband/father. No matter how much a man insist that he loves his family, we know that he is lying when he fails to provide. How can a man, a father drive a new truck, wear new clothes, buy a new house when he is not paying his child support? What about a father who goes to court to get child support reduced and lies about his income to get it done? What about a father who refused to pay child support at all and is then has his wages garnished. The support comes but against his will. When his children get grown, and they will, they will find out eventually what he did and didn’t do. It doesn’t matter how many times he says “I love you,” his children know better. Love gives, it does not make excuses.
At least 20 years ago, I went to the East side of the county to preach a revival. The pastor and I were sitting on the first pew. It was a small church and they had a general assembly before breaking into small groups for Sunday School. A laymen dressed in a fine suit stood before us and brought an arousing devotion. When he finished and left the room the pastor said to me, “That is a fine young man. He can do anything. He has only one problem and you would never guess what it is.” I said without hesitation, “He doesn’t tithe.” He said, “How did you know?” “It’s a gift,” I said. But it is really not a gift, it was a calculated guess. I discovered early on that big talkers are often shallow givers. I suppose they talk big to draw the attention away from their spiritual immaturity.
Then some years later, a new family moves into our community and they began coming to our church. Right off the bat, the man ask me, “Am I to tithe the gross or the net?” I told him, “You tithe whatever God puts into your hand.” When he walked off, I assumed he gave. I figured he was a legalistic tither but that he gave. He did tell me that the previous church had refused to ordain him as a deacon but he never mentioned why. Three years later, I found out that he gave nothing. As a matter of fact, he had contributed $25 in three years. Do I believe this man is sincere? Not on your life! He is as phony as a three dollar bill. I’m not being judgmental, I am stating facts: you prove the sincerety of your love by giving.
I had a man get violently upset with me some years ago because I said, “If you are a giver and a supporter of DBC, I want you to vote on this issue.” He got fighting mad. He said, “You have violated the by-laws.” I tried to reason with him but it made everything worse. I said, “Think of it as a survey, not a vote. To do what we are proposing, we need financial support and we have some none members who are contributors.” He said, “That is all your concerned about isn’t it, you are just like all the other preachers I know, all you care about is catered to those who give.” He left in a rage and has never been back.
He was right about the by-laws but he was wrong about me. I do not cater to money but I have great respect for those who give and none for those who don’t. My lack of respect for those who want to chime in at a business meeting but never give a dime comes from this and other scriptures. Giving is a proof of your love. Not giving is proof that you don’t love. You can bet your last dollar that I will never seek advice from a man who robs God.
III. LAST, LOOK AT THE EXAMPLE: THE GENEROUS GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST [v.9]
When you get on the subject of giving; you always have those who mention tithing as an old testment law. I don’t actually think of it as a law, more of a system of supporting God’s work and an avenue of worship. In Judaism, it was impossible to worship without giving. Their worship was centered around the sacrifical system. You could not worship without an offering. For the poor, it could be turtle doves instead of a lamb but you brought something as an expression of faith and devotion. However, these people who point to tithing as an OT law are full of crock.
Tithing is just a place to start: Jesus taught us to go beyond the law. Jesus was not a tither, Jesus gave it all. I tell them, “Look, you can either tithe or give like Jesus who gave it all.” Quiet literally, JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE WHEN IT COMES TO GIVING.
Jesus gave sacrifically, “Although He was rich, yet for our sakes, He became poor.” He gave up the glory of heaven for a cross of shame. Someone compared the condescension to a man being willing to become a rat to save all the rats but it was a bigger gap than that. It is an infinite gap, one that we can imagine.