Sunday morning I preached a message from 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 on Christmas Giving. In the message, I gave five principles of giving from those two chapters (actually ten in five pairs, a ten point message would have been too long). Below are the five principles and very brief notes on them which I used as I preached. The audio of the sermon is available here.
I. Biblical Giving is Both a Response to and Result of God’s Grace.
A Response to God’s Grace (8:7-9)
As thunder follows lightning, giving follows grace!
Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God in our lives. . . . This grace is the action; our giving is the reaction. We give because He first gave to us.
Zacchaeus Luke 19:1-10 Salvation affects your pocketbook.
A Result of God’s Grace (8:1-2;9:15)
David’s prayer of thanksgiving for the offering given by the people to build the Temple. 1 Chronicles 29:10-17 The greatest passage on giving in all Scripture ends not with “Congratulations for your generosity,” but “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” (Adapted from Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, 30)
II. Biblical Giving is Both Systematic and Sacrificial.
Systematic (8:3a; 9:7)
1 Corinthians 16:2
Our giving should reflect how God has blessed us. Instead, survey after survey has shown that the more materially blessed an individual is, the less they give. The poorest American Christians give the highest percentage of their income to the church. A recent study shows that those making $20,000 or less a year give away more, as a share of their income, than do higher income groups.
Sacrificial (8:3b, 2)
The widow’s two mites. Mark 12:41-44
A preacher came to see a farmer and asked him, “If you had $200, would you give 100 of it to the Lord?” “I would.” “If you had two cows, would you give one of them to the Lord?” “Sure.” “If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?” The farmer said, “Now that isn’t fair. You know I have two pigs.” We must be willing to give what we have!
In fact, fewer than 5 percent of churchgoers actually tithe 10 percent of their income; the average, according to numbers from Empty Tomb, a Christian research group that puts out annual reports on church giving, is now 3.4 percent, or 21 percent less than what dust-bowler counterparts gave during the worst of the Great Depression. Figures show that churchgoer contributions have been cascading downward since the 1960s.
III. Biblical Giving is Both Painful and Joyful.
Painful (8:2, 4)
Joyful (8:2, 4; 9:7)
Hudson Taylor said, “The less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.”
Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
IV. Biblical Giving is Both Financial and Personal.
Financial (8:1-4; 9:5)
This is a necessary prerequisite to Biblical giving because as Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” There are two important implications of this statement. First, you will always put your money where your heart is. In other words, you invest in the thing which you value. Second, your heart will always become interested in the things you’ve invested in monetarily. Look at your checkbook register, your Visa statement and you’ll see where your heart is! If you want to change your heart, start investing in things that really matter. If you buy shares of General Motors, you’ll start caring about what the company is doing and how they are faring among their competitors. Start investing your money in the kingdom, and you’ll start having an interest in the kingdom. Do you know why you don’t want to read or hear about missionaries or the work that is being done in other countries for the sake of the gospel? Because you’ve not investing in missions!
V. Biblical Giving Both Meets Needs and Has Needs Met.
Meets Needs (8:14-15; 9:13-14)
Needs Met (9:6-12)
There are many people who are claiming the promise of Philippians 4:19 to whom it does not belong!
These two chapters are the two most important for the subject of giving in the entire New Testament. The coming of Christ into this world is given as a motivation for giving, but not in the way we might expect. Instead Christians are being challenged by the Apostle Paul to give to meet the needs of the saints (see 9:12). The gift of Christ (see 9:15) is our motivation to give. That’s why Southern Baptists have traditionally given a offering for missions around Christmas.
Lottie Moon was a missionary to China in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. She wrote a letter calling for an offering to be taken the week before Christmas for missions which said in part:
Need it be said why the week before Christmas is chosen? Is not the festive season, when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?
Because of sickness, Lottie Moon was forced to return to America from China aboard a ship in her early seventies. She died on board on Christmas Eve, 1912. Six years later in 1918 the Christmas Offering was named after her.
Some of you may want to give a little extra during this season in memory of the greatest Christmas gift ever given, Jesus Christ. Your gift can help ensure that others will get to hear the message of Jesus Christ!