“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Two things in this short verse:
First, in weighing the gravity of giving in light of God’s grace and in light of the gospel, each one of us must give as he has decided in his heart. The gospel fuels our gladness, and that gladness fuels our giving. Our decision in our heart comes from God, not from our own fear (reluctantly) or from others (under compulsion). Don’t give out of guilt, give gladly. Having said that, maybe the Spirit is convicting you right now in that you haven’t been trusting, haven’t been obedient, haven’t sacrificed what you could and should.
Keep in mind, it’s about a sacrifice. In bringing the gravity in, go back to Luke 21:1-4:
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Connect this with the fact that in no place in the New Testament does the Spirit tell us to give a tithe-that is, a tenth. In the OT, a tithe was the equivalent of a tax, that helped the religious leaders make ends meet and helped the civic leaders lead Israel. For some, a tenth is no sacrifice at all, so God does not want to limit us to just 10%. For some, a tenth is out of the question. But whatever the obedience, whatever the trust, whatever the sacrifice—that’s key. It’s showing that Christ is Lord, not your cash, credit cards, retirement funds, your stock portfolio—or anything else here.
… in all goodwill (9:1-5). Read with me 2 Corinthians 9:1-5:
Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift[b] you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.
You see, they had promised to contribute and help. In their zeal, they conveyed a readiness—and their “zeal stirred them up.” Paul is saying, “Follow through. Prepare! Arrange your giving! You promised!”
How does that apply to us? For those of you who are guests, could you please permit me to talk to my church family this morning? Dear church, around this time each year, our stewardship team works through our budget. They contact all the teams to see what they wish to have budgeted for their ministry. That opens a communication between the teams to see what’s appropriate. You see, our stewardship team and all our leadership are not simply aiming to fund the old things for their own sake, or to take an axe and chop away to fund less things. Our aim as a Great Commission Missions Hub is to fund the right things.
So, our stewardship team and your pastors spent almost five hours in a meeting discussing each line to prayerful see how we could fund the right things. This budget then goes to our church council, then will be discussed at a family conference on the evening of November 2, then voted upon on November 9. And, eventually, the church will adopt that budget. Now, what does that mean?
That means that we as a church covenant to give to help our Jerusalem Budget be funded so we can do ministry in the area that God has placed us, and all over the world. We don’t give just to keep the lights on and pay the bills. Jesus died on the cross for more than simply for a church to pay bills—but to pay it forward in making a visible difference for the Kingdom of God.
You see, money does funny things to people. Look at 1 Timothy 6:9-10:
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 9:7. Some possess a reluctancy to give—do you? The snare to be rich, or even for comfort in this life, compels them to hold back. Our situations and circumstances scream at us louder than the still small voice of the Spirit who bids us trust. Some use their giving (or lack thereof) as leverage or as an indicator of how much they like or do not like the direction of a church.
John Maxwell told of a time when he was at a church and one of his deacons came into his office and told him that until he changed this or that back to where it was, he would withhold his tithe. Maxwell then asked him to pray with him. He then prayed, “Lord, I pray for my deacon that you would forgive him for the sin of robbery against you.” The man rose up and say, “Wait a minute! What do you mean?” He showed him numerous Scriptures of how removing the tithe robbed God of His glory before others.
Let’s see the gravity and gladness of our giving, for sure!