Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV
Have you ever noticed how generous parents can be towards their own children? I think we call it “spoiling” them, and I vowed to myself when I became a parent that I would never do that. Right. So much for good intentions. It seems most of us simply can’t help but be generous when it comes to our own, and I can remember occasions my wife and I denied ourselves something we wanted very much in order to be able to do something for our children. The question for us all today though, is have you ever really thought about exactly what Jesus gave away for His children?
A fact that I was surprised to find is that tithing, which was an Old Testament tax for the purpose of supporting the priesthood, is never mentioned in the New Testament. Rather, believers are instructed many times to have the same mind as Christ when it comes to helping others. One of the best examples of this teaching comes from Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church where he talks about their giving, and the example of the generosity of the church in Macedonia. This morning I want to look briefly at what Paul tells us, and consider a few of his thoughts on our attitudes towards giving.
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 2 Corinthians 8:1-6 NKJV
Give in response to the grace of God. What is your motive for giving? When it comes to giving, do you simply give because you feel you must, or do you first consider all that God has given to us by His grace, and respond with the knowledge that without His grace we would be condemned to eternity in Hell?
But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 2 Corinthians 8:7-8 NKJV
Giving is not a response to a command, but a voluntary act of love. Not only did I want to provide for the needs of my children, I looked for ways to give them even more. Do you love others in the same way and look for ways to provide for those less fortunate? As believers we should always be looking for opportunities to give to others.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV
How much are you willing to give away? I heard a story about an usher passing the offering plate and hearing a man say that he figured he could give ten dollars without feeling it. The ushers’ response was why not give twenty and feel it? Have you ever been generous to the point of feeling it? Paul is trying to tell us our giving should have no limits.
And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:10-12 NKJV
Don’t wait for more; rather give from what you already have. The best of intentions usually end up being just that…intentions. It is easy to say that you want to give a certain amount and then wait until you have it in order to give. Apparently the Corinthians were doing the same thing, and Paul reminds them that the need is immediate, so give from what you do have.
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 NKJV
It’s never a burden to give from your abundance. It is so easy, especially in the world in which we live, to slowly raise our standard of living to accommodate the generosity of the Lord in providing for us. I believe Paul is saying that the Lord has given us more so that we in turn can give it to those in need rather than keeping it and improving our lot.
Our attitude towards giving should be influenced solely by the grace of God that He has shown towards us. We can never repay Him for all that He has given, but we can certainly have the same attitude of generosity towards those in need.