The reason for giving. 2 Corinthians 8.8-15

2 Corinthians 8.8-15

We are thinking over these three weeks before Lent about giving, and we are looking at verses from Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth.

Today we are looking at the reason for giving.

A link to the audio of the sermon

And it is very simple. It can be summed up in one word: LOVE

We give to what we love, we give because we love.

And it works the other way round

If you want to know what you love, then look at what you spend your surplus money on – the money that is over and above our essential needs, the essential needs of those for whom we are responsible, and the things that we required to pay, like taxes.

(By the way, paying taxes is not only a legal duty, but a spiritual duty. Jesus tells us to pay our taxes).

But after that, how do we spend our money?
Is it a bigger or more modern flat, clothes, technology, restaurants, gaming, savings, investment, entertainment, travel, holidays?
We spend our surplus money on what we love

That is what Jesus says in our gospel reading, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Luke 12:34)

So here, Paul writes to the Corinthians who have said that they will make a collection for their Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and Judaea, who are suffering from famine.

He has spoken about the generosity of the Macedonian churches, ‘who gave themselves first to the Lord’.

And now he writes, ‘I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others’

If their love is genuine, then they will carry through with their promise to give.

If their heart is really with God, then they will give.

But I’d like to go one stage further:

If you really love something or someone, you will strip yourself of everything for the sake of the object of your love.

Jesus tells a story of a collector of pearls. He finds a pearl that he has been looking for all his life, that is beyond value. So he sells everything that he has in order to buy that pearl.

That is what Jesus does.
He stripped himself of everything for us:

Just before Jesus went to the cross to be crucified for us, he meets with his disciples for a final meal.

During supper Jesus gets up, strips himself of his outer robe, ties a towel around his waist, kneels down and washes the disciples’ feet. It was the job of the slave.

And in doing that, Jesus was giving them a picture of what he was doing for them.

Or, in the words of Philippians 2, ‘Although he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2.9)

And he did it for us:

‘For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9)

He stripped himself of everything, 
became human, 
became a slave, 
was obedient to death, 
even going through hell for us, 
                       .... so that we might become rich.

Not materially rich, but rich in a much richer way, if you get what I mean!

He gave himself so that we might become whole, complete in relationship with Him, with His Father through the Holy Spirit. He came so that we might be – in the illustration that I used from last week – like that lost jigsaw piece being placed into the puzzle the right way round in the right place. He emptied himself so that we might be filled with his Holy Spirit, part of His body, his Church, with hope and meaning and forgiveness and peace and power and with His presence.

Jesus gave himself for his enemies, so that we his enemies might become his friends for eternity.

The great command that we have been given as people who have received the gift of Jesus Christ, is the command to love
- To love God
- To love our neighbour as if they were one of our own

And if we really love, if we love God, and if we love our neighbour, if that love is genuine, then we will imitate Christ. We will give.

We will give – and we will give sacrificially - to the work of the gospel, to the work of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ.

We will give to the church, to the ministry of the Church, to the support of ministers and mission workers and to the administration which makes it all possible.

To put it bluntly, if we do not give to the ministry of the church, then there can be no ministry here at St Andrew’s.

There is no funding from the UK or the Church of England. People here often think that because the Church of England is the established church in England, then it must receive money from the UK state or embassy for the work of the ministry or for the building.

But it does not.

The ministry of the Church of England, both here and in the UK, depends completely on the giving of the people.
And as people do not give, so churches are having to close and we are having to cut back on full time ministers.
We are, here, fortunate to have donations from those who use the building, but to simply maintain this building (I’m not talking about restoration, and I’m not including salaries), costs us $80k pa.
And we are completely dependent on your giving for the work of the ministry.

And people say, I love Jesus Christ, but I don’t hear the Church preaching Jesus Christ. I hear it preaching a particular view of human sexuality, or of vaccines or of right wing or left wing political convictions.
Fair enough, if that is the case, don’t give. But do not use that as an excuse not to give to ministry in general. Give to another church or to a mission organization that is preaching Jesus.
And let’s not be like the Corinthian Christians here: having the intention to give, but not carrying through with the intention.

But there is a second and perhaps more serious challenge here.

If we genuinely love God, then we will also love our Christian brother or sister

Fellow Christians are far more to us than neighbours.

They are driven by the same love as us, they have the same heart as us, they are part of the same family.
They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And we are part of the same body. 
They are the other jigsaw pieces. Without them we cannot be complete.

And so here Paul urges the Corinthian Christians to show sacrificial love for other believers, even for other believers they have not met and who they will never meet. Corinth is a long way from Jerusalem.

2 Corinthians 8 is an example of how the Church of God works together as one body.

When one part of the Church is in financial need, because of disease or the impact of climate change or famine or war, and another part is experiencing a time of abundance, then the part that is experiencing abundance should give to the part that is experiencing need.

Because the love of God is in us, and we are part of one another.

John writes, ‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?’ (1 John 3.17)

‘It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be fair balance’. (2 Corinthians 7.13-14)

By the way I am not saying that we should not give to other good causes.
Of course we should – Mary’s meals, Lavochka.

But the world will give to children in need, to cancer research, the homeless, animal charities, even to restoration. What it will not give to is the work of ministry or specifically to Christian believers in need. Why should it?

We are talking about our Lord and our people (‘our’ in a way that transcends family and national boundaries)

Just as Jesus who was rich became poor so that we who were poor might become rich, so we become poor that others might become rich.

We give and we become poorer so that the good news of Jesus is proclaimed, people receive him, and become our brothers and sisters in Christ

And we give because we see members of our own spiritual family in need.

I know the theory.
I’m conscious that, especially here, I am far richer than many – even on a UK vicars’ salary.
I am conscious that I receive a number of emails from churches in African or Asia asking for money from us and I don’t even reply to them.
I am conscious that I am often saying ‘no’ to strangers when they ask me for money.

I may ease my conscience by thinking that I give a 10th of what I receive, and maybe more – that is between God and us.

I hear Jesus commend the widow who ‘gave everything she had’. 
I hear the command of Jesus to the rich young ruler to sell everything he has, give to the poor and follow Jesus.

I am sure that that is not a call to everybody.
We are urged in the letters of Paul to work and to earn so that we are able to give. And even here he tells us that we are not to give to others in a way that means that puts us into a situation of need. ‘I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you’. In that sense we are not to imitate Jesus, who did give everything for us.

And I read this passage and I know that I haven’t got this. 
Money still holds me.

But I hope I am on a journey.

I hope I am open to listen to the Spirit. I pray that as I grow older I will grow in my generousity, of time and money.

That the Lord Jesus will become more and more for me, that I will grow in love for him and for his people, that I will give more (10%, 20%, 30% - it is irrelevant), as I am able to, to the work of the ministry, of the proclaiming of the good news of Jesus Christ, to good causes but particularly to the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ.


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