Jack Graham - Generosity
Take your Bibles; turn to 2 Corinthians, chapter 9. The subject today is "Generosity". Today we're going to talk about giving, stewardship; because stewardship means ownership, and in Christ it means Lordship. Stewardship is in regard to our time, our talents, our treasures. It is especially, regarding money, it has to do with how we get our money: how we gain it, how we guard it, how we choose to us it or save it, how we govern it, and how we give it. Yes, it's important that we learn this spiritual lesson, that we excel in the grace of giving. If I told as I just have that we were going to speak on giving... would you rather me speak on grace or would you rather me speak on giving? Well some of you would say speak on grace, please. Save the giving part. Or maybe you're thinking, okay, it's going to be giving. I'll get through this some how. Well, actually I'm going so speak on both.
I'm going to speak on the grace of giving. Did you know in the New Testament the word for grace, kharese, and the word for giving have the same root? It is all about the gift of God and the grace of God in our lives, and our response to His grace. The Bible says that we are to excel in this grace of giving. Would you say that is descriptive of your focus and your faith when it comes to giving? That you are excelling in the grace of giving? I know I want to excel and accelerate even more in this grace of giving. Remember, God is not interested in what you have but who you are; your character as a Christian, your Christ-likeness. God is building believers and He is growing His church. And it is essential that we be found faithful as stewards, that we be faithful in what God has called us to do.
When I look at money and possessions I see it really as a test. It is a test of our commitment; it is a test of our character as we keep our promises before God and before one another. It's a test. It's even a test that God says "Prove Me in this and see if I will not pour out blessing upon you, you won't even be able to contain". He says, "Test me it this"! So money for all of us is a test. Can we pass the test of money and how we handle it? It's also a trust. Are we trustworthy with what we have earned, what we have been given? Thus an entrustment is a stewardship. Can we be trusted? Jesus said "Can I trust you with heavenly riches if you are not faithful, you cannot be trusted with earthly things"? He said, If you cannot be trusted with little things how can I give you greater things in your life?
So money is a test of our character and our commitment. It is a trust, and it also a testimony. It says so much about where our heart is. Our Lord said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart is". Your heart and your treasure are synonymous. If your heart is all in with God and the treasure of the Gospel and the treasure of Christ Himself, then you will be all in. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". It's a testimony. I'll tell you this: I've never known a dynamic spirit-filled believer who was not a generous giver. It's been my observation as a pastor these many years that people who give their talent and their testimony for the Lord and their possessions follow along. The people who give their money also give their time and they give their talents to the Lord. It all works together! Giving is at the heart of the Christian; it is at the heart of God; it is at the heart of the Gospel.
That said, chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians. In fact you could turn there as I mention and look at it. He says, "Here's the point: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully (that is abundantly) will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he is decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And", this is a great verse, "God is able to make all grace abound to you," there's our word grace or gift, "so that having all sufficiency and all things at all times, you may abound to every good work. As it is written, He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. He who supplies seed to the sower (that's God) and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness".
In other words, God will meet your needs and He will multiply your resources. Verse 11: "You will be enriched in every way to be generous in everyway (slash: We're blessed to be a blessing), which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (When we give, God is praised.) For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the need for the saints, (that is taking care of the church and it's people), but also overflowing and in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, that they will glorify God because", in other words people everywhere, "will glorify God because of your submission, because of your confession, your testimony of the Gospel of Christ, and the generosity (there's our word) your generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you because if their surpassing grace of God upon you".
Is God's grace upon you? Say, yes! Then say it out loud, verse 15: "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift"! We're counseled in God's Word as to how we are to give. This is a very practical message. I would encourage you to write these things down in the margin of your Bible. We're going to take it right out of Scripture, right out of this passage and talk about generosity. How are we to give? We're to give personally. That's why in chapter 9, verse 7 it says: "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart," each one, every one. Earlier in chapter 8, verse 5. You can just look at it briefly there, it says: "they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us". God doesn't want my money or your money; He wants first our hearts. And no gift that we give can please God if it doesn't come from a sincere heart. If you give with strings attached, if you give because you expect something from God or anybody else, God cannot bless that!
So God wants your stewardship which is the ownership of your life, which is the lordship of your life. You settle the issue of lordship and will settle the issue of stewardship in your life. Amen? So give personally. Secondly, give proportionately. We don't have to wonder how much we are to give because God has given us guidelines in Scripture as to how we're to give. In verse 7 again, chapter 9, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart". This is a mindful decision. It is a decision made with a commitment of the heart. So we're often exposed to various appeals for our money; we all are. And many of these are good for good organizations, and so on. But at times we find ourselves just reacting to the latest appeal or the most exciting new thing. But God advises us, God commands us in scripture to give in a different way, and that is with a decisive action, a determined action to give proportionately, based on one of the key scriptures in all of the Bible, Matthew 6:33, which says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things", what things?
Our financial needs, our material needs, "all these things will be added unto you". God said, "You put Me first in your life and I'm going to take care of you and your needs". And it's true! Now that has to do, of course, with every day, so everyday we have an opportunity to get up and give the first part of our day to God. Do you do that? If you will, it will transform your day; it will transform your life. Change the way you think, it will transform your mind as you allow God to speak to you. Just take some time at the beginning of every day. This is something I do every day. I get up and I first give my time to God, and God has blessed me beyond measure in just giving my day and my details of my days to Him. Open to God's word, listen to God as you pray, and so on. Does all your day belong to God? Of course, it does. Every day belongs to God! "This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it". But we want as a practice or as a principle to give the first part of our day to God.
I really encourage you to do it. We also want to give the first part of our week to God. A Sabbath in the Old Testament, the Lord's day, this day, the first day of the week. The idea is that God has given us a principle that the first part of the week that we would give our week to Him! And then, yes, the first part of our money belongs to God! Now all of our money belongs to God! But we are to give the first tenth of our income, it's call a tithe. A tithe is not just a tenth, but it is the first tenth. Because it is built upon that principle of "Seek first the kingdom of God". If you wait to give the leftovers or what's left over of your income, you may never get there! If you wait till you get out of debt, you're probably going to stay in debt, if you don't obey God at the point of paying this debt first! We are debtors to God, not in a legalistic sense, but because we love God! Look, you say, "Well I don't have a lot to give". So what?
Did you know the premier example that Jesus used in the New Testament to describe a devoted, dedicated giver was a poor widow who only had two mites and she gave it all, and Jesus commended her? So whether we're rich or poor, this is the genius, this is God's genius in establishing the ten percent, the first tenth as a spiritual principle and a powerful promise from God! We find it in Malachi 3, verse 10: "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse". The storehouse of the Old Testament? Obviously the temple, the house of God. You say, "Well, we don't have a temple today". Oh, yes we do! We do! We are the temple of the Holy Spirit! You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We're described as the household of faith. And so when your temple meets my temple in the fellowship and the household of faith, that is in affect a counterpart to the Old Testament temple and storehouse. "And thereby put Me to the test (God says) the Lord of host if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing that you will not even be able to contain".
Now listen to me. You say, "Pastor, are you trying to put me back into legalism? This sounds so old school. It sounds so Old Testament". I'm not trying to put you back into the bondage of legalism; I'm trying to get you under the blessing of God in your life. Because God has promised, God has said, "If you give, I will give to you, I will bless you financially and otherwise". Jesus said in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you". That's the principle of proportionate giving. And as you pledge and as you promise your heart to be faithful in this, God said, "I am going to pour out My blessing upon your life".
Give proportionately. Deb and I started doing this when we were in college. I practiced tithing as a little boy growing up, but as a couple we certainly didn't have much as college students, suffering from mal-tuition. But we made a promise to God that we would take the first tenth and give it to our church and the work of Christ through its ministry. And we've been doing it ever since. And God has helped us to grow our giving because let me tell you something. Tithing, it's the training wheels to get you going on the real journey. I mean it's just the training wheels, it's basic, it's fundamental. It is the baseline, if you will. Tithing's just the baseline. It's the floor, not the ceiling of Christian giving.
You say, "I thought tithing for the Jew in the Old Testament". Let me remind you, if a Christian under grace can't give more to God than a Jew under the law, that's a disgrace to grace! We have been graced by God! Tithing is not legalism; it is a life-giving principle. And if you will practice it, I promise you according to God's Word, that He will pour out blessing after blessing after blessing. As Paul said here in 2 Corinthians 9,"abundance flows with abundance".
Then we're to give strategically. Not just sowing anywhere, but sowing to seed in the fields, that it may grow; sowing into the storehouse of God's blessing and the benefits of its ministry. You know, look, there are many fine organizations. Again, Deb and I give outside of our church and the ministries of our church, but not at the expense of our tithe and offerings to our church. Because we believe in this church! We believe in its ministry, and we believe that it's biblical to bring the tithe into the storehouse, into the local assembly, into the local body. I believe in my church! I love my church! The only thing that Jesus started on earth was the local church! Jesus said, "I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it". This is God's church and I encourage you, I invite you, I counsel you, I pray that you will support your local church with your tithe. As God leads you, as He's lead us to other things, other places, then God bless you for that as He leads you. But don't spread around your tithe.
Then give generously. As the Scripture says here in verse 6, it's like sowing a seed. And when you sow it generously and abundantly and bountifully, there is a greater harvest. This is the indomitable law of the harvest. We reap what we sow, we reap what we sow and we reap more than we sow. So we don't have the idea that we hang on to the seed for a rainy day. Can you image a farmer's in trouble. He's got some seed in his hand. He said, "You know we're having a hard time here so I better hang on to some of this seed. I'm just going to just throw a little bit out there". No, a farmer knows the more seed you sow, the more crops you grow. It's the law of the harvest, that's God's law. And what's true in the harvest of a crop is true in a Christian. The more seeds we sow, sowing our life, our giving, our serving, our money, the more we sow, the more abundantly we live and grow. You know, don't give until it hurts; give until it helps! It feels so good to be generous. It feels so lousy to be selfish and self-indulgent and self-interested!
That's why the word miser and the word miserable are vitally connected. Because we are to give generously and to give expectantly. That's the sixth thing. By faith we are to give. It speaks here of our faith. You say, "Pastor, I want my faith to grow". Surely, you want your faith to grow this year, right? You want your faith to grow in obedience, in your walk. You want to believe God for great things in your life, greater things for your family. You want to believe God for your health. You want to believe God for your strength. You want to trust God with your life. You want your faith to grow! Can I tell you one of the most effective ways to grow your faith is to give. Because when you give and you're out there with your money, you're putting your heart in it, you're investing in the kingdom of God.
And the way I look at my giving. It's not really a donation; it's an investment! And so when you've got your investment out there, you're going to pray like crazy that the crops come up. You're going to pray and trust God. You're going to obey God more and more. You're going to expect greater things from God, for God to open the windows of heaven. And you're going to see it happen and your faith is going to grow. That's why God says, "Prove Me in this! Test Me in this"! God is saying, I want you to test Me, because when you do, you're going to see God work in your behalf. And we always have enough. That's why I love verse 8 so much. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound to every good work".
God says, "I'm going to meet your needs. I'm going to multiple your resources. I'm going to take care of you". This grace, these gifts, they're going to grow you. And you're going to believe and trust in the things that are most important in your life. The true riches that come from God. You say, "Well, faith doesn't pay my bills; faith doesn't get me out of debt; faith doesn't pay my mortgage or my car payment".
Have you ever tried to believe God and trust God for His provision in your life? And if you will obey God and trust Him, putting Him first in your finances, you'll see debts begin to disappear, you'll see problems solved. I'm not saying you won't have anymore problems or you won't have financial issues. I'm not preaching some kind of a health-wealth Gospel. It's not God's desire to make you rich. What is is is God's desire to bless you according to His own word and His own will with the true riches. And, yes, that may include financial blessing. That's what giving will accomplish in your life. That's what this grace is all about.
And I know this, when we give something supernatural happens that you cannot explain. You know what it is? I've seen this in our lives as a couple-Deb and I, I've seen it over the years as a pastor, I've seen it again and again and again. The nine-tenths will go further with God as your partner than the ten-tenths on your own. And if you're in trouble financially, you sure need to get on God's plan! You sure need to be what God tells you to do by obeying Him! Again, the genius is whether you have a lot or you have a little, we can all be in by pleasing God and this principle of first things first. And that's why when we give, the last thing is we give joyfully. Nobody has to push you.
If somebody around here pressures you to give, including me, let's talk about it because that's not what we want. We don't want anybody pressured, we don't want anybody pushed because God loves a cheerful giver. I know this: the happiest people on earth are generous givers. True! The happiest people I know are people who give their lives away, who give their money away. "Give; it will be given to you", because selfishness and self-centerness is a kill joy. It will rob you of happiness. But giving and generosity will multiply the abundant life in you. And the greatest example, the greatest exhibition of this is Jesus Himself.
2 Corinthian 8:9, we're closing, 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, "For you know the grace (or the giving) of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor so by His poverty people can become rich". And then that last verse that we shared together and shouted together, verse 15 of chapter 9: "Thanks be unto God for the unspeakable gift". Again, God is all about giving. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life". These are the paradoxes of God, that the way up is down; the way to win is to lose; the way to gain is to give. That's God's plan and that's God's purpose for every Christian. And Jesus showed us the way. Jesus said, "I lay down My life that I might take it up again". And if you're a follower of Jesus, you want to be like Jesus, then learn how to give starting with your tithe and growing beyond as God has prospered you. Amen?