The motivation for our giving.
Before we talk about our giving, we need to discuss the motivation behind our giving. Why should we give? We give because of what God gave to us in Christ.
2 Cor 8
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.
This verse speaks to the incarnation. The incarnation where the Son of God became a man is the motivation behind our giving. Jesus Christ, the God Almighty, the second Person in the Trinity, One who lives in unapproachable light. Jesus dwelt in the glorious heavenly realms with unending spiritual riches. And it was from this infinite height that he performed the unimaginable condescension to be born a man. He left infinite riches to literally become a poor, itinerant Rabbi in order to make us spiritually rich.
This is the grace of God that turns selfish sinners into joyful givers. What Jesus did by becoming a man and eventually dying on a cross is the sole basis and motivation for our giving. Gospel motivation is God enabling you to view money differently, not something to be hoarded and tucked away or invested, but something that we can freely give away.
2 Cor 8
2 During a severe testing by affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.
When grace came into the lives of these believers in Macedonia and people were converted to Christianity and changed into joyful lovers of people, persecution and trouble came too. Grace does not remove trouble. But here’s the mark of someone who is properly motivated to give because of what Christ did for us: joy in the midst of “severe affliction.” Joy that is rooted in grace, not in freedom from affliction. The affliction is “severe,” but the joy in it is “abundant.”
In addition, grace does not remove poverty. There is not even a hint of a prosperity gospel here. Instead, grace has made poor people radically generous people. We need to let this sink in a bit. Here are people, unlike us, undergoing severe affliction and extreme poverty, and instead of grumbling and complaining and whining, they are overflowing with an abundance of joy. Paul captures this sentiment in Phil 4:12-13.
12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
That is the key to all Christian giving, no matter what, there is joy and contentment because Christ himself strengthens us.
When God is our master and the joy of the Lord floods our hearts, our attitude toward money changes and 3 things change.
1) We give generously.
This is not giving some spare change to God or giving God our leftovers after we buy everything we want. This is giving until it hurts. Money is no longer something we need to selfishly clutch onto, but it is something that we can give away freely because we are so joyful in the Lord. Content with Him. We are so satisfied in our relationship with the Lord and so money doesn’t have a grip over us like it used to.
2 Cor 8
3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, 4 they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints…
These new believers gave “beyond their means.” I don’t know how else to take that but to say they took risks with their giving. They gave like the widow with two coins. They gave in a way that was more than they “could” give. When you make $75k and you tithe 10%, it will hurt, but you will survive. You might not be able to get everything you want, but clearly with that kind of income, your needs will be met with a lot of room to spare.
When you have almost nothing materially speaking and you can still give generously, beyond your ability, that’s possible purely because the grace of God is doing its work in your heart. You are free from the grip of money.
2 Cor 9
8 And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 9 As it is written: He scattered; He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. 10 Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.
Here is an important biblical principle: the more you give, the more God will enable you to give. This truth is stated three times. First, in verse 8–so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. This is God causing people to excel in their giving. Second, in verse 10–God will increase the harvest of your righteousness, that is, he will enable you to give even more for righteousness’ sake. Who supplies the seed and the bread in order that the harvest may be increased? God does. Third, in verse 11–You will be enriched in every way for all generosity. The more you give, the more God will enable you to give.
The truth is plain—it is a promise. You may have much, you may have little. The promise remains: the more you give for the sake of others, the more you will be enabled by God to give. Let me stress that Paul is not promising to make generous Christians wealthy. He is promising to make generous Christians capable of even greater generosity.
There is a mentality that says: with the increase of income there should also be an increase in the material signs of wealth. A larger house, a fancy car, a Gold Card, Platinum Card, Titanium Card and an array of expensive toys. This mentality says, buy it because you can afford it, or buy it because others will be impressed. That mentality is the complete opposite of the mentality of this text. God allows generous Christians to display greater levels of generosity.
We can enjoy the grace of God because things are going well. But how deep and impacting true grace is when it allows believers to overflow with abundant joy even when their physical circumstances should cause the opposite reaction. The Macedonian Christians should be thankless grumblers, yet they are abundantly joyful and they are extremely generous. It doesn’t make logical sense, except to say that the grace of God is powerful enough to cause a change so deep that we can be such joyful people no matter what life throws at us. The inward grace became the outward grace of abundant joy and generous giving.
Paul would argue, generosity is a demonstration of God’s grace. The focus is not on the people who are giving, but on the grace of God. God is the main actor who has enabled the giving. Paul never praises anyone’s virtue without giving God the ultimate credit. His grace, God’s grace, His enabling allowed for generosity to overflow to others.