2021-05-02 – 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 – The Privilege of Sharing
2021-05-02 – 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 – The Privilege of Sharing
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
What a beautiful weekend and week it has been, Amen? Albeit a little windy at times, it is wonderful to get out in the Springtime outdoors where the flowers are blooming and the farmers are planting. And I can hardly wait to taste those Morel mushrooms again too. One thing nice about hunting Morels is that it’s kind of like manna, where you get go out and find God’s provision on the ground, and then you can cook them up and share them with your family and friends, hint, hint 😊
We have been going through the letter-book of 2nd Corinthians in our Bibles, which was written by the Apostle Paul while he was visiting Macedonia. [SLIDE]
As you might know, the first letter (1st Corinthians) that Paul wrote to the church he started in Corinth, was really a letter of correction. And now this second letter here is more a letter of affirmation and instruction. Paul loved his spiritual children in Corinth. He had fostered a strong relationship with them when he started that church, and he spent three years with them ministering and teaching about God’s will and God’s way. Paul subsequently visited the Corinthian believers a couple more times before he was finally imprisoned in Rome and eventually martyred for his Christian faith. So with that background..
Please turn now to 2 Corinthians 8:1, page 1027 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. Prayer..
In the last couple of weeks, we went over together the previous chapter where Paul complimented the Corinthian church believers for accepting and caring for Titus, who was Paul’s apprentice. Today we are going to see how Paul enabled and empowered Titus to represent him in the collection of the church offerings.
In this chapter, Paul is writing to them about “The Privilege of Sharing” what God has blessed them with for the benefit of the Kingdom. In verse 1, Paul writes:
1 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia: 2 During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. [SLIDE]
3 I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, 4 they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, 5 and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God’s will. 6 So we urged Titus that just as he had begun, so he should also complete among you this act of grace.
I love how Paul addresses this sensitive issue of giving here. You must keep in mind that in this context, Paul is speaking more about corporate giving, not just individual giving. Churches sharing what they have been blessed with for the purpose of helping other churches that were in need. In this case, Paul had witnessed how the Macedonia churches that he was visiting, were gleefully giving to the needs of the churches in Jerusalem, as they were in dire need.
You should understand that the first Christians in Jerusalem, who were effectively in the ‘belly of the beast’, were treated as outcasts and they were persecuted and ridiculed for their Christian beliefs. They were thrown out of the temple, and they were even cut-off from the support of all their Jewish social mechanisms. So as the apostle Paul was going out starting new churches on his three missionary journeys, he told them about the dire straits of those who were effectively starving because of their faith in Christ. In this letter, Paul was now encouraging the Corinth church to continue their giving to that worthy cause as well. In fact, he was letting them know (and us as well) that it was really a privilege for them to be able to share in this way. Verse 7 continues in that sentiment. Paul wrote:
7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this act of grace. 8 I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love.
Here, Paul is suggesting to the Corinth church and now to us, that as a healthy body of believers, we should consistently endeavor to keep looking out to see where God is at work, and then consider sharing our resources for those Godly purposes. We should strive to contribute to the greater causes that God makes known to us, especially when it pertains to the support of other like-minded churches, missionaries and endeavors that are plugged-in to the Great Commission work that Jesus called all of us to be about doing.
Here in this church, we are an independent Southern Baptist (or Great Commission) Baptist church. And in this SBC network of churches that we have chosen to be a part of, there is an amazing resource sharing mechanism in place called the “Cooperative Program”, that frankly makes me proud to be part of.
I have a few graphics to share that depict well the benefit of our relationships.
Again, for the sake of the Kingdom, we now have The Privilege of Sharing what God has given us both individually and corporately. And as Christians, you should know that God is watching to see how well we manage what He has blessed us with. Jesus Himself conveyed that idea several times in scripture. For instance, remember the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 and Luke 19? Jesus conveyed in that parable that the master (or God) cares how you invest or use His money. Or how about the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12. In that one, God was not pleased with how the rich farmer horded his riches. There are many examples in scripture that convey very well that God expects us to manage His blessings wisely. And part of that effort, especially for the Christian, includes charity or sharing what God has blessed us with. Paul continues that sentiment at verse 9:
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. 10 And in this matter I am giving advice because it is profitable for you, who began last year not only to do something but also to want to do it. [S] 11 Now also finish the task, so that just as there was an eager desire, there may also be a completion, according to what you have. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
I love this collection of verses here. First Paul speaks about our Lord Jesus Christ and how He gave up so much in His pre-incarnate form to come to the Earth as a baby. “Though He was rich, for [our] sake he became poor”. And by doing so, we now know God intimately through the Son. And therefore, we are now “rich” in the fact that we are gifted the promise now of Heaven. How cool is that?
Next, Paul conveys that it isn’t the amount that God is holding us accountable for, it is the heart, it is the trust, it is the “eager desire” that He wants to see in us.
In the next chapter 9 the apostle Paul also says that “God loves a cheerful giver”. That goes not only for the Christian, but also for the church. Last week I passed out the last church business meeting minutes and the financial report for the last Quarter. In that you can see that we give corporately to multiple causes including local, state, national and international. I have always felt that a healthy church should endeavor to give at least a tithe (or 10%) to causes outside of the church body. Over the past three years, we have grown so much in this church that we seem to be doing catchup in this regard, but please know that we strive to be accountable while we maintain a healthy balance. We are eager and excited to see how much more we can impact the world with what God blesses us with.
In our last section of verses Paul writes about equality in sharing. Verse 13 says:
13 It is not that there should be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality. 14 At the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may in turn meet your need, in order that there may be equality. 15 As it is written: The person who had much, did not have too much, and the person who had little did not have too little.
Notice in this last passage, Paul puts a lot of emphasis on that idea of equality. ‘Equality’ is a big buzz word in our society today and especially in the political and Social Media realms. I have had many people in the past try to suggest that Jesus was a socialist and therefore we as Christians should be socialists. However, I would very easily argue that Jesus never demanded we give like a tax for the care of anyone or anything through the government or the church. Yes, He paid His taxes when they were due, because that was the law of the religious social government that they were living under at the time. But instead of demanding a tax, Jesus consistently taught instead of the joy of charity and The Privilege of Sharing with one another. He clearly wanted it to be a matter of the heart.
Again, God desires for us to manage well all His blessings and provisions, both individually and corporately. Father God is watching, and He is wanting us to care enough for each other that we are willing to give some of what we have, some of what He has blessed us with, for the care of others in need. As a parent myself, I feel it is my responsibility to pay attention to how my children are spending their money. In that, although I wish for them to be successful, I also want to see them employ prudence as well as charity. I don’t want them to squander their money, and I don’t want to see them horde what they have either. And you know what, if I see them handling what we have given them in an honorable way wisely, then I might even be inclined to help them some more. In all that, hopefully as a family we are building a more trusting relationship. One that inevitably brings true joy and true purpose.
Of course, Jesus was the ultimate example for us in regards to maintaining a trusting relationship with Father God. For Jesus trusted that Father God would take care of all His needs and He lived as though He believed it. Jesus said over and over that He and the Father are one. And He also tells us that we too could enjoy that same confident and trusting relationship with our Father God as well. God loves you and He desires fellowship with you, I pray you know that. God is watching over you and He knows everything about you. In Matthew 10 Jesus teaches that God even knows the numbers of hairs of our head (and for me that is not so much). So, in that regard, please know that you can trust Him. He is The Creator and Sustainer of all things and He loves you so much.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in this message, and in these verses today, we see that the apostle Paul is urging that the Corinth church should continue in their charitable giving. Therefore we should continue in our charitable giving too. Paul wanted the Corinth churches and us to realize the joy and The Privilege of Sharing what we have with others that are in need. And Paul is proclaiming that we really do need each other, and when we choose to stick together, we are stronger. By linking arms with each other, we will be healthier and better equipped to stand the test of time. King Solomon, the wisest man aside from Jesus wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”.
In this church you all give as the Holy Spirt leads, and we surely appreciate that very much. We couldn’t exist without your generous tithes and offerings. Subsequently, our ability and our privilege to give as a church is dependent upon those generous contributions. In this church, although we are independent, we choose to align with other like-minded churches for the benefit of the kingdom. And in that I think God is well pleased. Again, I thank you for your part of making all this work. In that I pray you are able to find the true joy that God has to offer. By helping each other carry the load, we can stand up against the attacks of the world and against the ploys of satan. Are you with me in this? Amen, and Amen
Let us all now stand together in Prayer..