Money: God’s Generosity

August 30, 2023

Series: Money

Bible Passage: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

This morning we are in the middle of a short series on MONEY.  Last Sunday we looked at 2 Peter 3 for the reminder that Jesus is coming back.  The promise of Jesus’ return puts everything in perspective; especially money!

Money is a huge part of our world.  Money plays a huge part of our life.  And almost every headline in the news today people are talking about money.  Who hasn’t known someone or been someone to go through work lay-offs?  Business are trying to do “more with less.”

Who hasn’t been shocked by rising prices?  Gas is more expensive, groceries, restaurants, going to see a movie, so that just living in our city is expensive.  Has anyone looked at car prices?  It’s more expensive to purchase our 10-year old car today than when we bought it 10-years ago with less miles.  That’s bonkers!

Who follows the stock market?  The S&P has basically been flat the last two years.  Money is a part of our conversations today.  Money is an important of life today.  It’s possible why the song “Richmen of Richmond” by Oliver Anthony has become so popular?

“I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day / Overtime hours for little pay / So I can sit out here and waste my life away / Drag back home and drown my troubles away.”

Some people say this is a political song but I think the song resonates with so many people because people feel the economic pressure and frustrations about where we are financially, therefore, we want to see what God’s Word has to say about money, so let’s look at 2 Corinthians 8:1-2:

2 Corinthians 8:1-2, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”

First and Second Corinthians is written by the Apostle Paul.  In the first letter, we just finished as a church in Austin, we see the Apostle Paul rebuking the Corinthian church.  In the second letter the Apostle Paul is primarily casting a vision for what it looks like practically to follow Jesus.

Therefore, in verse 1 the Apostle Paul points the Corinthian church to the “churches of Macedonia.”  Do you see that in verse 1?  The Apostle Paul went from city to city proclaiming the name of Jesus and in verse 2 we see the Macedonian churches are going through some challenges.  Do you see the contrast in verse 2?

2 Corinthians 8:1-2, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”

“Great ordeal of affliction” and yet there is an “abundance of joy.”  Do you see that?  Again, “Deep poverty” and yet “overflowing with liberality or generosity.”  Do you see the contrast in verse 2?

It’s possible that some of us might be thinking, “Wait, has Pastor Michael taught this passage before?”  Yes!  I love this passage, because this passage is so helpful for us as followers of Jesus.

“Great ordeal of affliction” means “trouble and hardship.”  Every follower of Jesus is going to go through seasons of trouble and hardship.

“Poverty” doesn’t mean they can’t go on vacation that year or go out to eat.  In the first century they didn’t have credit unions or social services to help people, so when people were struggling they had to go to other people who were wealthier, ask for their help, and those people would hold their need over them.

Yet, in the context of the passage the Macedonian people are financially struggling, going through hardships and trouble, and yet there is an abundance of joy and generosity in their hearts, so that we need to ask ourselves this morning, “How does that happen?”

When hardships and trouble come into my life I spiral.  I doubt the Lord easily.  I start to assume the worse.  But God’s Word is teaching us supernatural secrets about joy even in the midst of struggle.  Look at verses 3-4:

2 Corinthians 8:3-4, “3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints”

First, don’t get distracted by the word “saints.”   The word “saints” is simply a description of men, women and children who have faith in Jesus, so that the saints in Jerusalem are struggling and the Macedonian people are responding “according to their ability” and “beyond their ability.”

The Macedonian people have their own struggles, their own challenges, yet they see fellow follower of Jesus who is in need and they are begging to be helpful.  Isn’t that glorious?

The Apostle Paul didn’t want to ask the Macedonians to help.  The Apostle Paul assumed the Macedonians had their own struggles and yet the Macedonian people are begging to be helpful.

Listen, I wish I could tell you I had the same mindset but I need God’s Word to help me grow in this area because I want to have this mindset, therefore, we need to be asking, “How does this happen in our life?”

In verse 3 we see some clues.  In verse 3 we see the Macedonian people are giving according to their ability, so that phrase “according to their ability” literally means according to what one has, which means the Macedonian people had some type of accounting system in their personal lives.

We are all coming from different places with financial literacy but everyone needs a financial budget.  Look at how much you make.  Write down fixed expenses like rent, gas, food, utilities, so that these are expenses you know you are going to have each month.

Then you have discretionary expenses like eating out, shopping, going to a movie, so that you live on a budget.  Listen to me, you can tell money where to go or money will tell you where you to go.  Does that make sense?

As a follower of Jesus, we are called to invest our lives, including our financial lives, into His glory but that’s never going to happen if we don’t have some type of budget.

Listen to me, we live in Austin.  It’s too easy to spend money in Austin.  The tacos are too good.  The BBQ and Queso and fun things to do are endless, therefore, we must create some type of budget for ourselves where we say, “That’s enough tacos.”

And, if you are married, this exercise is even harder because it means married people need to talk about money.  Married people need to work on a budget together.  Married people need to have a plan for how they are going to account for money.

We provided these books under some of the chairs as a resource this morning called, “The Genius of Generosity.”  Please read that book.  Periodically we provide a class called Financial Peace.  Please sign up when it’s available.

Because there is something special taking place in the lives of the Macedonian people.  They still experience hardships but there is joy.  They still struggle financially but there is generosity.  How’s that possible?

Verse 3 teaches us they had a budget, bare minimum but look at verse 3 because the Macedonian people are not only generous according to their ability but beyond their ability.  Do you see that in verse 3?

Let’s go back to our budget.  We have fixed expenses, we have discretionary expenses, and at the top of the budget you want to set aside a financial amount of money to give away each month.

Many times, we spend all our money on tacos, BBQ, Queso, pay some bills and if we have any money left over, we give money away.  God’s Word teaches us to give off the top.

Sometimes people ask, “How much?”  In the Old Testament it was 10% so people use that as a measure of tithe but in the New Testament Jesus gives His life and then says, “Follow Me.”  The Macedonian people aren’t giving as little as possible.  The Macedonian people are giving sacrificially.

You might be thinking, “Typical pastor asking people to give money.”  You don’t have to give to North Village Church in Austin, TX.  I am aware of our audience this morning…the majority of the people in this room give generously to North Village Church in north Austin.

Right now, we are in a place of transition after the pandemic, we are rebuilding our non-denominational church in Austin, the reason we are here today is because the people in this room are Macedonian type people.

Our average giving on a monthly basis is around $25K a month.  Look around the room.  As people are filling out the form on spiritual gifts, the spiritual gift of giving is showing up in the top 3, so please don’t hear these words as a rebuke but as an affirmation, an encouragement of God’s Spirit working in our bible teaching church in Austin and at the same time asking the Lord to keep growing us in this area of generosity.

Every time we give money away it’s like a tiny worship service in your soul that says, “This dollar bill isn’t my Savior.”  Money creates this illusion of security, so that we feel safe when we have money but it’s an illusion.  Money creates this illusion of significance, so that when we have money we feel important but it’s an illusion.  Therefore, every time we give money away we are saying to our soul, “Jesus is my Savior, Jesus is my security, Jesus is my significance!”

We don’t have time to get into this morning but our culture loves debt.  Debt use to be 1-2% interest but these days debt is a rope around your neck so start saving today to buy that car so you don’t have to take on debt.

Start finding creative ways today to do college so you don’t have to take on debt for college.  Start cutting up those credit cards while we can, so you don’t have to take on debt.  If you feel overwhelmed or paralyzed by this conversation then please come talk to us, so we can help you take steps in this area.  Look at verse 5:

2 Corinthians 8:5, “5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”

Look at that phrase, “They first gave themselves to the Lord.”  What does it mean to give ourselves to the Lord?  What does that look like practically to be men, women and children who give ourselves to the Lord?

A person gives themselves to the Lord the first time we begin a relationship with God through faith in Jesus.  If you’ve never done that do that right now.  Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord.

But a person also gives themselves to the Lord every day from that day forward until we are face to face with the Lord.  Does that make sense?

Every day we are giving our emotions to the Lord, our relationships to the Lord, our calendar, our past, our present, our future, and our money because when you begin a relationship with God through faith in Jesus you are no longer your own.  You belong to Jesus!

You know the story of the man who goes to the jewelry store, sees this beautiful pearl and says to the clerk, “How much does the pearl cost?”  The clerk says, “Oh, this pearl is really rare.  This pearl will cost you everything.”

The man says, “Okay, I want it.”  The clerk says, “Well, how much do you have?”  The man says, “I have $1,000.”  The clerk says, “Well, do you have anything else in your wallet?”  The man says, “I have this $5 gift card.”  The clerk says, “Okay, I will take it.  What else?”  The man says, “Nothing else.”  The clerk says, “What about transportation.  How did you get here?”

The man says, “You want my car?”  How will I get to work?  The clerk says, “You have a job?”  I will take that too.  Then the clerk says, “Are you married?  I you’re your wife, your house, your children.”

The man says, “You are taking everything from me.”  The clerk says, “Oh, I almost forgot.  I’ll take you also.”  This pearl is going to cost you everything.

Jesus is the great pearl!  When we become followers of Jesus, we are giving our whole life to Him.  It’s not about a segmented part on Sunday morning, but the whole of our lives, therefore, in verse 5 the Macedonians are giving themselves to the Lord and they are so overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace in their life they become gracious people.  Does that make sense?

We are a people who are lost and alone, dead in our sin and Jesus comes for you, Jesus gives you His forgiveness, Jesus gives you His peace, Jesus gives you His righteousness, Jesus gives you His Spirit, Jesus gives you His Word, so that the response from the Macedonian people is, “How could we not help?”  Isn’t that beautiful? Look at verses 7-8:

2 Corinthians 8:7-8, “7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.”

This passage is written to the Corinthian church, and in verse 7 we see the Corinthian church is very gifted in faith, knowledge, prophecy, love, but at the end of verse 7 the Apostle Paul states, “See that you abound in this gracious work also.”  Do you see that in verse 7?

The word “grace” was used in verse 1, verse 6 and again in verse 7 because God’s grace has been poured out abundantly in Jesus and when we see God’s grace in our life we become gracious people, so that the Apostle Paul writes, “Jesus is doing great things in you, there is love, prophecy, faith, knowledge, therefore, abound in this gracious work also.”  Do you see that?

It is important to understand the Apostle Paul could have commanded the Corinthians to give financially.  He has seen the resurrected Jesus, He was sent out by the resurrected Jesus.  He could simply say, “You must be generous!”

But, in verse 8 the Apostle Paul says, “I am not speaking this as a command.”  The Apostle Paul wants the Corinthian church to be generous of their own accord, and again, look where he directs them.  Look at verses 9-11:

2 Corinthians 8:9-11, “9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. 11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.”

Do you see that in verse 9?  Where does the Apostle Paul point the Corinthian church?  Jesus!  Look at all that you have in Christ.  We are eternally rich!

Listen to me, if we want to grow in generosity it isn’t because we strong armed into generosity.  It’s because the Spirit of God has opened our eyes to His goodness, so that we become more generous.

Illustration:  I don’t have this mastered in my life.  I am still growing in this area but I have experienced this truth in my life personally.

I didn’t grow up around Jesus.  I didn’t grow up with a lot of money.  I was raised by a single mom.  I come to faith in Jesus at the end of high school and when I graduated my mom said, “I need you to move out.”

I wasn’t mad at my mom, it was the reality of life but I was working at Gadzooks in the Irving Mall making $4.25 an hour, so I was thinking, “How is this going to work?”

In God’s grace, the Lord brought a family into my life who said I could live with them for free if I got a better job, went to school and did things around their house to be helpful.  I said, “OK” mostly because I had no other options.

I started learning my bible, I started growing in character, I started learning about finances, making a budget, keeping a budget, started giving to the Lord cheerfully, willfully and sacrificially.

Sometimes we think I have to wait till I can give more.  No, start giving a dollar.  Start holding a worship service in your soul that money is not your savior.  You don’t have to give to North Village Church in Austin.  Just give!

A year later I moved out of that family’s house.  I got to a place where I could get a roommate and live on my own.  I was doing so great in life I thought I should buy a jet ski.  I was driving a Z28 that barely ran, waited tables at Chili’s and thought to myself, “I need to buy a jet ski.”

You know what happened?  I owned that jet ski for about a month before it got stolen and my Z28 broke down, I didn’t have any savings, my car wouldn’t run and I was back where I started.  I didn’t know what was going to do.

But again, the Lord is so gracious, the Lord brought a man into my life who said, “If you buy the engine I will put a new engine in your Z28 for you.”  I said, “Really?  Do you know to do that?”  He said, “No.”  But he did it.  Got my Z28 running, so that it was as if the Lord was saying, “Keep following Me, keep putting Me first, I will take care of you.”

I kept learning my bible, I kept growing in character, I kept learning about finances, making a budget, keeping a budget, kept giving to the Lord cheerfully, willfully and sacrificially.

Today we aren’t rich as some consider rich but the only debt we have is our house.  Our cars are paid for, our credit cards are paid for, our student loans are paid for, so that generosity isn’t a burden.  How could I not be generous, because the Lord has been so generous to me.

Today we give financially as much as we can.   We give to North Village Church in north Austin, we give to other organizations for His Kingdom.

We’ve had people live in our home for free because how can we not after all the Lord has done for us?  We have had single women live with us, we took care of my mom for a season, we took in a foster child for a season.

We’ve not arrived but after growing in this area for 30 years, all I think to myself is, I want to keep growing in this area.  How could we not?  Look at verses 12-15:

2 Corinthians 8:12-15, “12 For if the willingness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the relief of others and for your hardship, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance will serve as assistance for their need, so that their abundance also may serve as assistance for your need, so that there may be equality; 15 as it is written: “The one who had gathered much did not have too much, and the one who had gathered little did not have too little.”

We could spend a whole sermon on these verses but quickly, the Apostle Paul is seeking support for the church in Jerusalem which is largely Jewish and the Corinthian church is largely Gentile, so that it’s possible Paul was only seeking the support of his own people in Jerusalem, because Paul was Jewish.  Does that make sense?

Therefore, the Apostle Paul responds in verse 13 it isn’t about Jew and Gentile but about equality.  Who says the bible is outdated!

Equality is a bit of a buzzword in our day today but it’s not the government taking from one group to help another group but it’s about the body of Christ voluntarily caring for the body of Christ.  You with me?

It would be weird for us to lift our hands in worship while the person next to us was struggling to get to work on Monday, right?  In the same way, it would be weird for our church in north Austin to have so much and another church in Austin living on the street, right?  And in the same way, it would be weird for one church family to have so much while another church family around the world is dying for their faith.

This isn’t just a question for the elders of our church family to wrestle with but every follower of Christ is to consider, “How has the Lord blessed me, not so that I can go buy more stuff that will sit in a closet until we donate it to Good Will, but so that I can send that blessing to those near and far for His glory?

I want to invite the worship team to the stage.  Let’s lower the lights.  When we know God’s grace, we become gracious people.  When we see how the God of Scripture treats us, it changes how we treat people.  When we see how the God of Scripture cares for us, it changes how we care for people.  When we see how the God of Scripture views our failures, it changes how we view the failures of others.  How could we not?

If you have yet to begin a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, won’t you do that this morning?  People at the back.