Bible Passage: 2 Corinthians 8:1-11
This morning we are kicking off a 4-week series called, “Yearly Rhythms” and I am guessing there are some of us who are thinking to themselves, “What does that mean?”
When we started the church in Austin, we saw a pattern in our church family that was hindering our ability to hear God’s Word and respond to God’s Word and it was because most of our lives are cluttered with business.
We are busy with work, busy with life, struggling through marriage, wrestling with children, seeing our own personal character flaws in life, so that when we show up on a Sunday morning or even open God’s Word on our own it’s like God’s voice was just getting lost in all the white noise of life.
As a result, we started a tradition where every year in January we set aside time to focus on the four foundational markers, guardrails, lighthouses, key areas of life that guide the decisions we make, no matter how rough the waters might get in life. Does that make sense?
Personally, I give Yearly Rhythms the credit for helping us navigate the pandemic. Statistically we didn’t have as much volatility in our church family as I hear from other pastors and I think its God’s grace to help us build anchors in our life that help us weather the storms of life.
It doesn’t mean we won’t feel the storms we will, we did, but we weather them with just a tad more stability because of these key anchors which are examining our personal finances, our closest relationships, celebrating wins, and wisdom to navigate the ups and downs of life.
There are other anchors in life we could talk about that are just as important but we decided we were just going to repeat these four areas every year, over and over, and try to reduce some of the white noise in life, so that ultimately, we might hear from the Lord.
That’s my ultimate desire for every one of us in our church family in north Austin. If you hear from me, it might last you till lunch. If you get motivated by an author or a song it might last you a season, but when we hear from the Lord, it will carry us through any and everything in life. That’s the hope of this series!
Therefore, when we talk about “Yearly Rhythms” it isn’t about yearly rhythms for our church family in Austin but yearly rhythms for our personal lives.
In addition, when we talk about “Yearly Rhythms” it isn’t really about making new year resolutions or end goals like losing weight, or running a mile, but this series is about identifying the type of foundational anchors for our life that carry us through difficult seasons.
In fact, we find this series to be so important, that we mark out a Saturday on January 21st where we commit time and energy to draw out these foundational markers for our life.
We don’t want to just talk about these things, but actually give ourselves a chance to put things down on paper, create structure that can withstand and weather any storm and this morning we are going to kick off talking about money. 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.”
During the pandemic and shifted our teaching to three points to help us focus but I am going to go back to just going through Scripture, verse by verse. See if you can stay with me!
The first and second letter to the Corinthians is a real letter to real people from the Apostle Paul, and in verses 1 and 2 the Apostle Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church about the local churches in Macedonia
The Apostle Paul describes the Macedonian church as a people who are going through a “great ordeal of affliction” vs. 2, and yet they are “overflowing in the wealth of their liberality.”
Underline those phrases, “Great ordeal of affliction” and “overflowing in the “wealth of their liberality.” The word affliction means “trouble and hardship” and the word “liberality” means “generous.”
Which means the Macedonian churches are going through distress, challenges, viruses, sick kids, job loss, crazy politics, swings in the stock market, in deep poverty (vs. 2), and yet the Macedonians are overflowing in the wealth of their liberality! What? How’s that possible? I love this passage!
Let’s examine how we responded to hardship in life. I don’t know about you, but my immediate response to hardship is to pull back, fortify, hunker down, self-preserve, and the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “Look at the grace of God being poured out on the Macedonians.”
Isn’t it easy to think to ourselves, “When life settles down, I will become generous. When I become rich I will become generous. When my children are grown I will become generous. I have my retirement settled I will become generous.”
But, somehow the Macedonian church has established a view toward their finances where they are able to model a life of generosity. 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”
In verse 3 the Macedonian churches are giving according to their ability (meaning that generosity is in their financial budget, generosity is planned out, generosity isn’t just accidental), and in verse 3 we see generosity isn’t just in their budget, but generosity is a foundational anchor of their life, because they are giving “according to their ability and beyond their ability.”
These Macedonian churches aren’t generous because they saw a sad commercial of starving puppies and felt guilty. These Macedonian churches aren’t generous because the economy was good. These Macedonian churches aren’t generous because they were pressured or even prompted by other people.
No, somehow generosity has become a foundational marker for how they interact with money, and it is so deeply imbedded in them as a people they are “begging for opportunities to give, urging.” Do you see that in verse 4?
This is why the model of giving 10% is a good tool to start as you think about finances, but 10% is a horrible tool for generosity. If someone is making $30K a year, and they give 10% of their income then we are talking about that person making a huge sacrifice.
We are talking about primary expenses in life being affected, and they are really stretching themselves willingly and cheerfully, because they want to be generous. But, if someone is making $200K a year, and giving 10% then we aren’t talking about the same level of sacrifice and generosity, right?
Yes, that person is giving a larger amount of money than the other, but it might not really dip into generosity. It might mean that person goes to Florida for vacation instead of Hawaii, which makes 10% a good tool to start, but we don’t want to be marked by 10%.
Especially since the Macedonian churches view of finances wasn’t just for a roof over their head, which is important. It wasn’t just for food and clothing. It wasn’t just for a nice meal to celebrate with friends.
In verse 4 we see the Macedonian churches are “begging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints.” Do you see that in verse 4? The “saints” are the men, women, and children in Christ back in Jerusalem. In the context of the passage the follower of Jesus in Jerusalem is being persecuted, attacked, and ran off. They are losing their homes. They are losing their churches and these nobody churches are burdened to send resources to help the saints. Isn’t that amazing?
Listen to me, generosity is present in our church family in north Austin. In the announcements we will celebrate the giving and in the month of November we saw $30K given through our church family in Austin. That’s amazing! We don’t have some large donor in California. This is money from within our church family and that’s amazing but at the same time I want us to lean into this verse and just think about what it would look like in our church family for us to be a people who were begging for opportunities to give money away and invest in His Kingdom.
How does that happen? Honestly, we need to be wrestling with that question. How does that type of heart and mind get established in an individual? How do you teach that to your children? How do you seal that in your marriage? How do we not give our lives to chasing after the sparky things of this world? 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.”
I’ve taught this passage every year for the last 6-7 years and I don’t particularly like teaching the same thing over and over but what I do like is that I am more convinced of the teaching every year.
In 2 Corinthians 8 we see affliction, we see joy, generosity, sacrifice, and then we see the reason these types of qualities are foundational themes in the lives of these people is because, “they first gave themselves to the Lord.”
What does it mean to “give ourselves to the Lord?” At North Village Church in Austin we say, “We want to place Jesus at the center of our lives.” We want to submit our lives to Jesus and ask Him, “Lord, what do you want me to do? How do you want me to live? Where do you want me to live? How do you want me to feel about this decision in my life?”
We want to be followers of Jesus. We want to hear His voice. I want that for my children. I want that for our church family. I know the term “Christian” is thrown around a lot these days, so we can’t use labels to see this type of transformation take place in our life.
We’re not talking about labels. We’re talking about men, women, and children submitting their lives, desires, feelings, past, present, and future to Jesus and His Word and “giving ourselves to the Lord!”
When you profess faith in Jesus our lives are no longer our own. When you are a follower of Jesus we have been purchased at the cross by the blood of Jesus. We die to ourselves, our wants, our desires, we now belong to Jesus, and we give ourselves to the Lord!
Our western culture is so individualistic so this is hard for us to take in practically. We think what we want is most important. Our dreams. Our possessions. Our life. But when you are in Christ then our life is His life. Our time is His time. Our salary isn’t our salary but His salary that He gives to us, not to keep, but to manage, so that we are accountable to Him.
Sometimes people push back and say, “But I worked hard for it!” Did you? Did you give yourself that talent and ability? Did you give yourself that perseverance? Did you knit those things together in the womb of your mother so that this life is your life? Our life is His!
Listen to me, on some level that needs to bother you. This is how you know if you are giving your life over to Jesus, because on some level, some layer we are saying to ourselves, “But I want to do what I want to do!”
This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Anyone can say a prayer. Anyone can say, “I trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” Our faith in Jesus isn’t a sentiment. Our faith in Jesus is an action, so that as we go throughout life there are going to be moments of our life where the Spirit of God is going to press into our soul and say, “Will you trust Me, will you follow Me?”
It might be with your sexuality, it might be with your finances, children, past hurt, unmet dreams, personal failures, and in those moments our hearts can harden, we can dig in, we can do what we want to do, or our hearts can soften, we submit ourselves to the Lord and we follow Him.
Jesus doesn’t call us to give a section of our life, a percent of our life, a socially acceptable part of our life but He calls us to give the whole of our lives to Him. This is why we gather on January 21. This is why we give you book to work through these types of questions.
We need to be around other people who are wrestling with these types of questions. We need to take time to think through what it means to surrender every part of our life to Jesus. 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 Apostle Paul is encouraging the Corinthian church, and says, “Jesus is doing great things in you. There is love, prophecy, faith and knowledge, but abound in this gracious work of generosity also.…do this also!”
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! It is Jesus who is rich in glory, and yet Jesus becomes poor, so that we who believe in Jesus might become rich. Isn’t that true?
When we are in Christ we behold every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We are adopted into His family. We are sons and daughters of the highest. We are rich!
Listen to me, that is a foundational anchor that will carry you though any affliction in life. In Christ, we are rich! In Christ, we can go through any economic downturn. In Christ, we can navigate any hardship. In Christ, we can engage the highest of high’s in our culture and the lowest of lows.
It doesn’t mean we are flippant with money but that we are strategic with money. We are spiritual investors. We are supernatural shark tank prayerfully considering where we might invest His resources, entrusted to us, in His Kingdom, because of what we’ve been given in Christ.
Do you know Jesus? Are you submitting your life to Jesus? Are you learning how to hear the whisper of His voice? Every other treasure we pursue in life (career, romance, country, retirement, etc.) must be guarded, protected, insured, but Jesus sweats for you, dies for you, and purchases you, and holds you, even when we faultier in our faith, it is Christ who is sure!
It is only Jesus who is worthy, therefore, let us start with Jesus. Let us gaze upon Jesus. Maybe for some of us we need to meet Jesus by grace through faith?