Today, we are taking one week off from our Jesus Our JOY series in Philippians. We’ll jump back in next week, and we only have three weeks left in Philippians. But today, I want for us to look at what the Bible teaches about money, and more broadly, stewardship of money and possessions.
To be completely honest with you, I debated about whether or not to focus on this for a Sunday, but the elders thought it was a good idea, and an important topic. So if you don’t like this, I blame them. No, but seriously, I have to confess that I wasn’t comfortable, at first, with the thought of spending a Sunday on this. I was thinking that it just didn’t feel very holy to talk about money, and giving, especially being the pastor of a church that depends upon your giving for his salary! And not to mention we’re starting a campaign up in 2 weeks! I thought, “Wow, not too subtle, is it? How to be more generous right before our campaign.”
This is a very common thought among pastors, that it’s best maybe to avoid talking about money too much because it’s such a touchy topic, and it will likely make people uncomfortable, and what if you have guests that Sunday—will they think this church is obsessed with money? Etc., etc.” But then I was just reminded of the strong commitment we have here at Raintree to preaching the Word of God, and as much as possible letting God speak for Himself, emphasizing what Scripture emphasizes, and certainly not avoiding topics just because they might make us uncomfortable. In fact, I just said a few weeks ago that part of our GOAL at Raintree is for all of us to be a bit uncomfortable as God is convicting us and transforming us.
So, with all that said, it’s worth noting that Jesus spoke more about money than any other topic, which I fact-checked this week, and it’s true. One example is that 11 of 39 parables were about finances. “Gosh, Jesus, obsessed with money much?” Well, of course he wasn’t obsessed with money, but he did recognize a very potent truth: Money is dangerous. Money itself is dangers. It’s not just that the love of money is dangerous, but money itself. Think about what Jesus said in Matthew 19: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus didn’t say “a rich person who loves money.” He said, “a rich person.”
No, money itself is not sinful. But, money is dangerous. Money and possessions can so easily become what we treasure, what we most value, even over Jesus himself. And what we most value as human beings, what we most treasure is a massive indicator of who or what holds our hearts. Matthew 6:21- “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So what we do with our possessions, specifically, (yes, this really goes for stewarding our time and energy as well, not just finances—but specifically, Jesus spoke a lot about finances), so what we do with our possessions and our money is one of the biggest thermometers for our hearts. If you want to know what you truly value, or what your truly treasure, what’s one way to find out? Look at how you use your money and your possessions.
With that question in mind, I’d like us to read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. Even though we’re not in Philippians, we are sticking with Paul this morning. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. And as you’re turning there, let me give you some background. There was a massive famine at this time in all of Judea, and especially in Jerusalem. And so, the Gentile churches with whom Paul was affiliated decided to take up a collection to be able to send help to their fellow Christians in Jerusalem. And the Corinthian church, according to 1 Corinthians 16 (Paul’s previous letter to the church at Corinth), they wanted to be part of this help! They wanted to have a collection themselves and add it to the collection being sent to Jerusalem.
So, Paul goes into a pretty lengthy discourse about generosity and giving here in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, and 10 of these verses I want us to read and learn from today, as we see Paul really deal with the heart of giving. Specifically: 4 Crucial Convictions about Money, mainly coming from this text. So, Chris Main is going to come and read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 for us:
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency[e] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Thank you Chris. Obviously, the Bible says far more about money, posessions, and stewardship, than we can possibly cover in one Sunday. And one day in the future, I do think we’ll likely have a short series on this, because I think it would be well worth our time. But, even though we can’t cover it all, I do think we can at least begin to scratch the surface of biblical stewardship by seeing in this text, 4 Crucial Convictions about Money. And the 1st Crucial Conviction is this:
- True generosity takes a complete shift in thinking (6-7).
What God desires for us when it comes to money is so much more than just feeling guilty, and so giving more. The point of what Paul is saying here is so much more than merely, “You need to give more! You need to be more generous!” This is where I do think it is very easy to get it wrong, as pastors, and how to teach and preach on giving. It’s not just giving more, it’s a complete shift in thinking! Paul outlines this shift in verses 6-7. He puts together two great truths. He says, “The point is this (in other words, let’s just narrow it down here—what are we getting at?): whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Let’s think about this. You sow little, you reap little. You sow a lot, you reap a lot. What’s Paul saying here? He’s using agricultural terms, right? For those of you with any kind of background in agriculture, this statement that Paul is making is about as obvious of a statement that can be made. For the rest of us, though, maybe it’s not as obvious, so let me explain. You’re out in a field, and you only throw out a little bit of seed, guess what? You should only expect a small harvest! You’re not going to have a forest of plants come about. But, if you sow many seeds, then of course, you can expect a larger harvest.
In Paul’s context, the bigger the collection from the Corinthians, the more help can be provided for these brothers and sisters suffering in Jerusalem. In other words, the more they will see a harvest of thankfulness to God, and glory given to God. And, obviously, the smaller the collection, the smaller the amount of help provided for the Jerusalem Christians. Why is Paul even saying this? Because it’s important for us to realize that the more we’re able to give away, the more it will help other people. It’s almost like Paul wants us to have this tension between, “Yes, giving more is better,” and also, “Don’t you dare be guilted into giving!” He puts these two truths together, one after another. Look at verse 7 again, right after saying, “you sow little, you reap little; you sow more, you reap more.” This is what he says next:
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” No matter how much Paul might be hoping and looking for a large contribution from the Corinthian church, he stresses emphatically here that it must be a voluntary gift, not something given just because Paul is looking and hoping for a large contribution! Or because they might feel like Paul is pressuring them. When we give, it should always be from the heart.
This is a complete shift in thinking. In our context, especially, what we should take from this is that we’re not to give because I’ll feel bad later if I don’t. The idea is to give out of an overflow of the heart. It’s not me avoiding regret later. It is my JOY NOW to give! Why is it such a joy?! Well, honestly, the next three Crucial Convictions will answer that. The 2nd Crucial Conviction about money:
- Nothing is mine. It’s all God’s.
This might be the most basic definition of “biblical stewardship.” Or at least this is the most basic premise of biblical stewardship. We must start at, “Nothing is mine. It’s all God’s.” This means you and I are merely managers of God’s stuff! In fact, that’s what the word “steward” means: “manager,” or someone that looks after something. None of this that we’re managing or looking after is actually ours! Charles Bugg gives this definition for Biblical stewardship, which I find very helpful: “Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.”
It really all starts with the very first verse of the entire Bible, right? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We could stop right there. Perhaps even more explicit is Psalm 24:1- “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” None of it is mine; it’s all his! Listen, biblical stewardship is not giving to God some of what is yours. It’s not even giving to God all that is yours. God’s not taking anything away from us; he’s actually bestowing upon us everything we have. The heart of Godly generosity starts with realizing that it’s all His anyway. Instead of, “Oh, God really expects this of me, to be generous?” It’s, “Wow, look at what God has let me use for my living and my family and providing for me!”
Why is this such a difficult mindset to have about money and possessions, especially nowadays? Well, I think the concept of real dependence upon someone other than myself is not as easy to remember since Industrialization began. Within the world economy, it wasn’t always the case that there was widespread manufacturing of anything and everything you could possibly need. I’m sure we all know that, but sometimes we forget just how much this has changed everything!
It used to be that particular farmers would go to other farmers and trade their crops to be able to feed their families. They’d have to go to other people to find candles to use for light at night. Not everyone could skin their own sheep and make clothing, so you’d have to go to someone else to find that! There were so many things for which people had to depend upon others. In that type of society, maybe it’s at least a little easier to remember that we depend upon others, and ultimately God, for our sustenance.
Nowadays, you don’t even have to go to a grocery store. You can order groceries online and have them delivered. I literally just saw a commercial about Price Chopper jumping in on that. Obviously, there are still hundreds and even thousands of people involved in getting those groceries to your door, if you think about the entire process from planting seeds in a field, to arriving on your doorstep in the form of groceries.
But, even though there are thousands of people involved in that process, it still seems far removed. We don’t actually have to interact with anyone face-to-face to make this happen. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all (I’m a proud Amazon Prime member); but I am saying we need to be aware of how easy it is to forget that we depend upon God, ultimately, but then also, we depend upon other managers of God’s stuff! We depend upon all these other stewards of God’s stuff. What a humbling thought: Nothing is mine; it’s all God’s. The 3rd Crucial Conviction about Money:
- God gives money and possessions so that we may do good works (8-11).
John Piper puts it this way: “Wealth is the God-sent possibility of multiplying your good works.” Look at verse 8 again: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Do you hear how comprehensive his language is? “God’s able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency, in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Wow!
Over and over, Paul emphasizes that God gives us everything we possibly need not only for our own living, but also for every good work that he has for us to do, especially for those in need! He further explains in verse 9 by quoting Psalm 112: “As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’” In other words, the man who gives freely to the poor has a righteousness that will last forever. All of Psalm 112, which is where he’s quoting from in verse 9, is basically a celebration of God’s children, those who trust in the Lord, and especially those who exhibit the natural byproduct of trusting in the Lord—which is what? Generosity in giving, especially toward the poor. It is just a fact that those who truly trust in the Lord will be generous. Why? Because we do not trust in earthly riches. We have very little need for gold and silver.
This is yet again, quite a shift in mindset. It’s not just that we should give and that we should be generous because God has given us so much. According to Paul, it’s the very reason he gives us what we have! He emphasizes this even more in verses 10-11: “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
Now, without getting into all the discussion about these two verses, I do want to say that I don’t think this is some sort of promise that the more money you give away, the richer you will become, at least in a material sense. Instead, the very God who provides and multiplies our money and possessions will also multiply the effect of righteousness when we give it away! In other words, being generous reflects our righteousness, our Christ-likeness, and God will increase the effect, the harvest, of that righteousness, as we are generous. He’s going to increase the benefit it brings other people, as well as the thanksgiving it returns to him. Really, this is pointing us back to verse 6: sow a little, reap a little. Sow a lot, reap a lot. The benefit, the effect, of that generosity will be exponentially bigger, the more we give. And, of course, this really applies to all things, not just money. Our time, our energy, our service, and yes, our money and possessions.
Ultimately, all of this brings us and those that we help and to whom we give, it causes all of us to be grateful to God. Verse 11, again: “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” For Paul, specifically, as they bring this collection from the hearts of the Corinthian Christians and from other Gentile churches, these famished believers in Jerusalem are going to be thanking God for being a generous God.
When God’s children reflect the generosity of their God, we’re all reminded and thankful for God’s awesome generosity. God gives us what we have, whatever we have, however little or however much, He gives to us to do good works. And when we do these good works—when we’re generous with our time and energy and, yes, money—it’s a reminder to believers everywhere not merely of their fellow believers’ generosity, but of their God’s generosity. We have to ask ourselves not merely, “How much can I afford to give this month?” Though that’s an appropriate question, we must first ask ourselves, how can I best glorify God with his stuff that I’m looking after?
How can I best use my income for his glory? I can I best use my home for his glory? How can I best use my car for his glory? Maybe this means hosting a small group, or inviting church members to fellowship with you in your home, or for that matter, neighbors! Maybe it means using the 3rd bedroom for foster care. Maybe that means offering rides in your car, helping people move stuff with your truck (which is just going to happen if you have a truck). Maybe that means not having quite as much put aside for retirement, or settling for a little less spending money, so you can help someone who really needs it, or support the ministry of the Church. How can I best use my money and my possessions for His glory. That’s why God gave it to us, so we must ask ourselves this question. The 4th Crucial Conviction about Money:
- We give to God, because He first gave to us (12-15)
Ultimately, when we give to the poor, to ministry, to God’s church, we’re not just giving toward those things. Ultimately, we’re giving to God. Jesus, in Matthew 25:40 said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did to me.” And so what is the greatest possible motivation toward giving to God besides the fact that it’s all his anyway? It’s because he first gave to us. Paul goes on in verses 12-15:
“For the ministry of this service (in other words, the collection he’s wanting to take to the Jerusalem Christians) this service is not only supply the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God (it doesn’t just provide their needs, it brings glory to God, it causes people to be grateful to God). Verse 13: “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God, why? Because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
Specifically, they will glorify God because of our submission to and confession of the gospel. They will know that there is NO POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR SUCH GENEROSITY other than the fact that we’re on the receiving end of the greatest, most inexpressible gift in the history of the universe: the gift of Christ himself. That’s what Paul is getting at here.
Do you see our motivation for giving?! I’ve hinted at it several times already, but now Paul’s just being as explicit as can be. We’ve been given EVERYTHING in Christ—everything we could possibly ever need, an unimaginably gracious gift that we did not deserve, reconciliation to God the Father through the work of his son, that is the GOSPEL! WE GIVE BECAUSE GOD FIRST GAVE TO US. We give, expecting nothing in return because God gave us CHRIST when we could give nothing in return! He loved us while we were yet sinners, according to Romans 5:8.
Can I just say it again: “I’ll feel bad later if I don’t help him out. I’ll feel bad later if I don’t give to the ministry of the church. I’d better do it because I’ll feel bad later if I don’t.” Paul says NO! Don’t give reluctantly or because you feel pressured, but give what you have decided in your heart to give! Don’t give to avoid regret later; Give out of the overflow of your heart, which I pray is overflowing with the gift that God has given us. Ultimately, our goal, is that from our hearts, we let the gifts that we give those around us (and ultimately to God) reflect the inexpressible magnitude of THE gift that God has given us.
Ultimately, the question for us is: Do we see the big picture here? Do we see our money and possessions as mere tools for good works that will bring God glory, or do we see our money and possessions as things to be treasured? N.T. Wright puts it like this:
“What Paul is urging them to do is to think of themselves, as it were, this way round, and to discover that, if they realize they are characters in the great drama that is going forwards, then the generosity he is urging will come naturally. In the normal and healthy Christian life, everything proceeds from God’s generosity, and everything returns to God in thanksgiving. Grace, generosity and gratitude: these are not optional extras of Christian living, but are the very heart of it all.”
Perhaps the most pertinent question we can ask ourselves as we close is this: Are we living our lives, when it comes to our money and possessions, in such a way that the people around us have no possible earthly or human explanation for our generosity? This goes for those of us who make $15,000 a year as well as those of us who make $100,000 or more a year. Do we treat our money and possessions in such a way that those around us might just have nothing else to attribute it to other than the Holy Spirit of God?
Again I want to say: Let our generosity reflect the inexpressible magnitude of our Father’s generosity. He gave us His Son; we’ll never be able to out-give God.