The Ministry of Stewardship

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  8
Subject: Stewardship; Giving; Tithing
Series: The Happy Giver
[Editor's Note: This is the first sermon in a series of five sermons on stewardship. Though I preached these sermons a number of years ago, the principles and truths never change. A new sermon in the series will be added each week to SermonCity until the series is complete.]
Introduction

Today we begin a new series of messages entitled The Happy Giver. For five weeks we are going to look at the subject of stewardship. I can see the happy look on your faces even now! Oh, I think you will find blessings and encouragement in this five sermons, and I know we will all be challenged as we consider something so very important to our Lord.

No entertainer was ever known for being as stingy as was the late, great, comedian Jack Benny. In one TV sketch years ago, Jack was walking down a street when a robber came up and shoved a gun at him. The robber said, "OK, mister, you're money or your life." Jack stood there as if frozen. The robber waited a moment and then said, "Didn't you hear me? Your money or your life." Still Jack said nothing. The robber, in a very frustrated voice said, "I'm telling you for the last time, you're money or your life." Jack looked around at the audience as only he could do and then looking at the robber said, "Well, wait a minute, will you, I'm thinking, I'm thinking."

We hate to part with our hard-earned money. It doesn't matter whether it is paying taxes, bills, or thinking about giving to the Lord, there is a reluctance on the part of most people to part with money. One man said, "Money talks alright, but the only thing it says to me is, 'Bye-Bye!'"

This series of sermons is about stewardship and much of what I will say will deal with money. Be assured that stewardship before the Lord involves far more than money. We are going to rediscover the fact that stewardship involves all of life for those who belong to the Lord.

I know you are as excited as I am to get into five different sermons on stewardship! Seriously, it is important to see how much Jesus had to say about stewardship and money. Jesus spoke about money more than any other subject he addressed, with the exception of the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. Paul and other writers also addressed this issue throughout the New Testament. As much as the preacher would like to address other subjects, and as much as the membership would like to hear other subjects, to be obedient to the Word of God, we must look diligently at this stewardship.

We begin this series with the subject, The Magnificence of Giving. Turn to 2 Corinthians 8 and lets look together at the first few verses of that chapter from God's Word.

Paul was writing to the Church at Corinth. He plainly says in verse 7 that this church excels in faith, speech, knowledge but he points out that they lack commitment in the area of giving. They are encouraged to excel in the grace of giving. I want us to see three magnificent things which Paul shares with the Church at Corinth regarding this matter of stewardship.

I. The Magnificent Church

Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth about the Church at Macedonia. He explained to them the magnificent giving which flowed out from the people of that church and he urged the Corinthians to do likewise. Look with me at the elements which made the giving by the Church at Macedonia so magnificent.

A. They Gave Sacrificially

They gave out of their extreme poverty. The gifts they gave came at great cost. You see, giving does not have nearly as much to do with how much we give as it does with how much we have left after we have given.

You remember the woman who broke an alabaster box of perfume on Jesus? That woman gave, not out of her abundance but she gave what had to be a great sacrificial gift - and Jesus commended her for it.

Do you remember the woman who gave two mites at the Temple? Jesus pointed her out to the disciples and stated that she had given more than many who appeared to be giving much more. Why did Jesus say that? Because she had given all she had! The sacrifice of her gift impressed the Lord.

When you look at what the Macedonia church did, you realize they did even more than was expected of them. They went the second mile! They fulfilled, not the law of giving, but the grace of giving!

B. They Gave Joyfully

You would think that the people at the church in Macedonia gave with some great disappointment. Surely if these people gave out of extreme poverty, it must have grieved them to do it. Not so!!! They were filled with joy to do it. Yes, God loves a cheerful giver. Note what Paul penned in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

C. They Gave Willingly

They were not made to do this, in fact they pleaded to give. This shows how truly committed to the Lord they really were. If you asked to give a gift to the building fund and I discouraged you, don't you think you would drop the matter completely? Don't worry, I will not discourage you from giving - so, don't get your hopes up! But, these people were apparently so poor that Paul tried to discourage them from giving too much, but they would not listen. They were determined to give. They did it willingly.

D. They Gave Selflessly

Why did they give so liberally and lovingly? I am sure it came from a love for the Lord, but it was also prompted by the need they heard about. They forgot themselves and selflessly dug deep to give the very best they had to the Lord.

A man received a nasty letter from a creditor demanding that he pay something on an outstanding bill. The debtor wrote back saying, "Dear Sir, Every month I take out my bills and shuffle them carefully, and pick out six, which I pay. If I have another sharp letter from you on this matter, you are going to get left out of the shuffle!" It is a sad thing, but many people give to the Lord in the same way. Many have shuffled the Lord right out of their giving! Not the Macedonia believers, they were truly magnificent givers.

Why did they give like that? They did so because of what the passage describes in verse 5. They gave of themselves to the Lord. Their commitment was not to giving, their commitment was to Christ. They gave their hearts to Jesus. This is the key to understanding their stewardship. True giving must begin at an altar of devotion and love for Jesus.

II. The Magnificent Christ

Look at verse 9 in our text for today. Paul points out that the example of giving which the Macedonia believers emulated was none other than Jesus Himself! Christ is the "Magnificent Giver!" When you think about the way the Macedonian church members gave, you see that it follows the exact example of how Jesus gave!

A. He Gave Sacrificially

Jesus gave all he had. He was rich, but for our sakes He became poor. He bore the cross of Calvary, took the shame and the pain, in our stead. He died for you and for me! He gave sacrificially. Jesus did not count the cost of your salvation, or mine, as being too great a price to pay.

B. He Gave Joyfully

Jesus did this for us with joy. Look at Hebrews 12:2 which reads, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

I don't mean to say that the cross was a joy. I do not mean that He suffered with glee. I mean that He had a deeper and more profound joy as He knew what this work on the cross was accomplishing. The results that He knew would come from the cross made it worth the price. When we give, if we truly believe that God will take our gifts and multiply them, and use them to touch lives, and will use them to help people to come to eternal life, we will have joy when we give.

C. He Gave Willingly

Jesus gave willingly. They did not take His life from Him, He laid it down. Willingly He died for us. He wasn't forced to do it. Sometimes, as Christians, we can feel we are being pressed or pushed into giving His tithes and our offerings. Actually, we must do so because we are willing to do His work. I don't mean to say that it will be easy. When Jesus prayed on Thursday evening, before he was arrested, he prayed, "Let this cup pass from me." However, He went on to say, "Not my will but thine be done." Sometimes when the offering plate passes we may think, "Let this plate pass from me!" But, you will not every be the steward you are called to be until you say, "Lord, thy will be done." We will not look for someone else to do what we are clearly called to do - and that is to be willing stewards with that which God has provided for us.

D. He Gave Selflessly

Jesus did all of this for us. He did it selflessly. The songwriter penned it this way,

"When He was on the cross, I was on His mind."

Yes, it was for you and for me that He died. Just think how unselfish Christ was when it came to giving!

III. The Magnificent Call

Paul moves from the magnificent church at Macedonia, to the magnificent Christ and then uses them to prod the Corinthians and us with The Magnificent Call. He calls us to be the kind of givers we have seen in Macedonia and, more importantly, in our Master, Jesus Christ. There are some questions we must ask ourselves in the light of what we have before us.

A. Will We Give Sacrificially?

To give sacrificially means to give till you are denying yourself something in order to do it. Remember, the tithe is already the Lord's. Not to give the tithe is to rob God. We are talking today about giving beyond the 10% level. We actually give God's tithes and our offerings. Will we give sacrificially, above and beyond the tithe level? When is the last time you gave God a financial gift above the tithe that caused you to deny yourself something? Maybe you had to take a day or two off your vacation in order to aid in His work and kingdom. Perhaps you had to forgo the new golf clubs or new dress in order to give to a building program or a special mission's offering. Giving becomes real when it calls for a sacrifice.

B. Will We Give Joyfully?

Can we find it in our hearts to give deeply and to find joy in doing it? That is what Jesus did. That is what the church at Macedonia did. Can we?

I am older now, and I can tell you that when I look back one thing that brings me joy is the knowledge that my family and I were able to give to God's work. When didn't always buy our children the latest fashions. Sometimes we went without the logo and name brand item that so many were wearing to show that they were in style. For years we drove the cheapest cars we could purchase - that was a Plymouth K-car. Oh, how glad I am that we put an investment into the kingdom. I wish I had been able to do more, but the joy of giving is something God gives you.

A man gave money to build a church back in the 1927. It was an incredibly large sum of money, but he was remarkably wealthy. Just as the church was being completed, the stock market crash of 1929 occurred. A friend said, "I bet you wish you had all that money back that you gave to build that church." You see, that rich business had lost everything in the crash. The formerly rich man said, "Oh, no, I go by that church and realize that if I had not built that church, I would have lost all that money in the market as well. Now that church is doing God's work and will for decades to come. I will never regret giving that money!"

Yes, what you give to God will bring you joy all of your life.

C. Will We Give Willingly?

Will we give willingly or will someone have to challenge us? Paul did not mean that no one should ever be challenged to give. In fact, that is exactly what he was doing in writing to the Church at Corinth to encourage them to complete the act of giving which they had begun. Giving willingly has to do with a person's attitude about the gifts that are given. Someone today may give in this service because you feel pressured into giving. Others will give because they are afraid God will "get" them if they don't give. Yet others may give because they will feel guilty unless they do. But correct giving will be done when a person sacrificially, joyfully and willingly offers up gifts to God.

D. Will We Give Selflessly?

Will our giving be for selfish reasons? Is it only for a tax deduction? Is it just because we expect a feeling of pride it doing so? We should give because we see the cause of the Lord and we want to lift up His name, complete His work, honor Him properly, defeat the devil, reach the lost, disciple the saints and build the kingdom. It is not for us we give, it is for Him, to Him, for His glory and cause.

Will we do these things? Yes, if we first do what the Macedonians did - give ourselves to the Lord. Real giving has to begin in the heart. It is not a matter of giving money; it is a matter of giving oneself to Christ. I am convinced that those who know that this life is just a little span of time and will soon be over are perfectly willing to faithfully give to and for the One who saved them and with whom they will spend eternity. Those who resent giving just aren't sure that this life isn't all there is. They hate to give up what they have now because they aren't sure of anything beyond. Such people really need to look at their salvation. It just could be that such a person lacks the awareness of an eternal home in heaven and a Sovereign God whom they are going to meet one day.

Conclusion

A Christian business man were traveling in Korea some years ago when he noticed a man and boy plowing in a field. He took a photo of the boy and his father from the road. The boy was pulling the plow and the father was guiding it. He remarked to the missionary who was the guide on the trip that the people must be very poor. The missionary agreed that the family was very poor. He went on to tell about the fact that the family had an ox but had sold it to give the money to help build a little church. The business man was silent for a moment, then he said, "That must have been a great sacrifice." The missionary responded with amazing words, "They did not consider it a sacrifice. They were so happy to have something to sell so they could help the church be built." The business man went home, took the photo to his pastor and said, "I am going to double my giving to my church. I want to do some plow work."

We need to get serious about the work that must be done to honor Christ in these very materialistic days in which we live. Let's join together and give our best to the Master - after all, He has given His best to us!