There is no reason for the mature believer, and I'll be speaking tonight to mature believers, to be uninfomed on the subject of giving. There are plenty of instructions in the Bible on this subject. The eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians and the ninth chapter of 2 Corinthians are devoted to one subject "giving". I have worked on a message tonight that's been helpful to me. I want to pass it along to you. I designed it in this way - nine New Testament words about giving.
The first word is grace! 2 Corinthians 8:7 "Therefore, as ye abound in every thing," (the word abound means to overflow, generous, outpouring) this church abounds in faith, you are a church noted for your faith - you believe God's word you believe in Christ - you believe in the doctrines of God's word. You abound in faith and utterance - you are a church noted for your gift of speech - now this could be one of two things. It could be either the gift of tongues, for he deals with this in the letters to the Corinthians, or it could be the gift of understanding and preaching the word of God. It may be preaching, because Paul prayed that he might have open doors of utterance through which he might preach the gospel. "So as ye abound in faith and utterance, as ye are abound in knowledge, knowledge of Christ and of the truth of the gospel; you abound in all diligence, your ministers preach the word - you attend the services faithfully; you protect the ordinances - you are zealous for baptism and the Lord's supper - you hedge about the doctrines - you defend them so you abound in diligence - abound in love to us. He said "you love the apostles; you love the elders; you esteem them and honor them as men of God - see that you abound in this grace also! The grace he is talking about is the grace of "giving". As I said, the whole eighth chapter of second Corinthians deals with giving, and the first word that Paul uses to describe Christian giving is "grace". Let this grace be yours as well as the other graces. You abound in the grace of faith and the grace of love and the grace of utterance and of knowledge and diligence, see that you abound in this grace also. Grace and the ability to show grace is the gift of God's grace. If God's grace is absent, human grace is absent; if God's grace is present, human grace is present.
Now the second word is "love". In II Corinthians 8, he said, "I speak not by commandment (the apostle says I am not ordering you to give), but by the occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love." Brethren, if the apostle Paul commands us to give, he is defeating the whole concept of grace; he is defeating the whole concept of love. When people are commanded and they do things as a result of a command, it's not grace and it's not love. God has not set times or sums for His people to give. Giving is like any other grace - it's got to be motivated by love or it's a sin. Let me show you that. In I Corinthians 13, Verse 1 - "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (or love) I am becoming as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." That's about what it is worth. "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." So preachers can pass out their pledge cards, they can write articles in their bulletins on how Christians ought to give ten percent, they can brow-beat and challenge and command their people to give (that's up to them), but I'm simply saying this, Paul says, "I speak not by commandment." He's not saying that this is not the word of God - he's saying "I am not commanding you to give." I am simply speaking by the occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love." If you love, you'll give. Look at the next verse, he shows us this love in operation. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." The Father loved and gave the Son; the Son loved and gave himself; if we love, we'll give ourselves and our means or whatever we have. Giving must be based on love or it's no good. Therefore, Paul says, "I am not commanding you to give." God doesn't set times or sums for his people to give. You remember this one statement - giving is like any other grace, if it's not motivated by love, it's a sin! Sinful praying, sinful giving, sinful worship, and anything else that's not motivated from love.
The third word is found in Verse 12, II Corinthians 8 - and that's the word "willing". "For if there be first a willing mind." If our gifts are given from a willing and a cheerful heart, freely given, They are accepted of God, for he said, "if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." Quantity matters little! Whether it be great or whether it be small, the quantity has no bearing on its acceptance - none whatsoever. It's based on what you have to give not what you don't have - it's not the amount - it's the motive! A willing heart. Turn to Exodus 35 - here's a beautiful scripture on this subject - and this word is used over and over again. Moses was receiving an offering from the people for the tabernacle - Exodus 35:4 "And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, silver and brass," etc. Whosoever is of a willing heart." Now look at Verse 29, "The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses." A willing offering. This is the area that needs our careful attention. He uses the word "cheerful" over in the next chapter saying, "God loves a cheerful giver."
I want to read you a letter-I received today. This letter is from a young man in the penitentary in Lucasville, Tom Dejarnett, a former boxer, a black friend of mine. He makes $12.00 a month (that's what he is allowed). He enclosed a check made out to me and to the church for $3.00. He writes, "Dear Brother Mahan, thought I would get a note out to you - it's been such a nice week, good fellowship last night at the church (they have a church service there, led by the chaplain), we shared so many wonderful thoughts together and I am glad to see some spiritual movement here - it really was a blessing last night - we only have eighteen. We're a small body in membership, but I want you to know that this $3.00 is not enough to mention, but it's from my heart. If it were $300,000 it would not be enough for how the gospel which you preach has played such a role in my outlook for a more meaningful life. It helps me in this struggle. You see, when a man has craved sin such as I until he hates it bad enough to crave God and this is how I seem to be - thirsty and hungry as I seek a better purpose. There is never enough money or words to express my gratitude toward you or the 13th Street Baptist Church, but I want to do little things for people as I can, because one of the hardest things to accomplish in life is to be as generous to someone else as you are to yourself. I believe much of your knack for teaching has rubbed off on this old boy in a big way. I thank God for your brotherhood, your friend, Thomas."
It's not the amount, and that's what Paul is saying here in II Corinthians 8, Verse 12 - there must be a willing mind; that's the key to it a willing mind. Any time that I give out of a sense of duty; any time I give out of responsibility, or out of a sense of debt or even to set an example or even from obligation - I'm in trouble. It's got to be given from a willing heart; from a cheerful heart - this is what I want to do.
Another word that describes giving is found in I Corinthians 16, Verse 2, that's the word "proportion". Nearly everybody wants us to tell them how much to give - people everywhere want to talk about percentages. But I'm just not going to get drawn into that. Brother Muse described it one time when he said, "if you tithe you're under law, if you don't, you're an outlaw." I guess that describes it about as well as possible. But I want to see if this word doesn't help us to know how to give in regard to the amount. I Corinthians 16, Verse 1: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." Every good and perfect gift comes from God - whatever I have comes from God. If I drive an expensive car or if I drive a Volkswagon - God gave me one of them. If I can wear fine clothes - God gave me those; if I don't have very fine clothes - God gave me that. If I live in a mansion or if I live in a log cabin - everything comes from God. There are some that God has blessed more than he has blessed others, financially and materially; therefore, this verse says, they are to give more. Look at it again "that every one of you lay by in store (giving an offering) as God has prospered you." God has prospered you if you make $10,000 a year, you certainly should give more than the man who makes $5,000 a year. God prospered both of you and the man who makes very little should give in proportion to the way God has blessed him. I don't care if you make five dollars a week you should give. I wish our children would learn this, and our elderly people and folks on social security, I don't care if a man is on social security, he ought to give to the kingdom of God. I don't care if we're living on a pension, we ought to give. Everyone of you, as God has prospered you, so let him give. My gift to the gospel and my gift to aid those in need is based on my ability to give according as God has enabled me. Now turn back to II Corinthians 8 a moment, Verse 14: "But by an equality," that's the way we're supposed to give, Verse 13 says "I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened." A few people are not supposed to carry the load - every person in the kingdom of God is supposed to help. We are not under the law to tithe any more than we are under the law to keep the sabbath day! God's people are not taxpayers they're sons! I am not a taxpayer in the kingdom of God. I am a son! I am an heir and I don't sit at home and figure out, I made $220.00 this week so I owe $22.00 tithe - I am not a taxpayer! I am a son, I own part of this kingdom, I'm an heir of this kingdom. A salesman got on an airplane and sat down by a preacher. They rode a little while, finally the salesman turned and said, "How do you do?" and the minister replied, "How do you do". The salesman said, "I'm in the Jewelry business" - the pastor thought a minute; God is making up his Jewels, so he answered, "I am, too." The salesman said, "we deal only in the best Jewels." The preacher replied, "we do too, the best." The salesman said, "I'm in business with my father." The preacher looked at him and answered, "That's strange, I am too." The salesman said, "Well, he trusts me with much of his business." The preacher replied, "My father does too." And the salesman said, "I'm on my way right now to a meeting with my father." The preacher answered, "That's strange, I am too." And the salesman said, "Well, I hope I can give a good report." The preacher sighed and replied, "I hope I can too!" I think that pretty well sums up this proportion thing. God has put some things in my hands and in your hands. God has trusted me with some material things - he's trusted me with some physical blessings - he's trusted me with his word - he's trusted you and me with a lot of things, hasn't he? He has abundantly blessed us, all of us, and I am to give as he has blessed me - as he enables me to give. I am not to look to see what another person is giving - that has no bearing on my gift whatsoever. I am not supposed to ask the preacher "what do you think I ought to give?" - that has no bearing on it. I am supposed to give as God has enabled me.
Stay at I Corinthians 16, Verse 2 for the fifth word - the word "everyone". "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you" - this means the rich and the poor. Our Lord Jesus didn't hand the widow's mite back to her when she came down and put it on the table. He left it right there in the collection and he blessed her. The old and the young, the rich and the poor, the leaders and those who serve, young people, elderly people; the amount of the gift, I stress it over and over, is not important. Actually, sometimes a small gift means more in the kingdom of God than a great gift. It's simply recognizing the Lord's sovereignty and lordship over all things and my gratitude to him for what he has given me, as well as a willingness to share it with others.
Now let's go back to II Corinthians Chapter 9 and pick up this sixth word; that is the word "Liberally". In Verse 5, Paul said, "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, (your collection, your offering) whereof ye had notice before, that this offering might be ready, as a matter of bounty, as a matter of blessing or of giving, and not of covetousness. But this I say, he that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." Now let me use an illustration about giving liberally. God's people are liberal people; they are generous people because they have been treated generously. The Lord promises here "he which soweth sparingly shall reap that way and he that soweth liberally or bountifully shall reap bountifully." There is a good deal of likeness between sowing seed in the earth and giving. If we are going to make a garden the seed that we sow must be valuable seed, not seed that is left over; not seed that we don't need or don't want, When we go out to sow seed, we carefully select good seed, don't we? Good stock, good seed, we're not going to put worthless seed in the ground. In other words, when I'm giving in the kingdom of God, what I give ought to be taken off the top - not what's left over - not what I don't need - not that which is worthless to me, but select good stock, good seed. Now secondly, the seed is scattered about the field - it's not just placed in one place here and one place there, it's scattered over the entire field - it's given where it is needed, wisely but generously. Now here's something that Spurgeon pointed out. "The seed that is sown is scattered with an open hand. The sower in order to have a harvest has to turn loose of the seed. He can't grip it in his fist; he can't hesitate to let it go; he can't just sprinkle a little bit here and there - he's got to generously sow it he's got to let it go and let it go liberally, if he expects to have a great harvest. If he sows sparingly, that's the way he's going to reap; if he sows liberally and bountifully, that's the way his harvest is going to be." Our business is to sow - God's business to give the harvest. Turn to the book of Galatians a moment - not many people know this, but Galatians 6 is talking about giving, beginning with Verse 6, Galatians 6, "Let him that is taught in the word, communicate unto him that teacheth in material things." In other words, when a preacher is preaching or teaching the word of God, his church is supposed to take care of him financially and materially. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." We're going right back to this thing of giving. We've got to learn to give, we've got to learn the grace of it, we've got to have the right motive of it - love - we've got to have a willing heart and we give as God enables us, the amount is not important; we've got to do it with an open, liberal, generous spirit - we've got to sow bountifully, not greedily. Look at Verse 8: "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." If I invest everything I've got in myself, (that's what it's talking about, sowing to my flesh - I'm gratifying my flesh - I'm pleasing my flesh - I'm taking care of my flesh) I shall of the flesh reap corruption. I'll watch it all decay - I'll watch it all fall around my ears. I'll come to old age with nothing. "But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Let us not be weary in well doing, in due season, we'll reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them of the household of faith." Many people think "be not deceived; God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" is talking about good deeds and bad deeds. I'm not going to reap the bad deeds that I've sowed - they're paid for on Calvary's cross. No such thing as that at all. My sins have been cancelled and put away - been separated from me as far as the east is from the west - I don't expect to ever hear from them again. But I'm going to hear from something else again - through life, as I get older, I'm going to hear whether or not I've been faithful with what God has put in my hands. Whether I am a good steward of the grace of God and of the material blessings and of all these things with which He has trusted me. If I sow sparingly, that's the kind of harvest I'm going to have; if I sow bountifully and generously and liberally, that's the kind of harvest I'll have. Luke 6:38 declares, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete, it's going to be measured to you." Turn to Deuteronomy 15 - this is an excellent verse on this particular word - generosity. Deuteronomy 15:11: "For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land." Open your hand wide. The thing about sowing is that you don't harvest the next day, you don't harvest the next week even - you wait, knowing that you have put the seed in the ground - you have cast your bread upon the water, hoping for nothing in return but God will return it.
Here's the seventh word, the word "voluntary." In II Corinthians 9, Paul says, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give." In other words I Judge this scripture to mean this - "I'm not to tell you when to give; I'm not to tell you how to give - if you want to use one of those envelopes, you can, if you don't want to, you don't have to - if you want to send it to a missionary, you can - if you want to give it in the general treasury, you can - I'm not to tell you how to give - I'm not to tell you how much to give. The word says "every man according as he purposeth in his heart, let him give." Now I know a lot of preachers preach storehouse tithing - they are afraid the church won't be able to pay the light bill if they leave it up to the people but I'll tell you this, I believe in leaving it up to the people as they are led by the Holy Spirit. I'm not the least bit afraid of telling everybody in here "you purpose in your heart between now and Sunday morning what you want to give, how you want to give it, when you want to give it and I trust God because I know that He will lead his people and if you are not his people, I don't want you to give, isn't that right? You don't want anybody to give who gives grudgingly or unwillingly. This is a matter that's to be determined in our hearts! God will tell me what's needed; God will tell me where it is needed and God will tell me what part He wants me to have in it - for it all belongs to Him. He has just given me a part of it to use for myself and to use wisely for others. Listen to what Peter said to Ananias in Acts 5, Verse 1, "But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being a part to it and they brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet, they brought a certain amount and Peter said, "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost and to keep back part of the price of the land?" In other words, a lot of people at that time were selling their land and coming and giving it to the apostles and they were dividing it among the people who had lost jobs and homes. Ananias brought a certain amount of money, laid it at the apostles' feet and said, "we sold the land for this much, here is all of it." But he kept back some of it. Look at Verse 4, "While it remained, was it not yours? after you sold it, was it not in your power?" You didn't have to give any of it, that's what Peter is saying. It was yours. We haven't set any rules around here about how much you are supposed to give it's yours. Now where you made your mistake, Ananias, is lying to the Holy Ghost - it was yours before you sold it - you didn't have to sell it and after you sold it, you could have kept it - it was yours then - it was in your power. That's what I'm saying - what we have, God has placed it in our possession - he has trusted us - we are his sons, we're his children - we can be trusted and God will lead us to give in a way that will glorify His name.
The eighth word is found in Matthew Chapter 6:1-5. The word is "unto the Lord" - that's the way all giving is to be done - whether I am helping a poor person - that person may not really be worthy. People stop by my study and we buy them groceries - they may not be worthy but I'm not doing it as unto them. I try to check and find out who's a crook and who is not a crook, but you can't always tell. One cannot always find out who is worthy of help so you just give as unto the Lord and let God take care of it. He says in Matthew 6, "take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven, therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward, But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:" - don't advertise it, "That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." Now this is a difficult area! Brethren, we feel that we deserve some recognition - when a man is generous, when a man is overly generous and kind, he does deserve some credit - he does deserve some reward, but by whom? By the heavenly Father! It's unto God and this is a lesson we need to learn. As we do it unto the least of these, we do it to him - that's what Christ said, "As ye have done it to the least of these, you did it to me and I'll do the rewarding." So here's what I try to think of, turn back to II Corinthians 9, Verse 10: "Now he that ministereth seed to the sower (who is that? That's the Lord, he gives the seed to the sower. The fellow who is sowing the seed, God gives him the seed) both minister bread for your food and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness." Here is what he is saying - God who provides seed for the sower and bread for the eating will also provide and multiply your resources for sowing - he'll enable you to give. As he provides seed for the sower, he'll provide resources for you to use for his glory. The more he can trust you with, the more he will put in your hands. And this is something we need to learn - when we give our gifts and we feel like, "well, I've sacrificed and I've done this and I ought to let somebody know about it." Somebody knows about it - he sure does - he knows about it and I'll guarantee, he won't forget it!
The last word is "well pleasing". Hebrews 13, Verse 16, listen to this "But to do good and to communicate forget not well pleased." I wish at your convenience you'd read II Corinthians Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 - all about giving and underscore these words which I have passed along to you tonight. May God enable us to give from a motive of love, from a heart filled with grace, willingly, cheerfully as unto the Lord, generously, liberally, bountifully hoping for nothing in return, but knowing that God will bless it because it's well pleasing in His sight.
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