One little girl (in that Sunday School) did not have much money. She received $5.00 for a monthly allowance. She had nothing saved. But she wanted to help. She stared at the $7.00 in her purse. Five-dollars was more than half of her savings. Giving any amount would mean waiting to buy the luxuries of Barbie clothes, mismatched socks, and glittery nail polish. For a kid, she was ‘poor.’ On the one hand, she has nothing to give because she has little. On the other hand, she does have something she could give.
What would you do? Would you give $5.00? …Fifty [dollars]? …Two hundred-fifty [dollars]? God hands you (and I) opportunities where we can determine what portion of our money can be used to support spreading his Word.
Yet, the devil sours that view. He hits us again with his lies, and attacks a very sensitive spot. Even though 2 Corinthians 8 teaches us Christian giving, he screeches: You Have Nothing to Give!
That’s what the devil wants you (and me) to think. You see, Americans typically steer away from three subjects: religion, politics, money. Do you know how much your sister makes each year? Have you ever asked? Probably not! Money is a personal matter. (Chances are, we do not want to open ourselves up to criticism over our money management.) Good or bad, money is not a subject we talk about much in society— and that’s fine. Yet, the devil takes it a step further. He wants you to think money should never be mentioned in church.
Do you know what God says about money? Some estimate that the Bible contains 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 on faith, and over 2,000 on money and possessions (Howard Dayton, Jr. [http://www.compassebooks.org/sample/lesson/your-money-counts]) (After a quick search, it appears those numbers are close.) The point is, God does discuss the impact of money on the heart. If God spends so many words on the topic of money, should we not also discuss it?
As Christians, we do not need to treat money as something ‘taboo.’ You realize, in our reading, God does not dissect your spending habits. God dissects his spending habit. Verse 9 says: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ… You do know that ‘grace.’ Jesus demonstrates a love neither deserved nor earned; he comes to change our status before God.
You see, Jesus is held up— not wealth, not money, not possessions— just Jesus. Look at him. [T]hough he was rich… What are those riches? Immortality— life never ends. Angels serve his every need and obey his every command. Jesus dictates seasons and weather, planting and harvest. He hinders the work of world leaders; he allows laws passed. You see, Jesus’ ‘richness’ goes far beyond gold and jewels. Jesus possesses authority, respect, immortality— items money could never afford!
[Y]et for your sakes he became poor… He leaves those treasures in heaven and is laid in a feeding trough meant for cattle. Religious leaders smear the Almighty with ‘Demon-possessed,’ ‘liar,’ ‘rule-breaker,’ ‘imposter.’ Roman governors accept a phony accusation against the Innocent One. A cross ends the life of the Immortal One. Jesus empties himself of the power he possess as God. He submits himself to death, with our greed being his death sentence. God is crushed for so that you through his poverty might become rich.
How rich you are! Jesus has dressed you in the one thing money could never ever buy: his righteousness. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).
You wear Jesus’ innocent life. You stand ‘right’ before God. What is more valuable than that? Yet, Jesus showers so much more on you! He hands you immortality (John 14:19). He writes your name into heaven’s citizenship roster (Revelation 3:5). His angels now guard and protect you (Psalm 91:11-12). He ensures all things work out to strengthen your faith and draw you closer to him! (Romans 8:28). You are rich. You have Jesus. And if you have Jesus, You have perspective.
If money cannot get you into heaven, then how valuable is it? Not very. Only Jesus gives eternal life, which means, he is life’s real treasure. When you see Jesus as your most priceless treasure, money is no longer worshipped.
Consider an ancient example. In verse 1, we learn about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches… These are Christian churches nestled on the coastline of Greece. They suffer. Jealous Jews are eradicating Christianity (Acts 17:1-15). The Roman Empire imposes heavy taxes. Famine might be ravaging the land at this time. So, these Christians lose property, possessions, and income. To make matters worse, you must buy food with what little money you do have. This severe trial of unending expenses presses them down to the point where they could never get ahead.
It did not matter if they had little money or lots, these Christians still had joy. They had Jesus, who made them rich for heaven.
These Macedonian Christians saw that God gave them ‘grace.’ Here, ‘grace’ means ‘a special privilege’ (or ‘opportunity’). Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. Even under great financial challenges, they gave as much as they were able… Do you notice what they gave? [A]s much as they were able… That means they set aside a portion of their income as an offering (for more on this, see 1 Corinthians 16:2). If they received little income, they marked a proportionate amount for God. If they received a raise, they wanted to reflect a portion of that raise in their offering.
They even [gave] beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. These Christians saw an opportunity to help other. So, they evaluated what household income they needed at the moment. They may have put off small luxuries for a little while so they could help. Then they gave what they could. Their offerings may have appeared ‘small’ or ‘insignificant’ or ‘nothing much.’ Yet, in God’s eyes, their sincerity made these little gifts great and lavish items. [These Macedonian churches] did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
That’s what God’s undeserved love naturally does: it changes perspective! My friends, the money you (and I) have is not life’s real treasure. Instead, God gives us money so that we can use it to glorify him. The offering you give demonstrates that you love God more than stuff. That is why we gather offerings in the middle of our worship service. This is our act of thanking the One who gives to us!
The devil want us to consider money as a personal possession, used on ourselves first and on God second. Yet, God points you (and me) back to verse 9. We willingly give back because Jesus willingly gave himself. What we do have is used as a tool to reach those inside and outside our congregation. What ‘grace,’ what a privilege God gives you (and me) to participate in this ministry!
So, despite what the devil wants us to believe, We Do Have Something to Give. We have Jesus—who is worth more than anything else. And if we have Jesus, we have perspective on proper money management. And if we have a right perspective of money, then we have motivation.
See how God motivates our giving. Verse 8 says: I am not commanding you… God does not carve out the Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt give (fill in dollar amount) for your offering.” Instead, God simply points to the heart. The joy inside of you motivates you to give joyfully and generously.
And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. As a member of [Faith/ St. John] you have committed yourself to a ministry. Your congregation exists (1) To Build Your Faith on Christ, that is, to place your trust in Jesus’ work alone. Then, you (2) Build on Christ— strengthening your faith and leading others to Jesus. How do you accomplish this goal? You put together a yearly church budget.
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means… (Just as you already are eager to share the Word, be just as eager to give towards this goal.) For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Once again God does not squeeze you, “Give money!” No, God makes ‘willingness’ the motivation and ‘as you are able’ the goal.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” The Corinthians had ‘plenty.’ They had extra savings. They had so much they could dine out and take nice trips. Now, they could use some of their ‘plenty’ to satisfy the spiritual needs of others.
Our ‘plenty’—both as a congregation and as an individual— fills the spiritual needs of people. You support a fulltime Pastor who is always available to minister. Your offerings send out more invitations to Easter worship and fund online ads to church events. Your offerings support our Lutheran high schools, colleges, and seminaries. You are relieving a financial burden on students so that they can attend school, study without financial anxiety, and graduate and serve God’s people as Pastors and teachers. Your offerings share the Word in faraway lands. Bible materials are printed in many, many languages so that people Africa, China, Russia, Ukraine (and so many other places) can hear of Jesus!
God gives you (and I) these words so that we can constantly evaluate what we have received. You may find yourself with ‘plenty. You have more than needed for retirement. You are able to dine out at McDonald’s several times a week. You make more than you spend. God may be opening the opportunity for you to give generously to satisfy the spiritual needs.
God may not be opening the opportunity at the moment. So, you give as you are able. You set aside a portion of income because you want these gifts to satisfy the spiritual needs of others. No matter the amount, God sees a generous heart! God simply gives you an opportunity evaluate what you have, what you need, and what God allows you to give.
The little girl gave little. She gave lots. She gave $5.00. That’s not much for adults. She gave $5.00, which was over half of her savings. She saw her money as a tool, not a treasure. God’s generosity motivated her to equip this missionary. After all, God loved her and she wanted others to know God loved them.
The devil hates that. He wants you (and I) to defend our money. He lies and wants you to think God never speaks about money or that church should never discuss Christian giving. He knows if you believe the lie, then support for God’s work dwindles.
It’s a devilish lie about ministry: You Have Nothing to Give. Ah!... but you do! And 2 Corinthians, chapter 8, highlights them. We have Jesus. We have perspective. We have motivation. We Do Have Something to Give!