Thanksgiving: The Blessing of Generous Giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)


Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | November 23, 2014


Text:

6 “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 

7 Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;  9 as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever.” 10 Now 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 everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.  12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.  13 Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,  14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.  15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:6-15)

Notes:

  • At thanksgiving, in our home town in NC, the Meals on Wheels organization takes the day off so their staff can spend the day with their families.
  • So our home church has, for over 25 years, collected food, cooked, packaged and delivered hundreds of turkey dinners with all the fixings to those who might have gone without on that day.
  • Especially when our kids were young, I took them with me to help deliver meals to homes in neighborhoods where we might never have gone otherwise.
  • Often we had to wait quite a while for someone to come to the door. And many homes of these mostly elderly folks were kept somewhat dark, and often much warmer than we kept our own home. You know why.
  • But as we made our rounds we never heard a cross word, we never were sent away, best of all we rarely failed to bring a smile to their faces. And often we heard them say as we left, “God bless you.”
  • In 2 Cor we learn of Paul’s concern for the Christians in Jerusalem and his desire to take an offering collected from the other churches back to the poor and suffering saints there.
  • As we see in this passage, Paul’s reasons for doing so were not only to meet the physical needs of the brethren in Jerusalem.
  • His reasons were theological and spiritual as well.
  • A year before, the members of the Corinthian church were excited about contributing to the offering Paul was gathering for their poorer brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.
  • But since that time their enthusiasm has flagged and their collection has dragged, so they are unprepared for Paul’s upcoming visit to gather what they had promised.
  • By contrast and unexpectedly, the Macedonian church, in spite of its extreme poverty because of persecution, has given generously according to their means, and beyond their means, virtually begging Paul for the opportunity to participate in in the relief of the saints in Jerusalem. (2 Co. 8:3-5)
  • So Paul has sent Titus and two other men from the Macedonian church to deliver this letter we call 2 Corinthians urging them to finish what they’ve begun, both for benefit of the world-wide church and for the glory of God. 

From this passage we learn that as we give generously to the needs of the saints in other places, God demonstrates his provision for, and his glory in, his covenant community.

  • We find here two reasons we sometimes fail give to the needs of the saints in other places.
  • The first is because we don’t trust God to provide for our own needs in vv. 6-10.
  • The second reason is because we don’t fully understand or appreciate the dynamic spiritual connection we have with them through our mutual faith in Christ in vv. 11-15.
  • So how can we at the same time overcome our fear that in giving to the needs of others we will become impoverished and more fully experience the world-wide unity of the body of Christ?
  • The simple answer is by giving generously and cheerfully when there is a need, trusting in God’s provision for his people and desiring God’s glory among his people.

Let’s look first at…

  1. God’s provision for his covenant community:

As we give to the needs of others, God will supply our needs and will supply an abundance to enable us to give to even others. (vv. 6-10)

  • First we’re reminded of the law of sowing and reaping in v. 6. “he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.”
  • Though they lived in a large city, theirs was still an agrarian economy, so everyone knew what Paul meant.
  • If you sow only a few seeds, you can expect a small harvest, but if you sow many seeds, your chances for a great harvest are increased significantly.
  • The Corinthians had lost their enthusiasm for gathering the bountiful gift they had promised earlier for the needs of the saints in Jerusalem.
  • So Paul is reminding them of this principle.
  • When you sow seed, you do so trusting God – by means of his provision of sunshine, rain and soil nutrients – for the increase.
  • Sowing here represents giving to others, reaping represents God’s blessings back to us.
  • The implication is that if we give generously to people in time of their need, God will generously provide for our needs.
  • But often it’s not enough to remind people of general principles.
  • Sometimes they have fears to overcome, so need to speak to those as well.
  • Their fear, apparently, and often our own, is that if we give to the needs of others, there will not be enough left to meet our own needs.
  • That’s what Paul addresses in vv. 8-10.
  • Have you ever played the game in which everyone brings a wrapped gift to a Christmas party, numbers are drawn to see who goes first, second, third and so on?
  • The first person looks at all the wrapped gifts, chooses one and opens it. It may be a wonderful gift, or it may be a gag gift.
  • Then the second person has the choice of taking the first person’s gift or an unwrapped gift.
  • Then the third person has the choice of taking the first or second person’s gift or an unwrapped gift, and so on till all the gifts are unwrapped and everyone has a gift.
  • The frustrating part of the game is that unless you are the last person, you may lose the gift you were given – more than once!
  • But God’s gift in Jesus Christ to us is not like that.
  • When we giving the gift of God’s grace to others – whether in sharing in financial gifts with needy saints, sharing a verbal message of the gospel, or utilizing our spiritual gifts in ministry to others – we don’t lose the gift we’ve received.
  • We don’t run out of God’s grace. His grace to us is like an ever-flowing stream.
  • God is able to amply supply our needs.
  • But not for our needs only.
  • He continues the flow of grace to us in such a supply that we can continue to share that grace with others.
  • That’s what he means when he says in v. 10, “Now 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.”
  • God not only supplies seed for your sowing and for your bread, he multiplies it for what he calls a “harvest of your righteousness.”
  • In v. 9, quoting Psa. 112:9, we are reminded that God demonstrates his righteousness by providing for the poor.
  • And in v. 10, we are told that God not only supplies our need, but “enlarges the harvest of our righteousness.”
  • He provides for our needs AND enables us to demonstrate generosity to others.
  • Because God is both powerful and faithful, we are set free to be generous to others.
  • God in Christ has bestowed his legal righteousness on his needy people, which in turn is to be expressed in the righteousness of generosity to others in need.
  • Fundamentally, the motivation for giving to others is the doctrine of God’s grace.
  • In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God has given us a gift.
  • But that gift isn’t meant to terminate in us.
  • It’s to be passed on to others.
  • God’s power enables us to give freely to others what God has given to us in the gospel.
  • In the passing on of the gift, we lose nothing.
  • Instead, we are given more grace to pass on to even more people.
  • You might say it this way, “Gifts are for giving.”
  • God overcomes the fear of our own impoverishment when giving to those in need by reminding us of his grace toward us that is bountiful enough to overflow to others.

Second, let’s look at…

  1. God’s glory in his covenant community:

As we give to the needs of others, they will give thanks to God and pray affectionately for us because of God’s grace extended to them through us. (vv. 11-15)

  • We said earlier that we are sometimes reluctant to give to needy saints in other places because we don’t fully understand or appreciate the dynamic spiritual connection we have with them through our mutual faith in Christ. This we see in vv. 11-15.
  • When we give to the needs of other believers, they give thanks to God for his provision through us.
  • That’s what we see in vv. 11-12. “you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”
  • God is glorified in our giving to others because though we are the means of their provision, they give thanks to God.
  • There’s no hint of prosperity theology here.
  • The word “enriched” in v. 11, like the word “overflowing” in v. 8 is metaphorical and isn’t motivated by self-interest.
  • This ministry is for the purpose of generosity, with a view to thanksgiving to God.
  • All things are from God and for God: God enriches for generosity which results in thanksgiving to God.
  • “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10.31)
  • When we give to the needs of believers elsewhere, we demonstrate – or prove – what we say we believe through our actions, and the result is glory to God.
  • Look at verse 13. “Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all.”
  • Their obedience is in the “generosity of sharing” which is first directed to Christ and second indirectly to the needy saints in Jerusalem, “and to all.”
  • It’s not merely a congregational or individualistic outlook on ministry.
  • Another blessing of sharing with the saints in need is their loving prayers for you. Look at v. 14.
  • 14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.
  • They not only give thanks to God, they pray for you with longing or love in their hearts toward you because God’s grace was extended to them through you.
  • Story of Isaac Ruiz in Guatemala and John and Quincy Gumbs in Anguilla.
  • A spiritual connection was created and retained though we’ve never seen them again.
  • Finally, in verse 15, Paul writes, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
  • “God’s indescribable gift” is “the surpassing grace of God to you” stated in the previous verse that started a chain reaction.
  • God’s unconditional generosity to you and me in our desperate time of need, when it’s extended to others in their time of need, spills over in thankfulness and loving prayer within the fellowship of household of faith where there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, young or old, because all are one in Christ Jesus.
  • “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 by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Co. 8:9).
  • God’s indescribable gift is Jesus Christ, the gift that inspires all gifts.

Application: How I’m thinking differently about giving.

  • Ways we can give.
    • PCU Operation Breadbasket Christmas toys and warm clothing;
    • Thanksgiving at Cherry Street mission;
    • Missionaries you know.

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