Christian giving is given a lot of importance in the New Testament. Apostle Paul saw the grace of giving as a core part of what it means for us to be Christians. Chris Wright1 asserts that Paul ‘gives more text space to writing about issues relating to financial affairs of churches than he does to writing about justification by faith.’ There are many principles about the ‘Grace of Giving’ that may be drawn from 2 Corinthians 8 & 9, however, this text’s reflection will focus on three key points:
- Christian giving is an act of worship – Generous giving is the result of God’s grace working in our lives. Paul makes frequent references to this: ‘the grace that God has given the Macedonian Churches’ (8:1); ‘this act of grace’ (8:6); ‘the grace of giving’ (8:7); ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (8:9); ‘God is able to make all grace abound to you’ (9:8); ‘because of the surpassing grace God has given you’ (9:14). Paul explains that the Macedonians’ response in giving toward a need was subsequent to their giving themselves ‘first to the Lord’ (9:8). Their financial generosity arose from their wholehearted commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Ravi Zacharias2 in his book, The Grand Weaver says, “a heart that truly worships is a heart that gives its best to God in time and substance. A heart that truly worships God gives generously to the causes of God – causes that God cares deeply about…Those of us who have enough must learn the art and the heart of giving if we are to be true worshippers”.
- Christian giving is sacrificial – The Macedonian Christians were under pressure of persecution, and Paul says they suffered from ‘extreme poverty’ (8:2). Yet, despite these constraints, their sacrificial giving was characterised by ‘rich generosity’ (8:2), willingness (8:3;9:7) and giving beyond their means (8:3). C.S.Lewis3 writes, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.” Perhaps, a tough pill to swallow, but worth giving a thought to!
- Christian giving is an investment – John Stott4 observed two harvest principles from 2 Corinthians 9:6-11a which are applied to Christian giving. First, we reap what we sow. Whoever sows sparingly reaps sparingly, and whoever sows generously reaps generously (v.6). ‘Sowing’ is an obvious picture of giving. What then can we expect to ‘reap’? We should not interpret Paul’s point too literally, as if he were saying that the more we give the more we will get, and that our income will keep pace with our expenditure. This will amount to a misreading of the context. Rather, each giver should give ‘what he has decided in his heart to give’. Neither reluctantly, nor under compulsion, nor for that matter calculating what he will receive in return (Luke 6:34, 35), but ungrudgingly, because ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (v.7).
The second harvest principle is that what we reap has a double purpose. It is both for eating and for further sowing. The God of the harvest is concerned not only to alleviate our present hunger, but also to make provisions for the future. So he supplies both ‘bread for food’ (immediate consumption) and ‘seed to the sower’ (to plant when the next season comes round). These verses are the origin of the concept of ‘seed-money’, expecting God to multiply a giver’s gift. Unfortunately, however, it has been a much abused teaching. Paul is not preaching the false prosperity gospel. True, he promises that ‘you will be made rich in every way’, but he adds at once that this is ‘so that you can be generous on every occasion’ (v.11a) and so increase your giving.
Let me conclude by quoting A.W. Tozer5 – “As base a thing as money often is, yet it can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry, and clothing for the poor; it can keep a missionary actively winning lost men to the light of the gospel and thus transmute itself into heavenly values. Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality”.
1 Wright, Chris How to handle money – A Short guide to Financial Accountability (Hendrickson Publishers Marketing LCC, Massachusetts, 2013).
2 Zacharias, Ravi The Grand Weaver (Zondervan,Michigan,2007 )pp. 148-149
3 Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity (Harper Collins Edition 2001) pp. 86-87.
4 Stott, John R.W. Ten Principles of Christian Giving, 2002
5 Tozer, A.W. The Transmutation of Wealth. Born After Midnight (Chicago, IL: Christian Publications. 1959)