Lord of Our Pocketbooks

Lord of Our Pocketbooks

Text: 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 – The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 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 every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Introduction: Everyone knows there are a few hot-button topics that can make any conversation go bad. Some of these include religion … health … politics … racial tension … violence. But when it comes to the most difficult conversation you can possibly have, a survey taken not too long ago by Wells Fargo & Company found one clear winner: money. “Money landed right at the top,” says Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank. “I don’t know that we expected that.” It turns out that 44 percent of Americans point to personal finances as the most challenging chat anyone can possibly have. Even the terrifying topic of death, which you might expect to top such a survey, comes in second at 38 percent. Also, falling behind are perennially explosive topics like politics at 35 percent, and religion, 32 percent. Yes … money is a hot topic for many of us. This seems to be even more of an issue today given that there is a growing disparity between the rich and poor worldwide. Listen to this: It turns out that the 80 wealthiest people on the planet now have as much as the world’s 3.5 billion poorest people. In other words, 80 people control as much wealth as half the population of the planet. That’s one of the most shocking findings from a report released by Oxfam, an international charity dedicated to finding solutions to global poverty. Perhaps the poster child for the opulent lifestyles of the rich is Larry Ellison, the seventh-ranking deep pocket on this year’s Forbes list. He stepped as the CEO of Oracle (the business software giant) in September of 2014 but continues on as their Chairman of the Board. His net worth: $43.6 billion. What does Ellison do with all those billions? He collects homes and estates, for starters, with 15 or so scattered all around the world. He also likes yachts, too. He currently has two extremely big ones, each over half as long as a football field. Ellison enjoys sports and likes to play basketball, even on his yachts. And what happens if a ball bounces over the railing while he and his friends are playing? It’s no problem. He has a powerboat following his yacht to retrieve them.

I know it is hard for us to imagine having that much money. Most of us couldn’t afford the boat that trails the yacht, let alone the yacht itself! Still, we share something in common with Larry Ellison and other people like him. Oh, we may not have a billion dollars, but one thing seems to be true of every human being: how we spend the money we do have will always reveal what we value and even what we love. We show what we treasure with our wallets.

It is with this thought in mind that today, in our fifth message in the preaching series, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that I want us to consider perhaps the most volatile topic we can risk discussing together (our money) and what the Bible has to say about how we should put it to use. God’s Word actually speaks a great deal about money. Here is some of what it says: (1) Any kind of material wealth we might possess is a gift from God (1 Samuel 2:7 – the Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts); (2) It is better to be righteous than rich (Proverbs 10:2 – Ill-gotten treasures are of no value but righteousness delivers from death); (3)We are not to put our faith in our riches (Proverbs 11:28 – Whoever trusts in his riches will fall); (4) It is better to have a little with love than a lot with hatred (Proverbs 15:17 — Better a meal with vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred); (5) We’re to work to amass our fortune in heaven and not on earth(Matthew 6:19-20 – Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven). Now of course there is more, but that’s enough to lay the foundation for Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 on the exercise of Christ’s lordship over our wealth. The Bible teaches that Christians are expected to recognize Christ’s lordship over their time, talents and temple (body) in other passages, but here in these verses we discover through the teaching of the Apostle Paul that Jesus also desires to that we submit to his rule over our treasures too. Our passage begins with a principle that can help every Christian determine how much of our riches we’re willing to part with.

I.     The principle in Christ-centered giving (2 Corinthians 9:6 – The point is this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully). By way of historical background, Paul wrote these words because the Corinthians had made a large and generous pledge to help care for believers living in Jerusalem who, because of a lengthy drought, were nearing starvation. For some reason, however, they had never made good on their promise, so Paul is reminding them of the increasing need and their commitment to help meet it. He is not very subtle about it either. First, he points out the generous gift given by the churches in Macedonia despite their own impoverished conditions. Then, Paul mentions the gracious sacrifice that Christ made setting aside the riches of His glory in heaven to bring salvation to each one of them. Thirdly, lest they were worried if help would be forthcoming should the circumstances be reversed and the Corinthians were the ones in need, he assures them that the saints in Jerusalem would not neglect their brothers and sisters in the faith. Finally, in order to avoid anyone thinking the funds might be mishandled in some way, he tells them that there will be much accountability in the distribution of their gifts. Now here in chapter nine, Paul encourages the church in Corinth to sow bountifully. This is an agricultural metaphor not lost on the Corinthians, many of whom were farmers. They understood that if they wanted a big return at harvest time, they had to sow a lot of seed. It’s a way of encouraging them to give a large gift because that will bring the greatest blessing to everyone including the believers in Jerusalem who would receive it, as well as the church in Corinth who would give it. God is, after all, no man’s debtor. He blesses this kind of charity by paying the giver back Himself. Application: Now today some people struggle with pastors who quote this and other similar verses about giving generously for at least two reasons: (1) Many have heard the same words pouring forth from the mouths of television preachers who turn this truth into a formula for prosperity. It goes something like this … give a thousand dollars and God will bless you with ten thousand dollars. I don’t blame anyone for reacting negatively to this kind of appeal. It puts too much emphasis on your checkbook while devaluing the Lord who supplies your need. It makes God out to be nothing more than an ATM used to conduct a financial transaction. Giving should never be reduced to a mathematical formula that says, “Put this much in and you’re guaranteed to get this much out.” In our giving, God never appeals to self-centered motives to get rich quick, but to personal sacrifice that demonstrates the love and kindness of the Lord. (2)There are others who just struggle with the fear that God won’t keep up his end of the bargain. If they give generously, He will leave them broke and unable to pay their bills or provide for their families. Neither of these is the right approach. We are to sow bountifully because God is trustworthy and has more than enough to amply provide for us when we are generous with others. It’s a simple act of faith in the God in whom we put our trust. Isn’t this what the government wrote on our currency? IN GOD WE TRUST.

II.     The practice of Christ-centered giving (2 Corinthians 9:7 – Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver). Here we are given three considerations when it comes to sowing bountifully. Perhaps this will lessen some of the tension a few of us might be feeling in today’s teaching on giving. First, each person is to decide in his own heart the amount of the gift. This implies both a personal and deliberate choice on the part of the believer. It is personal in that no one can decide for another the amount of the gift! It is deliberate in that giving is a conscious decision of the will.People do not become generous givers by accident. In keeping with the illustration of the farmer sowing his seed, it helps to remember that the seed never plants itself. Someone must take responsibility for sowing it in the expectation of a large return. GIVING, THEN, MUST BE PERSONAL AND DELIBERATE. Second, giving is not to be done reluctantly or under compulsion. It must be a free will offering if God is going to bless it. Any gift given under pressure will never yield a fruitful harvest. And third, it should be a cheerful offering. The attitude with which we give our offerings is just as important as the gift itself. Illustration: You decide the amount of your offering; don’t give under compulsion, but cheerfully. This is how God wants us to do it. Giving is always a matter of the heart. Sometimes even pastors get it wrong and appeal to wrong motives. I heard of a preacher who was hoping for a good offering so he announced that whoever put the most money in the plate would get to pick three favorite hymns for the service. Some people gave ten, twenty even a hundred dollars. But then a little old lady stood up, walked to the front and wrote out a check for $10,000. The pastor was overjoyed and said she could choose any three hymns. The old woman smiled and then turned to the congregation, pointed at the three most handsome men and said, “I’ll take him and him and him.” That’s probably not what the Lord had in mind in these verses.

III.     The promise of Christ-centered giving (2 Corinthians 9:8-9 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor, his righteousness endures forever”). Here Paul explains what happens when Christians give faithfully and generously for Kingdom purposes. God will provide for our needs so that we possess everything required to live for him and even have an abundance to share with others. Every now and again, I’ve had people say things to me like, “Lord knows I want to give, but I just don’t have the resources to do so.” This verse takes away that excuse. It says, “If you truly want to give, God will make it possible (he is able to make all grace abound to you)!” Paul quotes Psalm 112 in verse nine to remind us that the righteous man who scatters his seed and gives to the poor will be remembered by God. In fact, his righteousness will endure forever! That’s called storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven.

IV.     The product of Christ-centered giving (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 – 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. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God). Consider with me what God says will take place when you and I participate in Christ-centered giving. (1) He will supply and multiply your seed for sowing. This is talking about the money you want to give to the Lord. (2) He will increase your harvest of righteousness. When we give we set in motion a cycle of God’s grace. He meets our needs and provides abundantly so that we can be generous with others when given the opportunity. Then He gives us more so we can do the same thing again. (3) The end result will be thanksgiving to God! That’s as it should be. We don’t get any glory from giving…God does. He owns everything and uses us to redistribute His gifts to others so that everyone has what is needed to get along in life and constantly abounds with an attitude of thanksgiving. And it all starts with us sowing bountifully. When we do we will be blessed in abundance and presented with more opportunities to give.