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Principles in Giving (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 26, 2022 3:00 am

Principles in Giving (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 26, 2022 3:00 am

Paul encouraged Jesus’ followers to excel in the grace of giving. What did he mean? And what does your generosity reveal about your Christian convictions? Study along as Alistair Begg explores the answers to these questions on Truth For Life.


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The Apostle Paul encouraged followers of Jesus to excel in the grace of giving.

What did he mean by that? What does generosity reveal about our Christian convictions? We'll find out today on Truth for Life weekend as Alistair Begg concludes a message titled Principles in Giving. We're looking at 2 Corinthians chapter 9. When it comes to the issue of giving to God's work, some of us are very diffident about making those kinds of promises. It's interesting, isn't it?

Why would that be? Surely of all people we would promise God. And then, of course, we recognize that God may have to use various stimulants in order to help us to make sure that we fulfill the promise that we've made. Paul's great concern, in summary, is that they would continue to be those who were eager to help rather than some who, in verse 5, were grudging in their giving. So, in the opening paragraph, he says, There's no need for me to repeat myself.

And then, in the balance of the text, he says, But I do need to give you some necessary reminders. First of all, in verse 6, remember this, Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. Whoever sows generously will also reap generously. This is essentially a proverbial statement. It's the kind of thing you find in the book of Proverbs. For example, Proverbs 11 24, One man gives freely, yet gains even more. Another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

I learned it in Scotland. It went like this. There was a man they said was mad. The more he gave away, the more he had. One man gives freely, yet gains even more. Another withholds, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. It's a proverbial statement.

It's not a categorical promise. And Paul essentially uses a proverbial statement by way of encouragement here so that people would understand stingy sowing, stingy reaping. I mean, if you plant a dozen daffodil bulbs whenever you're supposed to plant them, don't expect that you're going to have, you know, just meadows of daffodils come the springtime. There may be a few of them die, and the ones that come through are horribly weak, and what you thought was going to be this amazing display looks pretty paltry.

Anybody would have told you. Stingy sowing, stingy reaping. However, if you go crazy, and in an expression of abundance, in a kind of hilarious fashion, fire those things all through your grass at the front and the side of your house, then when the time comes for them to bloom, then you will have this amazing display. Farmers understand that. Town dwellers get some picture of it. And while we should be cautious about excessive literalism, which is what this sort of stuff falls foul of in the prosperity gospel stuff, be very, very careful about taking this in a wooden way.

You know, press button A, put X in, get Y out. This is not a categorical promise. It's a proverbial statement. But in guarding against excessive literalism, we need at the same time to recognize that generous giving brings its own rewards. Generous giving brings its own rewards. The stingy never know.

The stingy can't know. Only generous people know, because only the generous are on the receiving end of what God supplies. Secondly, by way of a necessary reminder, our giving is a matter of the heart.

That's verse 7. Each individual should give what they've decided in their hearts to give and not reluctantly are under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Peterson paraphrases it, I want you to take plenty of time to think this over and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm twisting.

That's very helpful. Because if you think about charitable giving, so much of it is driven by either arm twisting or sob stories. Who can resist the scenes of poverty and need that are presented to us at phenomenal expense, incidentally, on our screens, urging us to do things which may be well to do and right to do? But nevertheless, it is a manipulative process, or mechanisms that are set in place in your workplace that relate to charity which owe nothing to your own heart being involved in the issue.

It is simply that you found yourself in office number six, and the requirements for office six in order to meet the demands of this program are X, therefore everybody's in for a certain quota, and so it goes. But it's not a matter of the heart. Paul says it shouldn't be that way. It should be that each one should decide in his heart what to give. And if you think about it, that's eminently sensible, because our circumstances differ from each other. Some of us have disposable income that we did not have.

Others of us no longer have disposable income that we once enjoyed. Therefore, for any one of us to try and manipulate the other in order to do something that it is not in the right interest under God to do, it has no substantiation in the Bible. It's a matter of the heart. It shouldn't be a matter of the calculator. Everybody should decide in his heart.

Shouldn't decide with his calculator. The picture here is not grudging giving or reluctant giving or compelled giving. It is generous, cheerful, and personally determined. How is your giving to the work of the gospel to be? Personally determined, generous, and cheerful. Cheerful. The word is hilaron.

Hilaron in Greek, which is the word in Greek that gives us our English word hilarity. There is to be a hilarious dimension to the way in which the people of God give. It is possible for us to give with our hands and pull it back with our eyes.

Isn't it? You can give somebody something with your hand, but your eyes say, I don't really want to give this to you. Whether it's a $20 bill to your daughter or whoever it is, dad can have $20. Yes, but the eyes say it all. You give with your hand, but your eyes say, no, I don't want to give this to you. God looks upon the eyes of our hearts.

He knows. He's not impressed with our giving. He can never be impressed with our giving. How can the Maker of the universe be impressed by anything we ever do? If we give him every single thing we have and are, we only give him back his own.

Personally determined, cheerful, and generous. That brings us to our next point, which is, we can't outgive God. That's verse 8. All grace, in all things, at all times, having all that you need. So that as we scatter, God supplies us with sufficiency—not only sufficient for ourselves, but sufficient for sharing with others. Having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

This is not having all that you need, full stop. This is having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. And this is the key to noticing what is said in verses 10 and 11. As we give, God increases our ability to give. Isn't that what verses 10 and 11 are saying? He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for the food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

You'll be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. Now, these two verses are fraught. They're not fraught in and of themselves. They are fraught with difficulty because of the abuse to which they are subjected routinely by those who teach on giving. And if you listen for very long, at all, to people talking on so-called Christian television, you will find that they very quickly get here, and this is the basis of the whole seed money prosperity gospel strategy. If you wondered where it comes from, this is where it comes from. Which, of course, is a reminder to us that we can make the Bible say anything we want it to say unless we study the Bible in submission to its truth within its context, and where we do not pull full stops or exclamation marks where there is no need for a full stop. In other words, as we give, God increases our ability to give, says Paul.

He states that as a consequence, not as an incentive. I was in Louisville. I told you some time ago, I woke up in the morning. I was in a strange room there to speak at the seminary, and someone had set the alarm for me without my asking and to a station that I didn't know anything about.

And then I listened to it for a little bit, and then I was too lazy to actually get up and go over and turn it off, so I just shouted at the radio for about five minutes until I finally couldn't stand it any longer. But it was all this stuff. It was a prosperity gospel.

Essentially, it held stuff like this out. Verse 11, you will be made rich in every way, full stop. If you do this and this, then you will be rich in every way.

Therefore, do this and do this. That's not what Paul says. Paul says that the generous man will be refreshed, that generosity spills over in the goodness of God, and as a result of the overspilling goodness of God, you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. It's not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. And we are not the end. God is the end. Grace, gratitude, giving, thanksgiving.

God's grace, our gratitude, our giving, the thanksgiving of those who receive. That's the principle, and that's what's being driven home here. We need at the same time to humbly acknowledge that there is a reason why people may abuse this.

Because it says what it says. And the danger in dealing with the Bible is the danger of either going above the line by saying more than what is said or by going below the line by saying less than what is said. And the key is to stay on the line. So I dare not go below the line, because I don't want to go above the line.

Therefore, let me try and stay on the line. Which seems to me to allow us to say this. Paul is suggesting that we will never give generously without discovering afresh God's ability to supply our needs. We will never give generously without discovering afresh God's ability to supply our needs, so that we may then give generously again. Why is it that generous people seem to constantly have their funds topped up? Because they're generous people. And God entrusts resources to generous people, because generous people get the resources to where they need to go. And since he knows that every time he gives them a bunch of stuff, they give it away, he gives them more stuff so that they can give more away. But we will never know this, except as a theory, until proportionately we become those who join the company of the generous. And it's not about the size of the money.

It's about the proportionate impact. So you received as a student, somebody gave you a special birthday gift. They gave you a hundred dollars in an envelope, and you were at that time confronted by a responsibility or an opportunity to give, and you went through that huge battle in your mind. Oh, goodness gracious. A hundred dollars? Why, you give ten. I only have to give ten, don't I? Yeah, well, there we go.

That's 90. That's good. Well, hey.

No, well, I don't. And then all of a sudden, put it in another envelope and slip it under the person's door. They don't know who you are. They don't know what's happened.

And they sit at their breakfast and thank God for answering their prayers. And you've become the means of that as a result of someone's generosity to you passing it on. And somewhere down the line in the next two or three weeks, you're sitting on a bus somewhere and you say, you know, I gave that a hundred dollars away. And that's when I got that thing that came back to me from so-and-so that I forgot all about. And I had the other thing that I never even remembered about that, and the thing that I had in that said, I got three hundred bucks. And then the voice said, And what are you gonna do with this three hundred? You say, Well, I only have to give thirty. It's thirty.

I got two seventy. You see what an amazing cop-out that is? And what a tyranny it is for some people that can't squeak out ten percent. Some people can't give ten percent at a certain point in their life. They just flat-out can't. And other people can give way more than it.

So you bang that drum, you hammer the people that can't do it, and you let off the hook the people who could give seventy and eighty percent of their after-tax income without even feeling it. That's why principles are so much better to deal with than laws. And as Christians, we have an incipient tendency to want laws, because principles are not just quite as easy to navigate. He gives us principles. He could have reinstituted Old Testament laws.

He doesn't. By our giving, then, he says, we supply the needs of God's people. Verse 12a, what a privilege to become the means of supplying the needs of God's people. And ultimately, he says, our giving results in thanksgiving to God.

That's 12b. This service that you perform not only supplies the needs of God's people, but it's also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. The person who's on the receiving end of the giving, of those who've been both supplied and prompted by the giver, eventually look past the hand of the one who gave and thank God who's the giver of every good and perfect gift. Verse 13, Christian giving is directly related to the gospel of Christ.

Because of the service by which you have proved yourself, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else and so on. In the most intensely practical terms, the theology of the Corinthian believers and the Macedonian believers is being expressed, at least in part, in their generosity. Because their generosity, their gift, is going to Jerusalem. Who lives in Jerusalem? The largely Jewish believers.

Who are the people in Macedonia and Achaiai? The Gentile believers. So when the Jewish believers, who are struggling financially, are able to go out and get something to eat in the market, and their friends and neighbors say, You seem to be doing a little better.

What happened to you? And they say, Well, some of the people from Achaiai and Macedonia sent money up to the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and it's been scattered amongst us so that our circumstances would prevail. And the people said, But aren't the folks in Greece Gentiles? And they said, Yeah. And aren't you people Jewish by birth? They said, Yes.

They said, Well, how does that work? They said, Well, see, Jesus is the key. In Jesus, there's neither bond people or slave people or free people or Jewish people or Gentile people. We are Galatians 3, all one in Christ Jesus. And it was their generosity in obedience to the gospel that declared their theological presuppositions. And the exact same is true of any local church.

I can prove it to you. I can prove to you that the theological presuppositions of Parkside are worked out in many ways, but not least of all in our giving. I hadn't thought this out properly until I read John Stott on it. And Stott, he says, most helpfully as always, that by our giving, we give expression to our theology. For example, he says, when we contribute to evangelistic enterprises, we are expressing our confidence that the gospel is the power of God to salvation, and everybody needs to hear it. That's why we give money to evangelistic enterprises. When we give money, when we contribute to economic development, to humanitarian need, we are expressing our Christian conviction that every man, woman, and child is made in the image of God and should not be obliged to live in dehumanizing circumstances. We are saying something about the compassion and care of God.

And when we give to the maturity of a local church, we are acknowledging the fact that the local church is central in the purposes of God, both in the task of evangelism and in economic development and in the building up of the people of God. Most of us won't go to China. We're not going to the 1.3 billion of China, but by our consistent, faithful, generous, cheerful, hilarious, personally determined giving, we share together in reaching the world for Jesus Christ. And on that day, when a company that no one can number gathers around the throne of God, they will declare that salvation belongs to the Lord our God and to his Son who sits upon the throne.

And there will be those who are there, not as a result of anybody producing a succession of heartrending videos and transparencies, but as a result of a group of sensible people studying their Bibles, taking their time, and proportionately, personally, generously, perhaps even hilariously, determining to give as God has prompted them. You'll notice I haven't said a word about figures or about amounts or about any of that stuff. Who cares? Who cares?

Who even cares? God knows. You've no doubt heard it said before, but it's true. We can't outgive God. That's Alistair Begg explaining how our giving expresses both faith and gratitude, how it blesses our fellow Christians, and how it's used to win others to Jesus. You're listening to Truth for Life weekend. Alistair returns shortly to close today's program with prayer. Today's message concludes a brief series called The Grace of Giving. If you missed any of the messages in this series, or you'd like to re-listen or share these studies with a friend, you can listen or download the sermons for free from our website, This weekend is the beginning of the Advent season, and we have been recommending a book to take you through the Advent season called The Dawn of Redeeming Grace. It's a devotional that contains daily readings that'll lead you right up to Christmas.

The book is written by Alistair's good friend Sinclair Ferguson. There are 24 devotions, all drawn from the first two chapters of Matthew's Gospel. Each daily devotion explores a different aspect of the first Christmas. You'll gain new insight into the remarkable events of the coming of our Lord Jesus in the book The Dawn of Redeeming Grace.

You can find out more at While you're on our website, check out a collection of biblically sound books that make great gifts for Christmas, books that are perfect for sharing the Gospel with friends and loved ones during the holiday season. There are picture books for young children. There's a set of devotional books written by Sinclair Ferguson for middle schoolers, books for older teens, new parents, and adult friends and family as well.

All of it is online at slash gifts. Now here's Alistair with the closing prayer. Father, thank you for the Bible, and thank you that it comes with clarity.

Any confusion is always on our end. And we pray that we might respond to Paul's word to those believers to see that you excel in this grace of giving. We pray, Lord, that we might learn from your Word and prompted by your Spirit and left entirely on our own, that we might give and discover that you are the God who gives in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Hear our prayers. Help us in this, as in every aspect of our Christian lives. May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be our portion now and always. Amen. For Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-26 15:52:25 / 2022-11-26 16:00:57 / 9

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