November 22, 2012

“God loveth a cheerful giver.”

(2 Corinthians 9:6-11)

Part of the Saxon Pericope Gospel list series, preached at a Special event service

Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love (2 John 3). Amen. Our text is recorded in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the 9th chapter, the 6th through the 11th verse, reading as follows:

Dear fellow redeemed sinners, redeemed and richly blessed by Jesus Christ. God’s only-begotten Son, who hast prepared us a place where He shall provide for us forever. There are a number of harvest festivals in Christian Europe. They are probably based on the Old Testament feasts which were once a requirement for the Hebrew people. However, even the pagan knows there is a God and should know that He deserves our thanks. Nevertheless, such is not normally the case, for those who think that they have to appease God really have nothing for which to thank Him. Praise is certainly due to God from everyone who lives and breathes here on earth. On this new continent the pilgrims set up special day of thanksgiving, rather than merely a harvestfest. It was not for their prosperity, for during the previous winter half of the settlers died from various causes. No, it was for another reason that they thanked God. It was the gratitude by the survivors. Still today there are many early fairs and harvestfests held in our country and in some other lands. In the United States the fourth Sunday in November is our national holiday in appreciation for all the other blessings God gives us besides food. We freely gather today, for the message is –
“God loveth a cheerful giver.”
I. First, we consider the manner of our giving; and,
II. Second, we consider the motivation for our giving.
First, we consider the manner of our giving. Paul writes the Corinthians: Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. No, we are not to give grudgingly, because we have to. We do not attend church because it is an official national proclamation and we may be punished for not doing so. Indeed, many people do not observe it as such, but as “Turkey Day” and a time to watch TV ball games or to rest up in order to get to the stores early on “Blackl Friday” for a shopping frenzy. It is not grudgingly from force, but gladly. The Old Testament commanded the tithe; a tenth of certain things which they grew or produced wer to be given to the priests, Levites, and the upkeep of the Temple. Many of the Pharisees at Jesus’ time kept close track of what they gave, as one man boasted (Luke 18:12). His giving was more from a feeling of superiority to others than from gratitude to God in his heart. ”Not grudgingly or of necessity.” Some feel that they must do so to get future help from God. The fact is that God freely helps all. We hear particularly in the Psalms how God takes care of the creatures in the fields and forest, the air and sea, of all the people who are here, whether they thank Him or not. Paul notes how even a heathen Greek poet had to acknowledge: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Yes, God is responsible for all which we have, and to Him we ought to give thanks accordingly. Jesus reminds: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. Fear ye not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29, 31). Some people give out of necessity, for they think that thereby they may put God in debt to them. They have done some little thing for Him, now He owes them a future favor.
Instead of giving of grudgingly or of necessity, we are to give bountifully But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Our text gives a comparison to sowing seeds in a field. If we only plant a couple of seeds, we shall only get a couple of plants, and little harvest. If we plant many seeds we shall have many plants and a big harvest. That is the common law of nature which is obvious to all. Now, every seed which we plant from a package does not sprout, but all the other abundant seeds germinate, grow, and produce so much that they compensates that the few seeds which fail are not important. He says, “As he purposeth in his heart.” Our giving is to be planned, intentional giving., the heart and mind being included. Our donations are not to be last second tokens when the collection plate is passed and others put their gifts into it. Instead we are consciously to consider all which God has given to us and done for us. And if we “count [our] blessings one by and one and see what God has done,” then it leads to the next characteristic – cheerfulness.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. He says, “Let every man. It is not just for the so-called “wealthy,” but God here speaks to each individual. He expects us to give according to our ability. We are not to compete with others, but give as we are able. In the previous chapter Paul writes: If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not (8:12). God does not expect someone who does not have much to give as one who has been richly endowed. Thus Jesus highly praised a certain poor widow for her two mites (Mark 12:43). Jesus does not sneer at a little when given from the heart. The heart and mind are important. “God loveth a cheerful giver,” rather than someone from whom we can pry out some “donation.” We are to recall God’s generosity to us. As we often pray after the collection, All which we have is His alone, a trust from Him. We trace our bounty in this prosperous land to our parents, to the pioneers, to the pilgrims, but finally to the providence of God. Yes, gladly from a cheerful heart is to be the manner of our giving.
Second, what is the motivation for such giving, although that has already been alluded to? This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. This is not meant to be a clever way to gain more from God: If we give more we shall get more. That is the carnal, fleshly “prosperity gospel” preached by some television “evangelists.” “Send your money in to our ministry and God will give you much more, ten times what you mail in to us. Send more and get rich!” That is not only false, but it is shameful selfishness. It is the opposite of a cheerful hear. It is the product of a kniving, scheming, greedy heart. That is not a Christian motivation. It may be a nagging thought of old nature in us. But the Christian’s new nature is quite contrary to that. We know that God has most generously provided for us until now, and we have confidence that God will continue to supply all needs all the days of our lives, yes, beyond that, in heaven for all eternity. We share the conviction of aged David: I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken and his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed (Ps. 37:25f). It is beneficial for us to remember this fact. Ps. 92 declares: It is good to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High (v. 1). A grateful heart is a happy heart. Again the psalmist acknowledges: Thou, O LORD, hast made me glad through Thy work (92:4a). Counting our blessings and thanking God improves our whole outlook. We see how blessed we are in reality. So Proverbs notes: A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones (17:22)
God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.) We are motivated by God’s grace, by His righteousness which He has granted to us. We recognizes God’s great love for sinners. His sacrifice on the cross includes each and every one of us here today. The Holy Ghost brings pardon to us through faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus bestows His own perfection on us, so that we are counted righteous before the holy and just God. We have what unbelievers are unaware of and are futilely seeking to gain by their own works and sacrifices. We have God’s love and pardon, His perfect righteousness, that we may indeed dwell in heaven where there is no evil. Yes, besides all those things which He has already given us here on earth, He holds out even more. He has prepared a place for us above (John 14:3). There He preserves a treasure untouched by moth or rust or taken by thieves(Matt. 6:20). He guards that for us. We truly can exclaim: O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever (Ps. 136:1). It lasts not only for a brief time as we walk on earth, but forever. It benefits us forever and ever. He gives us that as His free reward to His followers.
Now He that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. He usually starts already here on earth, rewards our good conduct, gives us in response to things we do for others. Nevertheless, we are to have contentment in our heart with whatever He has chosen to give us as we walk below. Yes, “godliness with contentment is great gain,” Paul writes Timothy (1 Tim. 6:6). But it is also said that one man in a hundred has a satisfied mind. We think of Jesus needing to ask the healed leper, “Where are the nine?” (Luke 17:16) In many people there is constant envy and jealousy, which things only bring ulcers to those who engage in such. Above all, we desire that those helped by us praise not us, but our dear God (Matt. 5:16). Finally, we yearn to hear beloved Lord’s congratulations: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23). We will treasure those words even above all the other heavenly provisions god there gives His followers.
Our Christian motivation for thanksgiving springs from the love of God who first loved us (1 John 4:19). He redeemed us to be with Him. That love is internal, though often it may cause a smile on our face. There is a certain pleasure in doing good and in giving to others. But that is only known to givers. It remains a mystery to the selfish, who seek only themselves ad beneficiaries. This good feeling also moves Christian in part to action. We become a blessing to our neighbor and thereby bring glory to our God. May He make us all appreciative and cheerful givers. God so help us. Amen.
HYMNS: 574, 573, 438, 567
November 22, 2012