SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
August 13, 2006
God’s Grace Inspires Us to Give Generously
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Key Verse: For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9
Giving is a great privilege. Consider it a duty and you spoil it. Always give gladly if you want God to be pleased with your gift. The reason is that God wants our giving to be an expression of our love for him, not an obligation that duty demands.
Wait a minute. What about the tithe? Yes, tithing was God’s plan, introduced in the Old Testament and considered for centuries as the biblical standard of giving. Then God expects me to tithe, right? Yes, but he does not demand it. Give a tithe of your income to God because you “have to,” and you might as well not give at all.
Remember what Paul said: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The spirit in which God desires for us to give could not be expressed more clearly.
What motivates us to give is important to
Paul. For the apostle, grace is the
answer. The grace of God moves us to give generously, not out of duty but out
of gratitude for what Christ has done for us. Grace moved the churches of
Paul uses the beautiful word “sharing.” Someone said, “True happiness is derived not from what we give or receive, but from what we share.” There is truth in that statement. Paul speaks not of happiness but of joy. The Macedonian Christians were not wealthy; indeed, they were extremely poor. Yet the awareness of God’s grace filled them with such “abundant joy” that they freely shared what they had.
Sharing what we have may be giving at its best. There is a sense in which “the tithe belongs to the Lord.” When we give the tithe, we still have nine-tenths of our income for ourselves. Those who practice tithing may have a “righteousness” that does not exceed that of the Pharisees, and Jesus said plainly that is not enough.
Some Christians, having “paid the tithe,” are quick to say, “Don’t ask me for more; my tithe is all the church is going to get.” Sadly these are the people who deny themselves the “abundant joy” that comes from giving “beyond the tithe.” Christ can move us to share out of the abundance of what we have so that the needs of others may be met.
When we learn to share freely, because “freely we have received” from the hand of God, we discover that we cannot out-give God! The more we give, the more we receive from God.
In recent years I have witnessed a wonderful spirit in my wife. She has been on a rampage to give her things away – not only money but clothes, furniture, pictures, and other items among her “stuff.” The amazing thing is that the more she gives away, the more God replaces it. All her giving has done so much for her that I am beginning to try it myself!
The joy that comes is mixed with
laughter as you realize that this kind of sharing is a way of living in the
Paul’s advice to the Corinthians is advice we should take ourselves. He commends them for their excellence – in faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and love. Then wisely he does not command them but invites them to move their giving to the level of excellence.
As I was completing this lesson, a
precious widow in our church came to see me. She said, “My heart was touched by
the need of the orphan children in
I knew that she was giving beyond
her tithe to the church, though she made no mention of that. Not a wealthy
person, she was sharing what she had so that a little child in
Stop for a moment. Look at what you have. Everything you have has come to you by the hand of God. You can think of your stuff as your own or you can think of it as belonging to God. When you give it all to him, then you can have the joy of using it to help others in need. The more you share what you have to honor Jesus, the more joy God will pour into your heart.
Look at your stuff, all of it. One day soon it will belong to someone else. You will no longer need it. While you have it, you can use it to accomplish the mission of God in the world.
Now look at this lesson’s key verse again. Read it over and over again until it begins to sink into your mind what Jesus did for you. Then get up and do something that will set you free in the joy of Jesus: Write a check for missions. Give half your clothes to someone who needs them. For God’s sake, do something that looks and feels like “giving generously”!
You may know such joy that you will not stop laughing for a week! Giving generously to honor Jesus has that effect on you!
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