What Generous Giving Shows

What Generous Giving Shows

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

After praising the Corinthians in the midst of his second letter to them, Paul challenges their growth in a specific area of their Christianity. It is an area where several need to be challenged. Jesus urges us to have proper hearts by laying up treasure in heaven (Mat. 6:19-21) and Paul spends time showing what a proper heart looks like. Notice what he says on this subject in 2 Corinthians 8. 

GENEROUS GIVING REFLECTS THE GRACE OF THE LORD (1-2,9)

Paul holds up the impoverished churches of Macedonia and the Lord Jesus Christ as examples of grace for the Corinthians. The poor saints of Macedonia, in a great ordeal of affliction, had abundant joy and a wealth of liberality to give generously despite that poverty. Who does that look like? The Lord Jesus Christ, who, though rich, for our sakes became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. Do you want to look like Jesus? Give generously and abundantly.

GENEROUS GIVING REVEALS AN EAGER, SACRIFICIAL HEART (3-6)

What kind of hearts did the Macedonians have? They had willing hearts, which caused them to give “beyond their ability” (3). They had begging hearts, which considered being allowed to give a favor (4). They had giving hearts, which prompted a financial generosity out of their first giving themselves to God (5). How is my giving? Let me first ask how my heart is, when it comes to “my” money. Paul uses Macedonia’s example to spur on Corinth.

GENEROUS GIVING REINFORCES OTHER OTHER SPIRITUAL QUALITIES (7-8,24)

Paul credits Corinth for their faith, utterance, knowledge, earnestness, love, and sincerity. The first three seem to be alluding to their spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12-14), necessary to grow the church. The last three are attitudes Christians must possess. Yet, Paul tosses generosity right onto that figurative pile. He calls for them to abound in this gracious work, too. It proved the sincerity of their love. Later, Paul urges them to “show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you” (24). It’s not generous giving or these other qualities, or vice versa. God wants all of us. 

GENEROUS GIVING READIES ONE FOR COMPLETION (10-15)

Paul calls for them to finish what they intended to do in this matter. Intentions, as great as they may be, cannot be spent or used to meet the various needs Paul is concerned about. The completion of it was as vital as the readiness to do it. God sees giving as the great equalizer between those with abundance and those with need. He’s not talking about redistribution of wealth. He’s talking about a healthy attitude toward one’s wealth that leads to God supplying all that’s needed through our generosity. Don’t just intend or desire to give. Do it!

GENEROUS GIVING RESULTS IN ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S WORK (16-24)

This is a matter of practicality. Real needs in spreading the gospel existed, requiring monetary aid to accomplish. Titus brought it to their attention. Paul is reminding them of it. As they participated in this gracious work, they were helping the church. 

Do you find it interesting that for the inspired Paul, the subject of giving was not off-limits whether he was talking about the rich or the poor or the weak or the strong? Giving is a fundamental aspect and expression of our faith. It is not a substitute for good works. It is a specific example, one of many good works. We need to excel in this gracious work also!

A Small Portion Does Not Mean Small Proportion

A Small Portion Does Not Mean Small Proportion

Neal Pollard

Those who address us prior to our giving often make a statement like this, that we are giving back but a small portion of what God has blessed us with. In other words, if you could owned and could contribute all the world’s wealth, week after week, how would that compare to the sacrificial gift of Christ (cf. Mat. 16:26)? In fact, how could it compare with the many additional blessings besides atonement—a body equipped with the ability to perform involuntary actions (breathing, blood flow, cell regeneration, etc.), an environment conducive to life (air to breathe, photosynthesis, etc.), a planet in harmony with sun and moon making life possible, and the list is endless. It is not only impossible to out-give God, it is impossible to come anywhere close.

The Bible does not dictate a percentage for the New Testament Christian giver. The inferior covenant (cf. Heb. 8:7-8) required a tenth of all (Heb. 7:5), a pretty good benchmark for those of us having access to the better covenant established upon better promises. It is impossible to know what anyone might be thinking who hears the well-intended, if well-worn, statement, “We have the opportunity to give back a small portion of the many blessings we have received…” It does not mean, “A small proportion.” Nowhere does the Bible sanction stingy, leftover-style giving. In fact, it condemns such (read Malachi). Instead, Paul writes, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7).

Giving involves a monetary, financial exercise, but it is a distinctly spiritual activity. It is an act of trust, a faith that the God who has provided will continue to provide and bless the one who bountifully shares what he has been given. When we, like the Macedonians, give beyond what we believe is beyond our ability (2 Cor. 8:1-5), we open up an exciting door in our walk with Christ.

If you are one who gives a small proportion of your income, may I challenge you to increase it? See what happens in your life. You are not giving to manipulate or coerce God, but you will experience a growth not possible on the “small proportion” side of generous giving. Trust Him! He has never broken a promise yet (read Mal. 3:10 and Luke 6:38).

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Church Cooperation

Church Cooperation

Neal Pollard

I have become more acutely aware of the importance of “church cooperation” working with a congregation that operates a school of preaching.  To get every student here and to support every teacher who prepares them for ministry, several congregations and individuals must give to make this a reality.  Those who contribute range from the very wealthy to the financially struggling, the highly educated to those not as much, the urban to the rural, and from the west coast to the east coast.  Congregations who give may be large or tiny.  But, all are needed and each works together to help produce men prepared to fulfill their ministry.

“Church cooperation” also is a term which applies to a necessary, internal function.  Within the church, there must exist a spirit and willingness to work together despite our differences—be it race, societal status, religious background (whether raised in the church or converted), and the like.  God anticipated such diversity, but still expects unity.  He is displeased with multiple, divergent “agendas” and frowns most emphatically upon self-seeking and self-serving individuals.  Whatever would fuel division, pride, fleshly lusts, greed, or worldly philosophies, must be identified and scuttled.  Paul wrote one congregation, saying, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phi. 2:1-4).  Why cooperate?  Because of Christ and what He has done. How cooperate? Positively, by oneness of mind, love, spirit, purpose, and humility. Negatively, by avoiding selfishness, conceit, and serving self-interest.

How easy it is to read that divine guidance, but how hard to practice!  Yet, it is essential to a congregation thriving and growing…together!  The sobering thing is that each of us is either a cooperator or a coagulator (hardening and hindering).  That is determined by our attitude, words, and decisions.  May we each resolve to be a “church cooperator”!