2 Corinthians 8:1-15

October 16, 2016

My wife and I just returned from Maine where we spent part of our time in Acadia National Park, the largest national park east of the Mississippi River.

The park is on an island that was once inhabited by the Wabaniki Indians and was noted in the explorations of the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain in 1604. http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/parks/acadia/

George B. Dorr and Charles W. Eliot, who was the president of Harvard, gave a lot of the land for the park and they lobbied for the place to become a national park. (Ibid)

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson gave it National Monument status and it became a national park three years later. (Ibid)

Then along came John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who owned an estate on the island.

He was introduced to George Dorr and the two became good friends. The Rockefellers made millions in the oil business. John had a deep love for the wilderness where he found serenity and an escape from the stress of life.

During the depression, he kept 200 men on his personal payroll building 52 miles of carriage roads and 17 bridges throughout the park.

He spent a total of $3.5 million and later donated 10,000 additional acres to the park. (Ibid)

DSC_9313As Tina and I enjoyed being pulled in a carriage by a couple of Percheron horses along one of those carriage roads designed by Rockefeller and built by the men he hired, our guide reminded us that we were enjoying our day because of his generosity, and others, like George Dorr, who had given away their land.

She told us that Rockefeller’s generosity had been greatly influenced by his Baptist parents who taught him at a young age the importance of giving a tenth of what he made to God.

Now, you may be tempted to say, “Well, if I had Rockefeller’s money I’m sure I’d be that generous, too.”

Don’t be. Neither you, nor I will ever have Rockefeller’s money. Rockefeller never had Rockefeller’s money. Rockefeller only had the money God gave him to manage.

That’s all that you have. That’s all I have—the money God gives us to manage. It’s all God’s. It’s just ours for a little while to manage.

The act of being generous is not determined by how much we have, but rather by the condition of our hearts. It’s determined by our gratitude and by our obedience to God.

The act of being generous is about demonstrating or acknowledging that what we have belongs to God—all of it. Keeping it all for ourselves says one thing about how we feel toward God. If we share what we have, that says something else.

It’s easy to say, “I’d be more generous if I had more–more money, more time, or more talents.”

However, when it comes to money or time, let’s be honest. Our wants usually outpace what we have coming in so as soon as we get more, our more is already spent.

We discover that we cannot be more generous because our “more” has already been committed.

Paul quoted an interesting proverb of his day to the Corinthians: “As it is written. ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’”

In the days of the Corinthian church, a lot of attention given to the community rather than to the individual.

The Corinthians would be shocked at the individualism of the American society.

In the New Testament Church, Christians did not go lacking because a person with excess gave to the person that was in need.

Christians did not hoard their goods or use their money solely for their wants but it was given for the greater good.

The reason that people didn’t have too little is they counted on others sharing to make up for what they did not have.

Paul’s words are not about socialism. When the government forces wealth redistribution among the populace, that is socialism.

Remember, God has the power to redistribute wealth with the blowing of the wind. However, God does not make us worship Him by acknowledging Him as the giver of all good things. True worship cannot be coerced.

So, let’s think for a moment how generosity is connected to worship.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to think about how their worship of God was connected to being generous to others.

Paul wants us to recognize that when our cup has some of God’s blessings, we should share what we have with others as a thanksgiving to God for what we have.

If we are grateful to God for what we have, we should share what we have with others. Therefore, the opposite of that would also be true.

If we are not grateful to God, then we are not generous. We are hoarders. We are stingy.

Look around you. Whose cup isn’t as full as yours? Take some of what is in your cup and pour it into someone else’s cup.

It might be affirmation, kindness, friendship, mentoring, prayer, finances, time, conversation, healing, food, clothing, opportunity, leadership, love, honesty, empathy, or compassion. These are just a few ways that we can bless each other.

If my cup is low on affirmation, you may be able to pour some affirmation into my cup.

If your cup is low on empathy, I may be able to listen to you when no one else will. Together we may be able to pour into each other what we both need. It works like that sometimes.

We should all be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and want to offer God what we have.

Through the church, as we are in relationship with others, we discover these needs.

This is one reason we need to be in a small group like Sunday School. We can discover the needs of others and they can discover our needs. Needs can’t be met in the church if others don’t know what they are.

Worshipping God should not be done in isolation of each other. Nor is it done without the knowledge of the needs of one another.

Part of being a follower of Jesus is to recognize that our resources are not for hoarding, but for sharing.

The people we should be most willing to share with are those within the church.

Once people are in the church, Christians should take care of Christians. Sure, we pour money into benevolence that touches those who don’t know Jesus – lots of it, but Paul wants to make sure that we also take care of one another.

The reason I asked if you’d be more generous if you had more money is because we usually think of money when we think of generosity. Hopefully, you now understand that generosity is about much more than money.

However, if we are not leading with our money in establishing ourselves as generous people, I assure you that we are going to be stingy in other areas of our lives.

Paul said that we should share when we recognize that there is not a fair balance between our abundance and another person’s need within the church family. Please note that Paul started this

lesson on generosity by referring to the example of those who were not giving out of their abundance, but to those who were giving out of their poverty!

What a great lesson this is about generosity. If we wait until we have leftovers before we are generous, we might never be generous. This is the reason you teach generosity to children, before they earn money.

By teaching John Jr. to tithe as a child, he never wavered as an adult when it came to obeying God in this matter.

Generosity is about our worship of God. It is about a desire to participate in what God is doing, not only now, but also in the future.

Generosity is not about how much you have. It’s taking what you have, and using a little of it to honor God.

You see, most of us don’t think we have an abundance because we spend all of it on our wants. If we wait until we have something left over before we give to God, God’s going to come out on the short end. That’s the reason we are taught to build in our giving to God on the front end.

In the Old Testament, people were told to bring God a tithe of their first fruits of their harvest and flocks.

We need to develop a plan of generosity that is recession proof. Regardless of the level of income we have, we can always be generous by treating our income as God’s gift to us to manage and set aside the first portion as we worship God. We do not have to be rich in material things to be generous.

Paul said, “Their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry.” (1-4)

So instead of saying, “If I had more, I’d give more,” just admit that’s never going to happen. If you ever get more, you will have already determined how you will spend it and you will.

Instead, ask yourself, “Am I grateful to God? Do I want to express my gratitude to God for His blessings? Am I obedient to God for what he has entrusted to me as a steward of his gifts?”

If so, set up your giving so that God gets honored first.

Although Malachi 3:8-11 speaks of us bringing a tithe and if we do not, then we are robbing God. Statistics tell us that most people that attend church give about 2-3%.

I would like to pause and commend many of you for your obedient giving. It is the only way we can meet our monthly needs which are about $50,000 a month. What that says is that many of you maintain a faithful, steady plan of giving throughout the year.

Insure that God gets your first fruits by developing a budget. Decide on a percentage to give to the Lord, then set up your giving so that it comes automatically from the bank each month or set it up through our new church app which will also link with your bank. Of course, your personal check still works just fine.

The success of this church’s ministries is dependent on your generosity. I pray that God will bless you for what you do to honor Him.

Remember, you can only give what you have. Everyone has something to give, even the least privileged among us.

With that in mind, I leave you with the story of the little drummer boy. He is the one who heard about a newborn King. Others brought fine gifts to place before the baby.

The little drummer boy was a poor boy. He had no gift to bring that was fit for a King, pa rum pum pum pum. He asked, “Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, on my drum?”

Mary nodded…The ox and the lamb kept time…He played for Him…He played his best for Him…pa rum pum pum pum.

Even that was generosity. Generosity is giving what we have. Sometimes it might be from an abundance of possessions. Sometimes, our giving may be sacrificial.

It should always be about taking some of what is in our cup and putting it in someone else’s cup as a means of worshiping God, who is the giver and sustainer and all that we have and all that we hope to be.