II Corinthians 8–9. The Offering For the Jerusalem Church. Part II.

Key Notes: Does God reward cheerful givers? Why we don't believe it. Four words make a composite image of the generous giver.

In the previous lesson, we looked at Paul’s pressure on the Corinthians using the Macedonians as his model of sacrificial giving. Perhaps that argument would not be enough to change our minds about giving, even if it was persuasive to the Corinthians. There are no Macedonians around to embarrass us. Paul’s rich presentation gives us other motives, more subtle, but equally compelling. We take up God’s promises to givers, and four little Greek words that show us the mind of the righteous and effective giver.

9:6–12 In this section, God’s responses to givers is spelled out.
Sow sparingly; reap sparingly. Sow bountifully; reap bountifully.
God loves a cheerful giver.
God will provide you with every blessing in abundance.
You will always have enough of everything.
God will supply and multiply your resources.
He will increase the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be enriched in every way for great generosity.

That says  that God gives back to those who give to Him directly, or through the poor. There are plenty of passages to support that teaching, especially in the Old Testament.

“He {the righteous man} has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn is exalted in honor.” (Psa.112:9)
“One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another with-holds what he should give and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. “ (Prov.11:24–25)
“He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord and He will repay him for his deed.” (Prov.19:17)
“He who has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” (Prov.22:9)
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven or even to eight, for you know not what evil may happen on earth.” (Eccl.11:1–2)
“Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and thereby put me to the test, says The Lord God Almighty, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. “ (Mal.3:10)
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Gal.6:7)
“Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Lk.6:38)

The concept is obvious and many examples can be given. What you put out is what you get back—most of the time. You smile and you get a smile back. You sow a big garden and you get  lots of produce. You have a little store with sparse merchandise and you have few customers. You reach out to no one and wonder why you have no friends. You send out a lot of  Christmas cards and you hear from people you lost contact with for years. (We did.)

Then we realize that it is not the idea that puts us off. The idea is written in large letters in  the world and in Scripture. But when the idea is applied to our money,  we get skeptical. We have all kinds of misgivings.

*We should not serve God in hopes of reward. Should I give money so that I get money back? That can’t be right. But God said “put me to the test, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour down for you an overwhelming blessing.” That sounds like serving God in hopes of reward. Doesn’t God offer us other kinds of reward?

*God gives us spiritual rather than material blessings. .But in the Malachi passage, God completes His promise to givers with talk about fruits in the field and vines and friendship with other nations. and what is wrong with spiritual blessing?

*Maybe it just won’t happen and we will be disillusioned. I am sure it will not happen right away. How could I tell in the long run that it was God's goodness or just our good luck? I agree that it is wise to give without looking for an immediate return. The return may be years away. It takes 80 years to harvest a walnut tree. When we give out God’s word, we may not see the results in other people’s lives for years.

*We are afraid that our money will not be well-used. We don’t know which mail appeal to believe. We all start with the church we are in,  and  move on to other Christian agencies and services with care.

*We are afraid of the Health and Wealth Gospel.We should be. It is a perversion. “Name it and claim it” says that God will give you anything you ask for in faith.
But we have been saying that giving / sowing comes first. But Paul asked three times for his illness to be cured, and God refused him for good reasons. (IICor.12:8). Neither case takes away from Paul’s argument in IICor. 9 that if you give generously, you will receive generously.

*Finally, we realize that we just don’t believe it. Do we think that  God is The Hard One, who takes rather than giving? (Matt.25:24). If the bank offered you 14% return on your investment-- $14 profit for every $100 you put in-- would you take it? God is offering you 100% and more. If the Christians really believed that God is as good as His promises , giving would be not 2.5% of gross income but 25%.

Let us look at the final  argument. Paul in IICor.8–9 uses four words that help us define the godly giver.

Grace (Gr. charis; we get our word “charisma” from it). The word is used ten times in this passage. Grace is a favor (8:4), a gift (8:6,19), thanks to God (8:16; 9:15),  a blessing (9:8), and is God working in believers. 8:1; 9:14

Single (Gr. haplous; we get our word “haploid” from it , as in haploid number of chromosomes). This word is translated “generosity” in 9:2, 11, 13. In Greek the word “single”, seems to have nothing to do with generosity. The word became intensified with use, starting with single, then simple, open, without ulterior motive, innocent, pure, sincerely dedicated, and sacrificially liberal.
An important clue to its use is is Matt.6:22–24 where Jesus says "If your eye is single (haplous), your whole body will be full of light.” The application follows: “You cannot serve God and money.”
So true generosity is the outcome of having both eyes fixed on God. We have double vision if one of our eyes is on that other god, our money.

Cheerful (Gr. hilaros; we get our word “hilarious” from it.) However, the Greek word does not express hilarity, but  radiance, and cheerfulness. The word is used of a song, the daylight or a person’s face. The idea of cheerfulness and generosity come together in the OT.
“He who has a bountiful (hilaros) eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” (Prov.22:9, LXX)
“God loves a cheerful (hilaros) and liberal man” (Prov.22:9, LXX).

The final word is zeal (Gr. spoude). The word is translated as earnestness in 8:7, 8, 16. Like “simple”, the word has been intensified in usage. The word originally meant haste, then diligence, zeal, dedication, the power to act, and finally, deep concern. One commentator on Greek words says zeal is part of being a Christian.

Paul uses two words together in a sentence:
 “…he who contributes, with liberality….” (haplos) “…he who does acts of mercy with cheerfulness.” (hilaros) (Rom.1:8). So two dissimilar word, single or pure, and cheerful or bountiful, both come to express generosity. We can make a mental  image of such a person.

If we combine the grace of God, a singleness of heart and purpose, a bountiful attitude, and deep concern, we have a picture of the righteous and effective giver. Such a person does not give hilariously, that is, with no care for where the money goes. Earnest concern controls us so that we research carefully before giving. Zeal alone does no good, because if it is unchecked, it leads to bad choices. Zeal is controlled by the cheerful bountiful attitude. Such a person will be single-minded in devotion to God and His purposes, and with a sense of humor. Some of the most effective givers I know are poor widows who have adopted missionaries or other needy servants of God, prayed for their programs and have given generously to those they love.

PS. On the ethics of giving:
We give in proportion to wealth. (8:12). We are not expected to give what we don’t have.
We supervise carriers of the treasure (treasurers) carefully. 8:20
Gifting to God is voluntary, not a tax or a dues schedule. 9:5
Gifts are for the poor (9:12), and to provide for God’s servants.

“Though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich”.

“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible Gift.”