Written by Bob Williams
In 2 Peter 1:5-7, Peter talks about some very important qualities that we as Christians ought to strive to add to our lives. These qualities have often been referred to as the Christian Graces. It seems strange that that particular term is used since the word ‘grace’ is not found in this passage. But consider the original Greek word for ‘grace’ and its meaning. Grace is from the Greek word charis/5485, which is found approximately 156 times in the NT. This definition is given by Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon:
As seen, there are 2 aspects to grace:
And so how does that fit with these qualities that Peter mentions? If we have these qualities, then we will be the source of graciousness. If we have added to our faith such qualities as moral excellence, self-control, godliness, and brotherly love, then indeed we and those around us will be blessed with joy, pleasure, delight, and loveliness.
Or, as Peter says in v8-11, if we grow in these graces, then we will neither be barren nor useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says that these qualities can keep us from falling; they can help us and others make it to Heaven!
Abound in This Grace Also
With all that in mind, look at 2 Corinthians chapter 8. Here in this chapter, Paul refers to some of the same qualities that Peter talks about, and he too says that Christians need to abound in them; but Paul adds a further Christian Grace in which those at Corinth needed to abound!
2 Corinthians 8:7
Paul is talking about the grace of giving. Notice from v7, despite some of their shortcomings, apparently the Corinthian church was abounding in many wonderful qualities:
But what about the grace of giving?!? Paul says, “See that you abound in this grace also.” You see, the church in Corinth had not yet proved themselves in this area. Paul commended them on all these other things, but giving was something they still needed to work on.
And what about us today? Just like the folks in Corinth, if we are going to be growing in Christ, then we too need to grow and abound in the grace of giving.
Why Should We Give?
1. We should give because God has given so much to us.
2 Corinthians 8:9
Remember the 2 aspects of the word ‘grace’.
2. We should give because we want to be more like Jesus.
3. We should give because God wants us to be giving people.
Numerous verses and passages wherein we as Christians are told that we are to be giving (just a few):
Bible Examples of Giving
What does the Bible say about the manner in which God’s people are to give? First, look at the OT practice of tithing. The word “tithing” comes from the Hebrew word ma`aser/06240, meaning “the tenth part.” There are several references in Scripture to the OT practice of tithing:
We today as Christians are not under that OT law which gave them specific instructions on exactly how they were to give (see Deuteronomy 5:1-3; that covenant of law was given specifically to the nation of Israel). So let us look to the writings of the NT to see some examples of giving among the early Christians…
Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37
These Christians in the early church did a remarkable thing; no one told them they had to share and give in the manner that they did. But many of them had surely heard Jesus teach about love and giving, and they had just been filled with the Holy Spirit who would help them to be more like Jesus and to walk and live as He would in a loving and giving manner.
And here was a need right there in front of them. Thousands of people had come to Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost and had become Christians; suddenly their lives were dramatically altered. Many could not go back to their old way of life. Many were now cut off from their families. Many could not return to their idolatrous ways of work. There was no law that said they had to do exactly what they did, but the law of love already instilled in their hearts compelled these early Christians to give. Those who had… gave to those who did not have! (One could not command by law and get this kind of giving.)
Notice the apostles realized they could not effectively do the spiritual work they were called to do if they left that work to tend to some of the daily physical needs of the people around them (just as elders cannot tend to their responsibilities…). Also notice, however, that they did realize that the work of taking care of those who had needs was of great importance (thus the demand for and the creation of deacons).
It’s interesting! The care of the church in Jerusalem for those in need, and their subsequent generosity to those in need, was so great that it took 7 men full of faith and the Holy Spirit to administer this great program for those who were in need. Do you think those Christians in Jerusalem had a good reputation? Surely they came to be known as people who truly cared about people in need, who cared enough to give.
Where was Paul when he wrote this letter to the church at Rome? He was likely in Corinth, and it was probably a year or so before that that he had written to the Corinthian church about their participation in this collection for Jerusalem…
Note: Paul apparently actually wrote at least 4 letters to Corinth:
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Question: Did they immediately set out to diligently do what Paul said here to do?
What is Paul’s strategy to motivate them to give?
All these things Paul said to motivate them; but notice one thing that Paul did not do:
There had been no law demanding that every Christian…
They should have; there was certainly a need. But despite what we’ve often heard said, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 was not an absolute command laid upon all Christians for all time. It was Paul’s instructions for those who were intending to give to the poor in Jerusalem on how they were to save their money so that it would be ready when Paul came to get it.
Paul’s plea with them to give in 2 Corinthians 8-9 is not based upon a command of law. He said, “I’m not commanding you to do this; you don’t have to participate in this special contribution for Jerusalem. But… you said you were going to do it, and they really need it, and now it’s time to prove the sincerity of the love that ought to be in you.”
Let me be clear:
“Lay by Him in Store”
1 Corinthians 16:2 KJV says, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store.”
Consider these quotes from two commentaries… First, many are interested in the early Greek fathers, and their interpretation of various passages. These are the words of John Chrysostom (about 375 A.D.) in his Forty-third Homily on First Corinthians:
He said not, “let him bring it into the church,” lest they might feel ashamed because of the smallness of the sum; but having by gradual additions swelled his contribution, let him then produce it, when I am come, but for the present lay it up, saith he, at home, and make thine house a church, thy little box a treasury. Become a guardian of sacred wealth, a self-ordained steward of the poor. Thy benevolent mind assigns thee to this priesthood.
An opposing view is expressed by Charles Hodge, in his Commentary on First Corinthians; he says:
Every one was to lay by himself, i.e., most modern commentators say at home, par eauto. Compare pros eauto in Luke 24:12; see also John 20:10. The direction then is that every one would lay aside at home whatever he was able to give, thus treasuring up his contributions. To this interpretation it may be objected that the whole expression is thus obscure and awkward. ‘Let every one at home place, treasuring up what he has to give.’ The words do not mean to lay by at home, but to lay by himself, i.e., let him take to himself what he means to give. What he was to do with it, or where he was to deposit it, is not expressed. The word thesaurizo means putting into the treasury or hoarding up, and is perfectly consistent with the assumption that the place of deposit was some common treasury and not every man’s house. If Paul directed this money to be laid up at home, why was the first day of the week selected? It is evident that the first day must have offered some special facility for doing what is here enjoined. The only reason that can be assigned for requiring the thing to be done on the first day of the week, is, that on that day the Christians were accustomed to meet, and what each one laid aside from his daily gains could be treasured up, i.e., put into the common treasury of the church.
Regardless of whether Paul intended for them to save at home or put it into a common treasury, the general meaning of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 is that, if they were going to give to the poor in Jerusalem, those in Corinth were to have their gift ready for Paul when he came.
How Should We Give Today?
While we as Christians are not under a legalistic law that gives us specific details on our giving, again, we are indeed commanded to be giving people, and thus we ought to look for opportunities to give.
1. We should give to the work of the church.
2. Not only should we give to the church, but we should also give to other needs and good works.
3. We should give without looking for praise or credit.
In his commentary, Matthew Henry said:
What was the practice of the hypocrites about this duty? They did it indeed, but not from any principle of obedience to God, or love to man, but in pride and vain-glory; not in compassion to the poor, but purely for ostentation, that they might be extolled as good men, and so might gain an interest in the esteem of the people, with which they knew how to serve their own turn, and to get a great deal more than they gave.
Pursuant to this intention, they chose to give their alms in the synagogues, and in the streets, where there was the greatest concourse of people to observe them, who applauded their liberality because they shared in it, but were so ignorant as not to discern their abominable pride. Probably they had collections for the poor in the synagogues, and the common beggars haunted the streets and highways, and upon these public occasions they chose to give their alms. [quote continued on next page]
Not that it is unlawful to give alms when men see us; we may do it; but not that men may see us; we should rather choose those objects of charity that are less observed. The hypocrites, if they gave alms to their own houses, sounded a trumpet, under pretence of calling the poor together to be served, but really to proclaim their charity, and to have that taken notice of and made the subject of discourse.”
Mark 12:41-44 Remember those that gave large amounts, presumably to be noticed; the widow who gave her two small coins surely received no praise or credit from others.
Poem called “I Wonder” by Ruth Harms Calkin
You know, Lord, how I serve You / With great emotional fervor / In the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for You / At a women’s club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote / A fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm / At a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder / If You pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet / Of a bent and wrinkled old woman
Day after day / Month after month
In a room where nobody saw / And nobody knew.
4. We should give as generously as possible.
Give as you would if an angel awaited your gift at the door.
Give as you would if tomorrow found your giving here all o’er.
Give as you would to the Master if you met His loving look.
Give as you would of your substance if His hand the offering took.
The Joy of Giving
Acts 20: 33-35 (near end of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey, called for elders from Ephesus to meet him)
Remember where else we see Jesus using the word “blessed?” Back in the beatitudes in His sermon on the mount, recorded in Matthew chapter 5. Remember what the word “blessed” really means? It’s from the Greek word makarios/3107, meaning “blessed, happy!”
2 Corinthians 9:7 “God loves a cheerful giver.” The word cheerful is from Greek word hilaros/2431, from which we get the word hilarious. That’s when you’re just beside yourself with joy and happiness! Our Lord wants us to learn that we will be a lot happier when we give than when we receive!
Mark 10:17-22 Jesus said: You’ve got to start giving, but the rich young ruler was more concerned with having!
Luke 12:16-21 The rich farmer thought he would be happy because he had a great deal of wealth, but Jesus knew better. Jesus knew the only way for him (and anyone) to be truly happy was to start giving.
Luke 12:15 (Jesus gives the reason for telling this parable)
Happiness comes, true joy comes when one is freed from his slavery to things, when one realizes that joy is not found in having or receiving, but it is found in giving!
Give and It Will Be Given to You
Luke 6:38 One who gives generously is not going to run out!
Matthew 6:25-34 God promises to take care of us; we are of great value to Him!
2 Corinthians 9:8-11 God will not let you run out!
The Bible promises us over and over again that when we learn to be more giving, our Lord will truly be giving to us. He promises us that we will be richly blessed!
Malachi 3:10 (God says to Israel), “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” The KJV renders that last part, “…that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
We’ve got to learn to trust God with our investment to Him and to others.
Where is Your Heart?
Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
There was once a man who found himself in the position of doing a biography of a man who had since passed away. He set out trying to learn all that he could about the man, but even after talking to all sorts of people, he still felt that he hadn’t quite grasped the man’s true character. But then one day he found the man’s old check stubs; there he found what he was really looking for, because there he found the things that really meant the most to that man.
Maybe from time to time we need to do the same thing…
Seriously, these things are not wrong in and of themselves, but we might find that a lot of our money is going for things that really aren’t that important compared with spiritual things. How much of our money is going to God? To the work of God? And to other good works? Are we truly laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven?
Have you really given your heart to God? Someday every one of us will stand before God on the Day of Judgement. And some of us may have a hard time explaining how we spent so much on ourselves and so little on God and others. May God help all of us to grow in the grace of giving.