Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GIVING BECAUSE YOU WANT TO GIVE”

Second Corinthians 8.3, 17

 

When I came to Christ on the night of March 31, 1974 my recollection is that I did so because I wanted to. No one forced me, though my perceptions of my options were such that I did not much feel like I had a choice. Come to Christ or perish. What a choice. When I went to the Christian Bible study the next day during the lunch hour I did so because I wanted to. No one invited me to the Bible study. Humanly speaking, my attendance at the Bible study was entirely my own idea. Looking back forty years, I now realize that the notion it was entirely my own idea is preposterous, but you get my point. When I was invited to church for the first time several weeks later, I was not forced, coerced, intimidated, or cajoled into attending. My nearest family members were in Portland, Oregon, so family pressure from my non-Christian immediate family members was not an issue. I accepted the invitation because I chose to. I was baptized in response to preaching because I chose to. I attended church faithfully because I chose to. I began to give tithes and offerings faithfully because I chose to.

I think you get the picture. I decided to ask Pamela Franco out to dinner. I decided to ask her out to dinner again, and then again, and then again. I decided to ask her to marry me. A couple of months after we were married I informed my pastor that I felt God was calling me to the gospel ministry. It was my choice to respond to what I felt was the call of God. Looking back, I now understand much more fully the Providence of God, the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart and mind, and the place of God’s precious Word in these life-changing decisions.

Were there times I felt a compulsion to do something that felt strange or unusual to me? Of course, there were many such times. However, the pressure, the compulsion, the inclination, and sometimes even the desire to do certain things, did not come from other individuals, but welled up in my own bosom as a reaction to what I now believe to be the workings of God in my mind and heart through His Spirit, through His Word, through His man, and through His people in the church. Sometimes, of course, as God works in a Christian’s life to bring him from uselessness to usefulness as a disciple of Jesus Christ, it can be wrongly perceived by both the preacher and the individual person that one must be pushed to comply with God’s will and plan for your life. However, this is a misunderstanding of what Paul meant when he wrote, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”[1]

The word persuade does not mean to bully or force, but rather refers to convincing someone or bringing him to a particular point of view or conviction.[2] However, it is not unusual for someone who hears God’s Word taught or preached to think it is the preacher who is trying to push him into actions he does not want to take. Sadly, it is also too frequently the case that some preachers do try to push people by the force of their large personalities to comply with their wishes rather to obey God. The Lord Jesus Christ never did that. The Apostles of Jesus Christ never did that. The pattern for Christian ministry found in the New Testament does not urge that upon any spiritual leader. This does not mean there are no consequences for disobedience and a refusal to comply with God’s demands and commands. It is just that individuals are free to comply with God’s directives and enjoy the blessings, and are also free to remain unmoved and therefore subject to the consequences of their own bad choices.

Because we are preparing for our annual PayCheck Sunday next week, and because this is our annual PayCheck Sunday Banquet, I want to make sure no one of sound mind is confused on this point as it applies to the Christian’s freewill offerings. I will say nothing about tithing this evening, but will focus my remarks on one subject and one subject only, freewill offerings.

A quick look reveals that there are seventeen verses in the Old Testament that make specific reference to freewill offerings given by God’s people according to God’s will.[3] Though we will not look at any of those passages this evening, I am sure you will agree when you look them up and read them yourself that there are two characteristics of freewill offerings referred to in the Old Testament: First, the offerings were to be given solely by those who wanted to give them. Second, God makes it very clear that He really does want His people to give freewill offerings. In the New Testament we do not find the word freewill used at all in connection to giving offerings; at least not that I have found. However, we do find the concept of freewill offerings, especially with respect to Paul’s special offering for the Jewish Christians in Judea who were facing starvation, mentioned in Romans, First Corinthians, and Second Corinthians. This evening I want to bring to your attention a single word the Apostle Paul used in connection with that freewill offering, found in Second Corinthians and used to describe the giving of those Christians he was bragging on to those Christians he was bragging to.

To refresh your memory, Paul was bragging to the Corinthian church members. The Christians he was bragging about were the Macedonian church members, primarily those in the church in Philippi and in the church in Thessalonica. Turn in your Bible to Second Corinthians 8.3, where we see Paul’s evaluation of the Macedonian’s giving:

 

“For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves.”

 

The phrase willing of themselves translates a single Greek word, a noun, described by Rienecker as “voluntarily, of one’s own accord; i.e. ‘spontaneously and voluntarily, out of one’s own initiative, without request and without coercion.’”[4] If there is any doubt whatsoever concerning the meaning of the word, notice the only other place in the New Testament where it is used, in verse 17:

 

“For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.”

 

In this verse the Apostle Paul describes why Titus was the one who took the Second Corinthian letter he had written to them. “Of his own accord he went unto you.” It was entirely Titus’ decision.

Folks, that is exactly what freewill giving in God’s plan and economy is all about, both in the Old Testament and in the New. Let me read to you what one commentator wrote about this concept in Second Corinthians 8.3:

 

“Paul highlighted 3 elements of the Macedonians’ giving which summed up the concept of freewill giving: 1) ‘according to their ability.’ Giving is proportionate— sets no fixed amount or percentage and expects His people to give based on what they have (Luke 6:38; 1 Cor 16:2); 2) ‘beyond their ability.’ Giving is sacrificial. God’s people are to give according to what they have, yet it must be in proportions that are sacrificial (cf. Matt. 6:25-34; Mark 12:41-44; Phil. 4:19); and 3) ‘freely willing’— who chooses his own course of action.’ Giving is voluntary— people are not to give out of compulsion, manipulation, or intimidation. Freewill giving has always been God’s plan (cf. 9:6; Gen. 4:2-4; 8:20; Ex. 25:1,2; 35:4, 5, 21, 22; 36:5-7; Num. 18:12; Deut. 16:10, 17; 1 Chr. 29:9; Prov. 3:9,10; 11:24; Luke 19:1-8). Freewill giving is not to be confused with tithing. . . .”[5]

 

Using his comment for the three main points, let us consider that freewill offerings should be proportionate, should be sacrificial, and yet should also be voluntary. A few comments and we are done:

 

First, WHETHER IT BE YOUR PAYCHECK SUNDAY OFFERING OR YOUR MISSIONS GIVING, OR WHATEVER, YOUR GIVING SHOULD BE PROPORTIONATE

 

Luke 6.38:  “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

 

First Corinthians 16.2:  “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

 

Second Corinthians 8.12-13: 12  For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.

13    For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:

 

Two things:

First, the Apostle Paul is in complete harmony with the Lord Jesus Christ, Who reflected precisely what was taught in the Old Testament about freewill giving in this regard.

Second, no two individuals give the same amount, with the amount of their offerings related to their prosperity (their ability to give) and their willingness to give, understanding of course that God’s response will be in proportion to their offerings.

 

Next, WHETHER IT BE YOUR PAYCHECK SUNDAY OFFERING OR YOUR MISSIONS GIVING, OR WHATEVER, YOUR GIVING SHOULD BE SACRIFICIAL

 

God’s people are to give according to what they have, yet it must be in proportions that are sacrificial:

Consider the Savior’s observation in Mark 12.41-44:

 

41    And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

42    And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

43    And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

44    For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

 

Notice that the Savior held this woman up as an example of giving to His disciples, noting that she gave more in actuality than those who gave far more money. Why so? Greater sacrifice.

Now consider Paul’s assurance to the Philippians in Philippians 4.19, remembering that these were some of those Macedonian Christians he had bragged about to the Corinthians:

 

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

 

Keeping in mind that no one has to give, that giving is a matter of personal choice freely made, it is also appropriate to inform each giver of the principles that are in play with regard to freewill offering. Is this promise that God will supply your need made to you who do not give? No. This is a promise Paul conveys from God to a congregation of people who freely gave in a manner that pleased God. Something to remember. God rewards obedience and He does not reward disobedience.

 

Finally, WHETHER IT BE YOUR PAYCHECK SUNDAY OFFERING OR YOUR MISSIONS GIVING, OR WHATEVER, YOUR GIVING SHOULD BE VOLUNTARY

 

Giving is voluntary — people are not to give out of compulsion, manipulation, or intimidation:

Freewill giving has always been God’s plan, as too many passages to read to you tonight show. However, it is also true that what God wants His children to do He does not always make His children do. As with any wise father, so in this instance, God expresses His will in scripture, explains the surrounding circumstances and consequences in scripture, and then leaves obedience and a desire to honor Him up to you.

What then is the role of the preacher? It depends upon the spirituality and vibrancy of the Christian and the congregation. To the Macedonian Christians, Paul’s involvement was minimal. He made no effort so far as we can tell to educate them or to inform them, much less urge them, to give to his collection. However, the Corinthians were not so spiritual, were not so excited and thrilled at the opportunity to be included in God’s work, in Christian ministry, and in anything that might result in souls brought to Christ, as the Philippians and Thessalonians had been. So, Paul used the example of the Macedonians as a platform to both instruct and to encourage the Corinthians to give freely . . . and they did. It is not the role of the preacher to bully, to intimidate, to guilt motivate, or to in any way harass someone to give. Neither is it the preacher’s role to play the part of the Holy Spirit to decide for you how to spend your money or when and how much your freewill offerings should be. It is the preacher’s task to educate, to illustrate, and to motivate people to obey God in all aspects of life, including their giving.

 

I conclude by reminding you of why I have done the things I have done in my Christian life. I go to church because I want to. I read my Bible because I want to. I pray because I want to. I serve because I want to. I am not suggesting that my desires to do right have always been what they ought to be, but I have found (and God’s Word teaches) that obedient conduct leads to right desires or to desires to do right becoming stronger.

The same is true of giving. When I learned of tithing, that a portion of the money I handle is not my money at all, but God’s, I immediately began to make sure I gave to God what was already His. As a matter of fact I have always given more than my tithe because for twenty-three years I stole God’s tithe, and I wanted to make it up. However, freewill offerings is another thing entirely. Freewill offerings are those gifts to God that are mine to give or not to give, as I consider and choose for myself. My freewill offerings are no one else’s business. Granted, God will deal with me as a Father does his child in relation to my compliance with His will, but it is still my choice.

So, why would I want to give? Why would the Macedonians want to give? Why did the Corinthians and the Romans eventually come to want to give, with the Macedonians being such sterling examples of giving? First, they had new natures. They were born again. God had transformed them (as I preached about a couple of weeks ago) from takers to givers. Second, they understood their situation, that they had no stake in this present world and had a certain future in the world to come, so they invested in eternity. As the Savior said in Matthew 6.21, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Finally, they craved being wholly involved in God’s great plan of redemption, so much so that whatever God was doing they wanted to be a part of, even if it meant giving when they had so very little to give.

I think I have addressed the topic sufficiently this evening. Our PayCheck Sunday offering will be taken up beginning next Sunday morning. You can freely choose to have no part in that offering, and to have no part in the result. You can choose to give sacrificially, which is the way God has always wanted His people to give. Just nickel and diming God, however, has never pleased Him. And you can give proportionally, with those who make more giving more. In the end it is up to you. This principle of giving is not taught or practiced by most independent Baptist churches, sad to say. However, it is the guiding spirit behind everything I have ever taught concerning giving since I arrived. It is called grace giving, and it depends upon God the Holy Spirit working in the hearts and lives of His people to do great things for Christ’s sake and in Christ’s name.

Our church will rise and fall, will live and die, on the principle of grace giving. Therefore, what our PayCheck Sunday offering turns out to be will be exactly what God’s people, as prompted by God’s Spirit, in response to God’s Word, decide to freely give.



[1] 2 Corinthians 5.11

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 791-792.

[3] Leviticus 22.18, 21, 23; 23.38; Numbers 15.3; 29.39; Deuteronomy 12.6, 17; 16.10; 23.23; 2 Chronicles 31.14; Ezra 1.4; 3.5; 7.13, 16; 8.28; Psalm 119.108

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 479.

[5] See footnote for 2 Corinthians 8.3 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1775.


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