A farmer came in to the house and told his wife, “It’s a great day! Our cow had two calves. We were expecting one, but God gave us two. So we should be thankful and give one of them back to God. We will sell it and give the money to help the poor.” The next morning he came in sad and said, “It’s a bad day! God’s calf died.”
What this farmer didn’t realize was that both calves belonged to God. Everything we have belongs to God. He had not learned to be generous. How can we learn to be more generous?
Jesus is always the best example to follow. In a world filled with materialism, strong political opinions and clashing philosophies and religions, it isn’t always easy to live like Jesus.
This is true when it comes to giving. Jesus is a giver. And it can be difficult to know how to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in the area of giving. But Paul shares three principles in 2 Corinthians 8:5-9.
How can we give like Jesus?
1 – Give yourself to God first.
Paul praised the Macedonians because they first gave themselves to God. They had dedicated themselves to God and expressed a desire to follow God wherever that may lead.
“…first gave their own selves to the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 8:5)
This is the way Jesus gave. Jesus gave Himself – all He had and was – to God (Gal. 1:4; 2:20).
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
If we give ourselves to God, we will have little problem giving our substance to God. When we recognize that our life is not our own, we will not think that our possession are our own. It is easy to surrender part when you have already given the whole.
Those who surrender their lives to the Lord are in a position to give beyond their ability, like the Macedonians. What we have is not ours to keep. We are simply managers on behalf of the true owner.
There is a lesson here: It won’t do any good to give our possessions to God unless we have given ourselves. In fact, it can be dangerous. We may be tempted to imagine that giving stuff is enough. Giving stuff instead of ourselves is a poor substitute.
Jesus can have our money without our hearts, but He cannot have our hearts without our money.
2 – Give from a heart of love.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to grow in the grace of giving. Too often Christians see giving different than other aspects of following Jesus. We want to grow in our faith, knowledge and love. But we decide to stop at a fixed percentage of giving for life. Following Jesus involves seeing our giving grow – abounding and increasing in the grace of giving just like other aspects of our Christian life.
“…prove the sincerity of your love.” (2 Corinthians 8:8)
Giving is a true test and proof of our love. It should be motivated by our love just like Jesus. Jesus gave because He loved His Father an us.
You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving.
3 – Give sacrificially.
Paul had been using the Macedonians as an example of grace giving – giving like Jesus. But now He names Jesus as the example.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The Corinthian church was a wealthy church. They had pledged some money to help the poor in Jerusalem but had not carried through with their commitment. Paul was concerned that they might not get around to giving so he gave them two examples.
The Macedonians were poor and still gave. Jesus was rich and became poor to give. Don’t miss the contrast. Though the Macedonians were poor, they gave as if they were rich. Though Jesus was rich, He lived like He was poor. Jesus sacrificed for others.
Though rich, Jesus sacrificed and became poor for us. The tense of the verb indicates that it refers to His incarnation, His birth at Bethlehem. Philippians 2 describes this humble stepping down. Why did He do this? So we could become spiritually rich.
What Christ had done for the Corinthians (the grace of Christ), the Corinthians are to do for the poor Jews in Jerusalem.
Sacrifice is giving up something that matters for something that matters more.
Are you giving like Jesus? Have you given Him yourself first? Are you giving from a heart of love? Are you giving sacrificially?