When we were up north, we went to get ice cream in Lewiston. They have playground equipment shaped like a truck, train, and tractor. My grandson, Henry, against his grandparents wishes, climbed on top of the train caboose (about 6 feet high) and yelled at his dad to catch him. Then he jumped. He trusted his dad. He did this several times.
Giving is like that. It is a matter of faith – we trust our Heavenly Father to catch us as we jump. We obey God and believe that He will meet our needs as we give to others.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. In a recent sermon from 2 Corinthians 8:13-24, I shared three words that helped understand giving by faith.
BALANCE (2 Corinthians 8:13)
“For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened” (2 Corinthians 8:13). There is a balance in giving. Giving is not meant to alleviate the distress of others at the expense of your own. Paul wanted the Corinthians to give generously but not to the extent that those who depended on them (their families, for example) would suffer from having too little. Give until it hurts, but don’t give so that it hurts your family or relatives who need your financial support.
EQUALITY (2 Corinthians 8:14-15)
There is an equality in giving. The Corinthian believers had been dependent on the Jerusalem believers because they sent out the wonderful message of salvation. Now the Jerusalem believers can be dependent on the Corinthian believers for financial support. This is reciprocal giving.
Paul refers to manna when he says, “he that gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:15). God provided this miraculous food for the Jews during their wilderness wandering every day – just enough to take care of them. But rather than miraculously providing for the needs of believers today, God uses His people through Spirit-led sharing. Those who have more should give to help those who have less.
Paul is not talking about socialism or communism. The early church voluntarily gave what they have to help the needs of others. That is Christian charity. Socialism is a form of theft – taking from someone to give to another.
ACCOUNTABILITY (2 Corinthians 8:16-24)
“Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21). Though we should trust God about our giving, we should also trust men to handle our gifts appropriately. Though we give by faith, this does not mean we give by chance. The Christian who shares with others must be sure what he gives is managed honestly and faithfully.
Paul counseled how the offering should be handled. Three men were in charge of collecting and distributing the money. Paul lists five descriptions that we can apply today for those who handle money today. Only qualified people should handle financial responsibilities.
- A God-given desire to serve (16-17)
- A burden to share the Gospel (18)
- A desire to honor God (19)
- A reputation for diligence and honesty (20-22)
- A cooperative spirit (23-24)
Too often churches choose people on skill rather than character to handle money. Paul’s example is that only spiritually qualified people should handle financial responsibilities.
Why should we be so careful who handles the money? Because the money belongs to God. These men Paul mentioned were accountable to the Lord and to others. If the people who manage church finances are not burdened to honor God they will soon be using those funds in ways that dishonor God. When people give money to churches, missionaries, ministries or charities, they trust that their money will be used wisely and carefully. That sacred trust must be guarded.
One of the most spiritual things a church can do is use its money wisely for spiritual ministry. We glorify God by using what He gives us the way He wants it used.
We are to give by faith. We should trust that as we give, He will give to us. I found an old story that illustrates the challenge to give.
A thirsty desert traveler comes upon a strange site. Before him stands a rundown hut. Nearby is a well, the only source of water for miles around. Attached to the pump is a thin baking powder can with a message inside, written in pencil on a sheet of brown wrapping paper. This is the message…
“This pump is all right as of June 1932. I put a new sucker washer into it and it ought to last five years. But, the washer dries out and the pump has got to be primed. Under the white rock I buried a bottle of water, out of the sun and the cork end up. There‘s enough water in it to prime this pump, but not if you drink some water first. Pour in about 1/4, and let her soak to wet the leather. Then pour in the rest medium fast, and begin to pump. You‘ll get water. The well never has run dry. Have faith. When you get watered up, fill the bottle, and put it back like you found it for the next feller. Signed, Desert Pete
P.S. Don’t go drinking up all the water first! Prime the pump and you can get all the water you want.”
Now consider that you are the person who comes up to the well and are very thirsty. What will you do? You really have two choices. Drink a little water immediately, or obey the note and find limitless water for yourself and future travelers. So the real question is, how are you doing with that journey of faith right now? Are you gulping a few swallows and getting by, or are you looking at the larger picture and finding faith and nourishment that before that moment of discovery in the desert you did not know existed?