'Tis the season … for financial giving requests! Just around the corner is the annual end-of-year flurry of requests for financial donations. Postcards, emails, Facebook posts, requests from the pulpit, and people ringing bells outside of department stores will all be asking: “Are you willing to give?”
Are you ready? Do you have in your mind an idea, a pattern, a Biblical strategy for pondering where, how, and to whom you give? Do you have a plan, not just for a few months, but for a practice of faithful generosity 12 months of the year?
A fascinating little passage in 2 Corinthians offers much practical guidance in this area. In 2 Corinthians 8:16-24, Paul commends a visitation team coming to Corinth. The team’s task? Collect a financial gift that will be distributed to poor believers in Jerusalem.
In the text, Paul seems to be answering an anticipated question of the Corinthian church: “Why give to these guys? Why support their mission?” Paul’s answer gives 5 points of practical guidance to any Christian pondering how to practice faithful generosity.
1. Rejoice and give where you see love for God’s people. Titus (v16-17, 23) is commended to Corinth because of his “earnest care” for the Corinthian people. Titus, unlike so many of today’s televangelists and pleaders for your money, is known for heartfelt love for God’s people. His request for their giving will actually flow from his love for the givers, and not simply love for himself, or even those who will receive the funds.
Titus reveals great questions we can ask when we are asked to give: “Does the person, ministry, or church asking for money care about my soul, or do they just care about my wallet? Do I sense this plea is coming out of genuine love for me/us as the redeemed of Christ?”
2. Rejoice and give where you see gospel proclamation. Paul sends to Corinth a brother “famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel” (v18). Paul assumes the presence of the famous gospel preacher will motivate Corinthian giving. Now, the point isn’t for Corinth (or us) to be in awe of fame. Ironically, Paul doesn’t even mention this famous preacher’s name!
The point is that gospel preaching should motivate gospel giving. Where we see the work of Jesus Christ proclaimed to the world, our heart should be stirred to give.
3. Rejoice and give where you see well-administered finances (v19-21). Paul takes pains to assure Corinth that the money will be handled well. The messengers are church-appointed (v19). The team will travel together to Jerusalem – no one is carrying the money alone! Paul will “aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (v21).
In giving, look for places where you find yourself confident that you know how your money is being used. Learn to ask good questions about an organization’s or church’s finances. Be willing to say “no” if you aren’t comfortable – not to be stingy, but so you can give where love for God's people and gospel proclamation combines with faithful financial administration.
4. Rejoice and give where you see tested love for Christ (v22). The 3rd man on the visitation team is known that he is “often tested and found earnest in many matters” (v22). This isn’t his first rodeo in sacrificial service for Jesus’ church. Tests have come, and he’s passed them. His record reveals his trustworthiness.
Confidence grows when you give to ministry efforts with trusted, tested records. Such ministries become like a well-tended garden that produces luscious fruit year-by-year. The joy for us becomes the experience of supplying water to the garden and contemplating the fruit you know is forthcoming.
5. Rejoice and give where you see the glory of Christ (v23). Paul describes the visiting brothers as “messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ”. What an expression! In 2 Corinthians 4:6 speaks of the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. Jesus Christ manifests, is, the glory of God Himself. And where does Christ manifest that glory now? The churches of Christ.
Individual, local congregations are the glory of Christ. Flaws, pains, sins, frustrations, and all, yes. But united to Christ, they bear the glory of Christ.
And this presence of glory ought to drive generosity toward glory. We give because we love Christ. We give because we love His glory. And so we give, with a measure of priority, to the local church.
Love for God's people, gospel proclamation, well-administered finances, tested service, and the glory of Christ. Here we find a simple paradigm that requires then from us wisdom, prayer, and a heart of sacrifice.
So this season, and every season, prayerfully consider how in your giving you would reveal a love for God and His church, the glory of Christ.