READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l Corinth was a very rich city because of its vibrant trades and ideal location. Living standards increased as people were more affluent. With affluence came a sense of individualism that values self-sufficiency, i.e. greedy and self-centredness. Wealth was the key to status in society, money spoke everything. People were merit-driven; the more accomplishments, the more credentials one had would make it more likely for one to be accepted in society. They were very competitive for honour; when opportunities arose, many would go for it because of pride and glory. Classism gave rise to different classes and the association will reflect the pride. The sense of drive and obsession for material wealth to improve one’s status was very common. Do you find this familiar today?
Corinth and many other Roman cities were steeped in Roman religious practices. A god would be real if it provided and protected. Therefore, the people prayed to gods they knew for business, favour in travels, etc. The value of religion would be measured by the amount of power displayed by the deity. First century worshippers (regardless of religious affiliation) wanted health, wealth, protection and sustenance, not moral transformation. People came to church for connections and profit, than for encountering Christ. False prophets in the early church preached health and wealth gospel messages, riding on the culture that prosperity and prestige were God’s blessings (2 Cor 11:13-15). They capitalised on the people’s love of money and prestige to enslave and trap them. Paul called them out as false apostles and deceitful workers as they attacked Paul’s authenticity as a leader in the Corinthian church. They claimed that Paul’s Christ was poor while the Christ that the false prophets worshipped was rich.
Against this backdrop, it was challenging for Paul to offer a suffering Christ who abandons wealth and riches, for love and reconciliation. We are accountable to God and not peddlers for money (2 Cor 2:17). The early church had no problems being in the world and of the world. Let us reflect:
- Have we become materialistic Christians?
- Have wealth and possessions robbed us of our faith and trust in God?
- Do you shun away from a poor Christ and only seek to embrace a “rich” Christ?
- Why do you give today?
Do we give because we want more from God? That was how the false prophets and preachers had led the Corinthian church to believe. This is still a popular message today.
Christians must have a good theology of giving. If not, our faith will not be strong. We need to be strong and resilient. We will be feeble and waver in our faith if we think that God or the church manipulates us if we do not give. Our view of God matters, and it influences our giving and our lifestyle.
Why should we give? (V6-10)
In 2 Cor 9:6-10, Paul referenced Deuteronomy 15:10 to call on the people to give generously. The context of Deut 15 was set being generous (esp to the poor) on the 7th year in relation to the Jewish law of Sabbath. The key is not to be greedy and stingy. Throughout history, a generous heart attracts more business and dealings. Therefore, if we sow generously, we will reap abundantly. Greed does not get rewarded, generosity does. As disciples, we are called to be generous!
What does my giving mean to God and the church? (V11-15)
When we live as generous Christians, our giving fulfils the mission of the church. It results in thanksgiving to God. Our giving means commitment to the church. Our generous giving reflects our belief in God and His character. The early church models this generous giving so powerfully, it reflected who God was to everyone. Our God is so generous, that He left His heavenly riches and came down to offer His life as a ransom for many. When people see that Christians are generous, they see a God who is generous, and they start believing in Him. Churches should be loving, gracious and generous. Generosity is the mark of who God is to the world.
How should we give? (V7)
2 Corinthians 9:7 reminds us that we must give as we have made up our mind to, not reluctantly or under compulsion. Giving is out of free will and love. Scriptures affirm that intentional, thoughtful, and planned giving makes us cheerful givers. God loves cheerful givers, but we should also plan to give generously within our means. Giving is recognising the surpassing grace of God!
Our lifestyle reflects who God is. Biblical giving:
- Is generous giving!
- Is about our gratitude to God for giving Jesus to us!
- Affirms our obedience to Jesus!
- Is intentional, thoughtful, cheerful giving!
- Reflects to others that God is loving and gracious!
God gives generously. Let us redeem back what Biblical Giving is through our generous giving as we pledge to God our financial commitment to church.
(Sermon notes by Honey Vreugdewater)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- Why should we give to church? What are some challenges, questions or mis-conceptions we often have when it comes to giving?
- Verse 6 is often quoted out of context – that those who want more from God ought to give more. Do you think this is true? What are some issues that can arise from this belief?
- What are some principles / guidelines from Scripture about giving we can learn from v7-11?
- How does planned giving (Pledging) help the church in its ministries? (V12-13)
- According to v15 – our giving ought to be from the perspective of gratitude. How can we give obediently and consistently from this posture?