Ready To Give
2 Corinthians 8:16-9:5
Key Verse 9:3
“But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be.”
There is a story of a little boy and his mother. One day the mother gives her son two quarters, and she says to her son: “Son, I’m giving you two quarters; one quarter is for you to go buy candy; the other quarter is for you to put in the offering plate in church.” As the mother and son were walking to church, the little boy accidentally drops one of the quarters and it rolls straight into a nearby sewer. The little boy looks at the other quarter in his hand, then look up to God and says: “Sorry God, that was your quarter.” It is not easy to give, whether it be to God or someone else. Whether it be a financial gift or an act of service, giving is not easy. As we study this section, let us learn the heart of giving and learn to be ready to give.
Let’s read verse 16-17 together. “Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.” Why is Paul thanking God so much? He is thanking God for his work in Titus’ life. What had God done in Titus’ life? Looking at verse 16 again, we see that God had put into his heart the same concern Paul had regarding the Corinthian church. Paul had a deep concern for this church regarding the area of giving. Verse 17 says that an appeal was made to Titus. What was this appeal Paul is talking about? The appeal is actually found back in verse 6 of chapter 8. It says, “So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.” The appeal is that Titus would go and help the Corinthians finish what they started, which was the act of grace. This act of grace was prompted out of need. Verses 13-14 tell us that there was a need in the church. A financial response to the need was necessary. As stated last week in the message, the Corinthians started with the desire to give but after sometime, their desire dissipated. They needed to be reminded to give again. So, Titus was asked to go to them for this matter.
How did Titus respond to this appeal? Titus took this appeal to heart when he heard it. He was eager and determined to help the brothers and sisters in Christ at Jerusalem. This is the kind of heart we should have when we hear of those in need. Let us think about the last time we heard of someone in need or even just going through a rough time. Do we remember where our heart was in that moment that we received the news? Did we just dismiss it? Did we care about them? Did our hearts move with compassion to reach out and lend a helping hand? Our hearts should be in a place where we long for and are eager to help others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. In Galatians 6:10 it says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” We should be willing to give to all people but this is especially true in regards to God’s children. Our hearts should go out to them when we hear about them suffering. Our hearts should break when their basic needs aren’t being met. Our hearts should be filled with a deep desire to help them. May God continue to shape our hearts to have this same attitude, to have a genuine desire to help those in need. Amen.
This desire to serve and to give is what Paul wanted the Corinthians to have. Titus shared in Paul’s heart. He wanted to make sure that the issue of offering was correctly addressed, teaching and answering any questions the Corinthians might have. But there is something crucially important about the way Titus would be coming to them. He would not simply come and bring a boring lecture with a monotone voice, or come and express deep anger over the Corinthians lack of giving. So, how would Titus be coming to them? Titus was going to see them with a cheerful heart. Verse 17 says that he was going to Corinth with enthusiasm and of his own initiative. This is the kind of person you want coming to talk to you about money and to collect an offering, someone with a heart full of cheerfulness and deep enthusiasm. Imagine if Elson Robinson our official Triton-UBF Presider for example, came to collect from you the conference fee for the 2020 conference at Wheaton college, saying “You better pay your conference fee or else! Give me the money!” Or, what if he tried to compel you to pay your fee with a very monotone voice? I don’t know how well that would go. But thankfully Elson is not like that. He is not the kind of person who will flare up with anger or speak on offering without heart. The same thing can be said about Titus! Titus was a man of heart, a man of character, the right kind of man to go help the Corinthians.
Now even though Titus was fully qualified to go to the Corinthians on his own, Paul was not going to have him go alone. Let’s look at verse 18 and see who else is coming with Titus. It says, “And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.” Why would Paul not just have Titus sent to the Corinthians by himself since he is fully qualified? You see, the issue isn’t whether or not Titus is qualified. The reason why sending one person alone is not a good idea is that church funds and offerings are a delicate matter. The handling of church funds and offerings should not be taken lightly. We all know how eager the devil is to divide churches and to malign gospel servants. How easy it would be for him to plant doubt in the handling of church funds and offerings. We know how many churches and servants’ reputations have been ruined by money scandals! Therefore, regardless of the integrity of Titus’ reputation as an honest servant of God, Paul wisely wanted to send a companion with him to avoid any misunderstandings.
The name of this brother being sent with Titus is not mentioned. But there is something that Paul tells us about him. Paul tells us that this brother is someone who is praised by all the churches. What is this man praised for doing? For serving the gospel of Christ! The ESV Bible of verse 18 says that this brother was famous! This is someone who has really given his time and his life to serving the gospel. He is someone who has not wasted time on meaningless things. He was someone who did not fail to give himself fully to the gospel work. There is only one reason that would compel a person to give their whole life sacrificially to serving the gospel work. It is their love for Jesus. Loving Jesus with all ones heart, mind, soul and strength will compel someone to go all out and live a life of gospel mission. This brother was chosen by the churches because of his deep love and commitment to Jesus, demonstrated by his life of mission. This is the kind of person Paul and the church trusts. With people like this, the offering they carry is never a matter of heartless business but a genuine love of Christ.
Let’s read verses 19-21. “What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” Paul says that he wants to avoid any criticism in the way this gift is administered or dealt with. The reason for this is that Paul wants to make sure that nothing can be said about anybody stealing any money or handling the offering inappropriately. That is why Paul sends Titus and another coworker, so that no one can claim that something went wrong. And as if these two wonderful and honest coworkers were not enough, Paul actually sent a third individual to accompany them. Verse 22 says: “In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.” This person too is not given a name, but Paul does describe his character as well. He has proven to be zealous in many ways throughout his Christian life. But Paul tells us that now this person is more zealous than usual because of his confidence in the Corinthians. In other words, he has great confidence that the Corinthian church will give and will do so generously. They may not have kept their hearts open to serving Christ in this way, yet this servant has full assurance that they will not fail to sacrificially give. Paul is sending three wonderful, passionate, encouraging people to help the Corinthians in the area of giving. Three people who long to see the Corinthian church, and who are confident that the church will not fail in this area.
Paul continues to write in verse 23, “As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.” So these people Paul is sending are not just random individuals. They are people whose credibility can be verified. If anyone had any doubts or second thoughts about the individuals being sent to Corinth to be stewards of the monetary funds and offerings, all they would need to do is ask the many members of any of the churches and their honesty and credibility could easily be vouched for. Offerings like the one being offered by the Corinthians should be handled with care, deep respect and with the highest honor. I thank God we have people like Sh. Dawn and Sh. Wendy who serve the offering collection every week. They work with all their heart to ensure that everything is handled correctly. As someone who handles daily bread money, sometimes I have been called into account why certain numbers don’t add up. And that’s why they handle the offerings and why I shouldn’t! May God give us the grace to view and handle all offerings and sacrifices with deep concern and love.
Let us read chapter 9, verses 1-5 together. “There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we— not to say anything about you— would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.”
In this first section of chapter 9 we see a word that repeats several times. This word is ready. We see this word in v. 2, 3 and 5. What does it mean to be ready? It means to be prepared, to have what you need, to not be lacking anything. When someone is ready, it means that they can move forward because they have what is necessary. They can act or move in whatever direction needed. Let’s illustrate what it means to be ready with an example from the bible. When Peter met Christ, he was a simple fisherman. He had a failed fishing night and was mulling over his failure. But then Jesus came and issued a challenge to him. “Put out into deep water, and let the nets down for a catch.” (Luke 5:4) Peter obeyed and did as Jesus asked. Then he witnessed first hand a miracle of an overly abundant catch of fish. In that moment, Peter recognized immediately that who was with him was no ordinary man. He realized that Jesus was holy and that he himself was nothing but a wretched sinner. In his despaired situation he was ready to quit everything. But Jesus helped him become ready to be blessed instead! He told him: “Don’t be afraid from now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:10). Jesus blessed Peter and sets him on a new life direction to follow Jesus. What did Peter do after all of this? The bible says that [Peter] “…left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11b) This is amazing! When he was ready to despair and to quit, Jesus helped him; And Peter was now ready to live for Christ and to offer his life and all to Christ. Paul doesn’t use the word “ready” lightly in this passage. Only Christ can enable us to get ready to do the right thing for him. Especially when it comes to offering, one’s heart has to be ready. Paul wanted to make sure that the hearts of the Corinthians were ready to make that offering when Titus arrived.
Paul sent his coworkers to the church in order to make sure the preparations for their offering was ready. Why did Paul want them to be ready? To start off with, Paul had already been boasting to those in Macedonia that the Corinthian church was ready to give since last year! The resulting fruit of this was that those in Macedonia were stirred to action. The word for stirred used here is the term erethizo. The word means to stir up, excite, stimulate, to provoke. Something happened to the Macedonians when they heard the news about the Corinthian readiness to offer! It’s as if the Holy Spirit was working on their hearts and all of the sudden, an urgency to participate and to give came rushing up in their souls. But what brought this stirring in their hearts? It was the testimony of the Corinthians giving. A testimony of someone else’s act of sacrifice can stir up someone else to rise to the call of sacrifice. When we are ready to give, our testimony could be the very thing God wants to use to stir up others to give.
According to verse 3, Paul was sending the brothers to the church in order that their boasting of the Corinthians may not prove hollow. What would make this boasting of Paul hollow, empty and meaningless? Paul’s boasting would be hollow if the Corinthians were not found ready to give. If they were not ready to give, then this glorious testimony that God had used to work in the hearts of others would be sapped of its power. And then the result would be that others may lose heart to give and be greatly discouraged. Paul wanted to make sure that this testimony he had been giving was solid and true. In the same way, we also should be sure that our testimony is solid and true. If someone testifies about us that we are Christians, that we are sacrificial, that we love to pray and to read the bible, that we are more than willing to give and if someone comes to see us and finds that what has been said about us is not true, then our testimony will lose its power and God can no longer use it to minister to others. We need to make sure that our testimony is not found to be hollow.
Verse 5 reads, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.” Why else did Paul want the Corinthians to be ready to give? He wanted the offering to be ready because if it was ready, then it could be given generously. What kind of gift would you rather receive on your birthday, a wholehearted willing and generous gift from someone’s heart, or a reluctant half hearted gift given from someone who seems as if he or she were forced into giving you a gift? When someone gives a gift, you want them to be ready to give. If someone is ready to give, then they can give generously. Giving generously means that you have the right attitude, that as you are giving your heart is full of grace and cheer. It is not a burden to give but rather a delight. You are able to give your gift freely and joyfully!
Who is then able to give like this? Anyone who can recall all that Jesus has done for them; Pulling you up from the miry clay and setting you on the rock; Rescuing you from the dominion of darkness and bringing you into the kingdom of light; Showing you love when you sin against him; Having his arms open to receive you and pour his mercy on you; Willing to stay committed to making you like him no matter what happens in your life. The person who can give like this is the person who can recall that it was Jesus who gave it all on the cross, to save those he loves. When one remembers all of this, then it is not a burden to give but a joy. You can then be ready to give. This is what Paul is referring to in verse 5. You see it is not enough to just give a gift to the Lord. Our heart needs to be in the right place. It is not good enough to give something to someone, whether a physical blessing or an act of service, and to have a bad grudging attitude as one does it. Our attitude can make even the best gift unacceptable, not just to people but also to God.
To conclude, I am going to confess something now, something that is not easy but I hope it gives glory to God. Recently, some people were invited to our home to have a time of food, fellowship and encouragement. Now, it’s obvious that one cannot simply have people over without making your home presentable. Cleaning and preparing can be stressful. But as I was preparing this message, I was convicted. God has blessed my wife and I with so much. And since everything belongs to God anyway, we should just use what we have to bless others, living as faithful stewards of God’s blessing.
Colossians 1:16 says, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” And this idea of everything belonging to God doesn’t just apply to our homes. Really everything we have, our possessions, our talents and gifts, our whole life is a blessing given by God and should therefore be used to give and bless others generously. As it says in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Following in the example of our Lord’s servantship, everything we have should be used in God’s service and to bless others. If we have a car, that means we can give other rides and serve them simply by driving them. If we have homes, we can invite people over and serve them with kindness and compassion. If we have the ability to cook or bake, we can serve others with food and preach the gospel with that. If we have the gift of the arts, we should use art to portray God’s glory and the crucified Christ. If we are good at finances, we can generously help others with their finances so that they can honor the Lord in this area. If we have the gift of leadership, lead others then generously with a shepherd heart full of God’s love. If we have a good sense of humor, then make people laugh and talk about the joy that can be found in Christ. If we have a good understanding about the Bible, or we have been learning a lot in prayer, then we should give generously into teaching others what God has been teaching us. If we have the gift of encouragement, then we should generously encourage as many people in our church and outside our church. God gives gifts to everyone. There is not one person who does not have a gift from the Lord. Whether our gifts and blessings are small and few, or many and great, let us use what we have been given by God and give generously, knowing that God himself will continue to supply what we need at all times. Amen.