God’s Formula for Great Giving2 Corinthians 8:1-15Theme: Generosity.This week’s lessons teach us that giving is a matter of the heart.
LessonAt this point, you may be thinking that you are just not up to that sort of giving. But if that is the case, you have to read on because Paul not only gives a great formula for giving, but he gives the secret to that kind of giving, again using the Christians in Macedonia as an illustration. He wrote in verse 5, “And they did not do as we expected.” They expected the Macedonian churches to give something, but they just did not give as expected. “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
That is the secret. As long as you are holding yourself back from the Lord, you hold yourself back from other people as well. And if you hold yourself back from other people, you certainly are not giving generously. But when you give yourself to the Lord so you are his entirely, it follows naturally that you give yourself to others, and especially to his people. If you have already given yourself to God so that all you have, and are, and ever hope to be is his, then giving flows naturally and you will give yourself to other people.
Most of us only give to get. We are like Jacob when he returned home and was afraid that his brother Esau would kill him for stealing his inheritance. Jacob wanted to get out from under this threat of extermination, so he believed that if he was going to escape the difficulty he had better pacify Esau. So, Jacob began to give away his things. He had two hundred female goats and sent them ahead with a servant to Esau. Then he sent ten male goats. Next he sent two hundred cows, and then ten bulls, and then forty camels, and then ten male camels until his livestock and servants stretched out across the fields, marching toward Esau.
That is the way we give. We do not give ourselves first of all to the Lord and then to one another. Rather, we give to get. What has to happen with many Christians is what happened to Jacob that very night. After he had sent his flocks over, he sent his concubines with their children. Then he sent Leah, the less favored wife with her children. And finally he sent Rachel with her child. All that was left was Jacob, and he said that he would surrender everything. But he had not surrendered everything; he had not surrendered himself.
That night the angel of the Lord – I believe the Lord Jesus Christ himself – came and wrestled with Jacob and brought him to the point of personal submission. After that wrestling match was over, Jacob was never the same. He had been affected physically; because of the wrestling match, his hip had been put out of joint and from that point on, he walked with a limp. Some would look at him and said he had been weakened by this trial, but Jacob had actually become strong because of that encounter. In the final analysis, he had surrendered himself. Jacob had become the Lord’s. Everything he had belonged to God and his life was different after that.
What is the secret to a generous and giving spirit?
What is the typical human motivation for giving?
Further StudyRead the story of Jacob and how God brought him to a place of surrender in Genesis 32:1 – 33:11. Has God ever done something similar in your life?
ReflectionWhat motivates you to give?