Description / Transcription
Father in heaven, the words that we have just sung, familiar words to many of us, would You make this our prayer, that the sweetness of Jesus would fill the air, that You would dispel with glorious splendor whatever darkness lies in each human heart in this room, that the Lord Jesus, true man yet very God, would from sin and death save us, and lighten every load. Turn our eyes again toward Jesus, that we may know of His great gift and glory and grace to us, and having known and received that grace, we would in turn thrill to be gracious toward others. We pray for Your help. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our text this morning comes from 2 Corinthians, chapter 8. As you recall from last week, we are changing gears, setting aside Genesis for a month or so, return to it in the New Year, we hope, and finishing, Lord willing, 2 Corinthians, and so doing 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 over these weeks. Which from a little series within a series on generosity. Even one of my children did say to me yesterday, “Another sermon on generosity?” Yes, well, there are going to be four of them because Paul talks about at length in these two chapters.
Follow along as I read 2 Corinthians 8, beginning at verse 8: “‘I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.'”
If we are to be wise, discerning, Gospel-shaped Christians, we must understand not only what we are to do, but why we are to do it. It is a common failure in preaching, in parenting, and general Christian counsel that we tell people the right thing to do and then we go ahead and we give them the wrong reasons for doing it. Suppose a mom tells her son, “I want you to work as hard as you can to get the very best grades that you can, and I would love to see if you could get all A’s this semester.”
Now that’s a good thing for a mother to say to her son or to her daughter, but why? What is the “why” for that encouragement, in that exhortation? Well, it’s one thing if the mom says, “I want you to do this and work as hard as you can because you know that I love you and I’m so proud of you and I know how smart you are and I want you to do the very best that you can do.” Well, that would be good. Very different than if the mom says, “I want you to get all A’s because you know your sister gets all A’s,” or “You know what? I never got below an A- when I was a child. And if you don’t, you won’t amount to anything. If you do get all A’s, I will love you more.”
Now, obviously we would understand that to be not very good parental motivation, and yet at our worst we can attach very good exhortations to very bad reasons, and so it is especially when we come to this old topic of giving, stewardship, generosity.
Last week we saw the “what,” what does generosity look like, and this morning we come to the “why,” why then should Christians be generous. Getting the “why” right makes all the difference in the world.
All the difference, not only because we want to be true to God’s Word, but as I said last week, if you get the “why” wrong, you leave here and you maybe feel a sense of shame or burden and you want to do better and that lasts for a week or for a few weeks, and it’s similar with all sorts of disciplines and areas of obedience in the Christian life: Prayer, evangelism, reading your Bible, and generosity.
Too often preachers give the right thing to do but they so lay it upon their people with a sense of shame that you leave and you feel like, “Well, I really want to try to do better” and it doesn’t last. And it’s not tied to the very best and the most important “why’s” in the Bible.
So notice here in our text this morning four answers to this question, “Why should the Christian be generous?”
And remember here, Paul is talking most immediately about providing for the need of the saints in Jerusalem who are suffering deprivation and famine, and by extension we could say in giving to God’s work in all sorts of ways, whether it might be for the needy or for the work of the Gospel around the world or for the work of the Church, it is more broadly about generosity.
And here are the four reasons in the text, here’s how Paul sought to motivate the Corinthians.
Number one. He points to the earnestness of others.
Number two. The priority of finishing.
Number three. The principle of fairness.
And number four. The example of Christ.
Number one, then. Why ought we to be generous. Number one, the earnestness of others. Look at verse 8: “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others,” that’s where I get this, it’s right in the text. Paul is trying to stir up the Corinthians, that their love might be more tangible. He’s saying, “All right, guys, it’s time to step it up. I’ve been telling everyone about your faith, you’re well known. This is Corinth, after all, you’re well-known for your spiritual gifts. You are one of the leading cities in one of the leading churches and it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.”
And so he stirs them up by way of pointing to the Macedonians. That’s what we saw last week in verses 1 through 7. Look at verse 1, for example: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia.” Remember, that’s another part of Greece, so Macedonia, Corinth is Achaia, so he’s pointing to say, “Look at this other church in the presbytery. Look how well they are doing.”
Now you might say, “Well, that seems a little worldly, Paul.” But he’s not trying to create some sort of sibling church rivalry, rather he’s using the Macedonians’ example of sacrifice and joy and love and he’s therefore stirring up the Corinthians to say, “Look at that. Look at what they’re doing. Don’t you aspire to the same thing?”
The point isn’t that the Corinthians need to give more than the Macedonians, it’s not that Paul traveled around and he put one of those big thermometers in the church of Philippi, one of those big thermometers and every week, “We’ve gotta outdo the church at Philippi.” He’s not even saying that they have to give as sacrificially. Paul is after something more important; he is after the heart. He wants the Corinthians to say, “Isn’t that amazing what they’re doing over there at Philippi? And we love Jesus, too, and we love Paul and we love the suffering saints in Jerusalem. We are full of the same Christian virtues as the Macedonians, so why aren’t we showing it? If the Macedonians can give out of their poverty, so surely can we give out of our great wealth.”
What we need to do is take the good examples from others and use it to stir up our own generosity. We have a very hard time as Christians knowing what to do with others who set a good example, and this is true not just in generosity but the prayer warrior, the evangelist, the reader, the Bible scholar… What do we do with these examples?
We may be impressed with the hospitality that they exercise in other countries and we hear stories and oh, they’re so generous. Or we hear of missionaries who give up great material comforts in the west and go live in a different part of the world and have much less. Or we know someone in the church who lives a very sacrificial, plain lifestyle in order that they can serve God and serve others.
What do we do with these good examples?
Well, we tend to respond to godly examples in unhelpful ways. One way, and again this is whether it’s prayer, Bible, evangelism, generosity. What do we do when we hear of Christians who have great examples of faithfulness?
Well, one response is critical judgment: “Well, they probably think they’re so special, goody-two shoes.” Which is strange, they have two shoes, yes, that’s how good they are. They have two shoes and I only have one.
Or, if we don’t respond in a sinful judgment, because once they seem to be a good example we need to cast them down in our minds so we don’t feel bad about it, or we resort at the opposite end to a hopeless failure: “Oh, boy, they’re just, they’re super Christians, they’re amazing. I could never do that.”
Or we respond with a rigid set of legal prescriptions. This happens especially when we’re young Christians. You know, you find someone who doesn’t have a TV in their house. You say, “Wow. That’s amazing. You don’t have a TV.” And then you tell everyone, “This is what you ought to do to be a godly Christian is you don’t have a TV.” Then you find out, well, they have a bunch of devices, you don’t need TVs anymore. Well, set that aside.
They find the example and say, “Everyone now ought to live just like this. If you’re truly a good Christian, you’ll have one car, not two cars, not three cars.” We have four cars in our driveway sometimes. “No, you will live just like this” and we impose a new rigid law.
That’s not what Paul does. He doesn’t say look down at the Macedonians, he doesn’t say, “Well, you’ll be a failure compared to the Macedonians,” and he does not say, “You must do exactly what the Macedonians do.”
Look at verse 8 again. Isn’t this amazing? Paul says, “I say this not as a command.”
Turn the page over to chapter 9. You see the same sort of language. Look at verse 5: “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” Or verse 7: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”
So Paul does not say, “I am establishing a new apostolic tax” from the Macedonians, now upon the Corinthians. He says this is not a command, it is an encouragement to be generous. And what he wants is a proportional giving.
In 1 Corinthians 16:2 it says you are to set aside as he may prosper. The NIV puts it “in keeping with his income.” So you have normal giving, which is in proportion with what you have, as God causes you to prosper, so your giving ought to prosper. And then on top of that you have sacrificial giving in particular circumstances and callings.
One of the reasons we say “tithes and offerings,” that’s Old Testament language, but it’s also getting at a New Testament idea, that tithes are what you do in keeping with your income, and offerings are what you may do on top of that as you are called to specific occasions and events.
We need biblical wisdom and Christian maturity in this area. We don’t have to look just like the missionaries in some other part of the world, or the church planter in some much harder place. Paul did not demand that the Corinthians do exactly what the Macedonians did. God does not demand the same kind of giving or the same sacrificial giving from everyone in every circumstance. What He does demand is the same heart.
So we ought not to look at the heroes, whoever, you have people in your mind, from history or the missionaries or people in your family who sacrificed, and you have these heroes, Paul does not want you to think, God does not want you think, “Well, I’m a terrible person. I don’t give a fraction as much as that.” Or, “Well, every good Christian should do exactly the same thing.”
A better response would be, “Look what they’re doing for the Lord with their money. Look how generous they are. Look how loosely they hold onto their possessions. I love the Lord, I want to make a difference. I’m going to get serious about generosity in my life, too.”
He stirs them up by the earnestness of others. That’s the first motivation.
Second motivation: The priority of finishing.
Not the priority of fishing, men, the priority of finishing.
Sometimes the thought actually doesn’t count for much. You say, “Well, it’s the thought that counts.” Sometimes it’s not. A husband says, “Honey, I thought about getting you flowers. I thought about writing you a lovely poem. I thought about doing something for our anniversary. I thought about so much. That’s how much I love you, honey. Many, many good thoughts up here.”
If you said to your kids on Christmas morning, “Kids, I thought, we thought about getting you a puppy on our way to Disneyworld in your very own Tesla. We thought about all that.” [laughter] “None of it is ever coming true.”
You can’t do that to the IRS. The thing is, Uncle Sam, I have a check right here made out to the IRS. I wrote it even. Signed it. I really thought about sending it to you and then I thought better of that.
The old saying is true: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
You see what Paul is saying here to the church: “It would be good for you to finish what you started.” Look at verse 10: I give my judgment: this benefits you, a year ago started to do this work and you wanted to do it. Now finish doing it as well so your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.
He says a year ago you were determined, you wanted to give to this relief of the poor in Jerusalem. You had a desire to do, no one was making you do it, you were passionate about it, and you started it, but you didn’t finish it. Your readiness to desire to help must be matched by actually completing what you desired to do.
Remember what Jesus said when He asked the question, “Which son did the will of his father? The one who said, ‘I will not work in the field’ but then he went and worked in the field, or the one who said, ‘Yes, father, I will go work in the field’ and then he never did it. Which one did the will of his father?” And Jesus says, “Well, it was the one who actually did the work, not the one who announced his great intentions and then never followed through.”
There is no credit for initial enthusiasm which fails to see the task through to completion. That is true in Christianity, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in school, it’s true in athletics, artistic endeavor. There is no credit for initial enthusiasm which fails to see the task through to completion.
Passion without follow through accomplishes very little. I’m sure this saying isn’t original to me, but we greatly exaggerate and overestimate what we can do in five years, and we underestimate what we can accomplish in 50 years. Yes, passion is good, stirring up young people, idealism, imagine, and dare to dream the impossible, but those who do accomplish great things in life are the ones who plod along, step after step, week after week, year after year, they show up and they do the work.
We may be fired up, excited about Jesus. If that’s you this morning, so glad that you are fired up and excited about Jesus. Would that we had more people fired up about Jesus.
At the same time, it will not be worth much if you cannot follow through; keep appointments, keep your hand to the plow, finish what you start, stick with something longer than a month. It’s not enough to feel a burning in your bosom.
Some of us set out to be generous and we really have good intentions. You may have good intentions after hearing one of these sermons. Or after the first of the year. Or after doing your tax returns.
It’s like what will happen the busiest day of the year at the gym is January 2. I remember a few years ago and I went to the pool to go swimming, which I do normally, and I realized never go on January 2. Who are all these people I’ve never seen before? And I hope they can make it because it is deep here.
We have many, many good intentions, and so it is with giving. But if you don’t set a budget, if you don’t keep track of your money, sorry to sound like, you know, a financial planner, but if you don’t pay off your credit card bills, if you don’t get out of debt, if you don’t keep track of your giving, there’s a big difference between wanting to give and planning to give. And somebody’s going to have the question, “Well, I got a bunch of debt and I’m going to give to the Lord once I get out of that debt.” Well, most of us have debt, house, cars, for most of our lives. If you just wait until that, I’m afraid that you’re never going to get around to giving to God. I would see if God doesn’t know how to take care of you and help you more than you even think or imagine if you give to Him first and make it a priority. Not just good intentions.
Paul is not asking for the world here. He’s not asking that they would make themselves as poor as the Macedonians. Look at verse 12: “If the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” This is one of the most amazing… Paul is so realistic in these two chapters. He says, “I’m not asking you to give what you don’t have. You can’t do that. I’m asking you to give in proportion with what you do have.”
God is not asking you to be destitute. The Lord knows that I am a rich American, and He knows that most everyone in this room is rich. You say, “No, no, no, no.” Look, don’t hide it. You can’t hide it from God. He knows. We live in a rich country, most of us live in a rich city, in a rich part of the city, in a rich time in human history. So there’s no point in, “Well, I really don’t, I mean, I hardly ever go skiing. I mean, really, and I only have a few… ” Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t pretend about it.
But if you are rich, and most of us are, then we should be giving as one who has much, not as those who have little. If you are rich, then you should give like it. Giving is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. One of the problems is many of us think we have a lot less than we actually do.
I just saw on a website recently that the average square footage of a new single family home, in 1975, so new construction, 1660 square feet average. 2019 – 2531 square feet. Homes have gotten bigger. Between 1959 and the year 2000, according to a book I read about ten years ago, I’m sure the trends have continued, while financial giving by American Christians was declining, the personal consumption by Americans increased for eating out, sports supplies, live entertainment, domestic and foreign travel, lottery tickets, casino gambling, photography, sports, recreation camps, other entertainment expenses. In other words, in almost every other area.
Few of us have probably increased our standard of giving as much as we have increased our standard of living.
Now it’s true, there’s no doubt some here who live paycheck to paycheck, and perhaps that’s of necessity. You’re doing the very best you can, and God asks you to give what you have, not what you don’t have. And yet there are some who may be living in those sort of constrained ways because we have convinced ourselves that there’s a certain standard of living that we must have and it’s just unthinkable not to have that.
Again, this chapter is so wonderfully refreshing and realistic. Paul did not tell the Corinthians that they had to go live in a cave like hermits. But he did challenge them whether they were giving according to their means or whether they were just settling for good intentions.
Listen, I hope this is a theme you get from these four weeks, going out of here and feeling bad about yourself… You know who that helps? Nobody. It doesn’t help anybody to just go. That’s not the aim. Leave here, feel bad, hide in your house and pretend that it’s not nice. That doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help the Church, it doesn’t help the poor, it doesn’t help yourself. Wanting to give may make you feel better, but that doesn’t help, either.
God is not after your bad feelings or your good intentions. He wants change. Not spare change, He wants us to change.
What is good for us and for everyone else is that we would plan to follow through on the genuine desire that I think most of you probably have, a genuine desire. You want what God has given you to count for eternity. You want to make a difference in the world with what God has given you. It’s going to take intentionality, planning, follow through. Not just an initial passion that never amounts to anything.
Here’s the third reason, the third motivation Paul gives. So that was the priority of finishing, and here we have the priority of fairness.
The basic premise is pretty easy to understand: Christians who have more than enough ought to share with Christians who don’t have enough.
Now there’s severe misunderstandings we have to guard against. Look at verse 13: “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened.” That is not that we don’t bear one another’s burdens, Paul says that elsewhere. What he’s saying there is , “I am not asking you to trade places with the saints in Jerusalem. That’s not what I’m saying.”
John Stott makes this point. He says Paul is not mandating a rigid egalitarianism where everyone has the same house, the same food, the same lifestyle. Jesus’ followers did not all have the same economic profile. You can see this just in the Gospels. There are what we might say middle class fishermen, you have women who are supporting Him out of their wealth, you have Joseph of Arimathea who’s a wealthy man, you have people of every economic strata.
In Acts chapter 5, you may recall, Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of property and they lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet. The trouble was they lied about it. They wanted to seem more impressive than they were, and so they lied. They kept back some of it for themselves. But do you remember what Peter says? He says in essence to Ananias and Sapphira, “It was your property. The Bible affirms private property. It was your property. You didn’t have to give it all to the Church. So why did you lie about it and pretend as if you did?”
So what Paul is after here, as one commentator puts it, is not a rigid and imposed equality as in communism. The initiative to give and the dimension of the gift lie with the giver. That’s why this is different between state-sponsored, state-mandated redistribution. Does Christianity teach a redistribution of wealth? Yes, but in a specific way. Christianity does not teach a state-mandated redistribution of wealth, but a voluntary redistribution on the private level in keeping with the transformed hearts of individual Christians. That’s what verse 14 says: Your abundance at the present time should supply their need.
So Paul is not arguing for an equality of outcome, but this principle of fairness. In other words, in the body of Christ it’s only fair that those who have more than enough share with those who don’t have enough. So in verse 15 he cites the example of manna in the wilderness, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, whoever gathered little had no lack.” God made sure in the wilderness everyone had enough. And God still does that. But He does it not with manna from heaven, but with the Church. The church is God’s manna from heaven. It’s God’s equalizer. When there are those who have more than they need and those who have less than they need, those who have more share with those who have less.
Now, granted, we don’t want people sitting around idle, taking advantage of generous givers. That’s 2 Thessalonians 3. We don’t want to throw our money at scams and schemes and people that can’t be trusted, and we’ll get to that next week with the administration of generosity. But if the love of God is in us, we will see our brothers and sisters in need and we will see our abundance and we’ll think, “Of course I want to do something.”
Do you notice this phrase here that Paul uses in verse 14, “Your abundance at the present time”? I think what Paul’s doing here is he’s reminding them, you have a lot right now, but who’s to say that you won’t be the one in need later. Your abundance at the present time should supply their need so that their abundance may supply your need. Now he may be talking about a spiritual overflow, but I think he’s saying that later they may be the ones with abundance and you may be the one who has the need. In other words, we all in the body of Christ must take our turns being the ones who help and being the ones who are helped.
Let’s be honest. There’s a whole lot of us here that we would raise our hands much more quickly to do the helping than to be the one who gets the help. “Oh, I love it, yes, there are needy people in the world and I want to do good and help needy people.” Well, that’s a Christian virtue. But where you might be needy? Maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s monetary, but maybe it’s in spiritual deprivation, maybe it’s a marital issue, maybe it’s a problem with your kids, maybe it’s an addiction of some kind, and you’re holding it in, you say “No, no, no, I can’t be this. I come to church, I get dressed up, I look nice, I can do this for an hour and 20 minutes, and then I’m gone.” And you don’t admit that you have needs.
It is more blessed to give than to receive, and for many of us, it is easier as well. Most often our refusal to be helped is a pride masked as humility. We don’t want to seem needy. We don’t want people to resent us. We don’t want people to think us a bother. We don’t want to feel indebted to someone. We don’t want the shame that we think comes with being helped. Some of you need help right now. You need, and there are people in the body of Christ, in this church, who would love to help you with very tangible things, with spiritual realities, but they need to know that you need help.
And some day, those of you right now who are eager to help, will be the ones, if you’re honest, who need to be helped. Let the body of Christ be the body of Christ. Does the hand say “no, thanks” to the blood that comes from the heart? Does the torso reject walking from the legs? Some of you are torsos and you’re saying to the legs, who could get you somewhere, “No, thanks, I’ll figure it out on my own.” And you’ll just be a torso. You need legs. They want to help you. They want to get you, they want to help you move.
Now, yes, in our digitally-connected world, it is difficult to know who to help. There is the principle that ethicists call “moral proximity,” and if we’re not careful it can be used as an excuse to not help anybody at all. But rightly understood, the concept of “moral proximity” helps us to navigate to whom we owe the greatest help. We understand this instinctively, that you have a certain obligation to your immediate family that’s not true to someone on the other side of the world you’ve never met.
So you have to ask the question, “Where do you have spiritual relationships, historical, geographical affinity?” We would have a greater moral proximity to help the person next door whose house is blown over by a tornado than we would somebody on the other side of the world. It doesn’t mean that that person on the other side of the world is not also made in the image of God, but we are in a greater position of proximity to help. The concentric circles look something like family, close friends, maybe your small group, your church, maybe mission or missionaries, Christians in your area, Christians in your denomination, Christians elsewhere in the world, and then Galatians 6:10 on top of it all, “As you have opportunity, do good to all people.”
So it is not a simple matter in our day when we have access to billions of people and we can see their needs. It’s very different when you’re here and Paul is telling you, “I got one thing. You have Christians, and you don’t have Christians everywhere, you’ve got Christians in Jerusalem and I’m here to collect for their relief.” The Christian Church was still rather small and their means of helping were still rather limited. Now we have billions of Christians all over the world and we have so much wealth at our disposal it becomes a more different question.
So we ask the question not to get ourselves off the hook from doing anything, but in order that we might be most wise, most generous, to bless those and to think about where the needs are greatest.
You may leave here and perhaps it’s a conversation that you have with a friend, or if you’re married you have it with your spouse, or have it even together as a family, where are those circles? Are there needs that we could meet with the abundance God has given us? And He’s put us in this relationship. And maybe it’s money, but maybe it’s time. A lot of us, we’d rather give money than time. We have more disposable money than we have disposable time. Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s hospitality.
But think about where there are needs and where out of your abundance, based on this principle of fairness, we who have much can share with those who have little, and at some time in the Christian life we will be those in great need looking to others to help us.
And then finally, the last answer to the “why” question, the example of Christ.
Now I’ve taken this out of order. We go back up to verse 9, because even though this isn’t the last verse in our section this morning, it is the “why” that undergirds all of the others. It is the motivation that makes our giving Christian.
You don’t have to be a Christian to give money away. Praise God, by His common grace, there’s lots of non-Christians who support lots of good things. Some philanthropists support bad things, but some support very good things that contribute on some level to human flourishing.
So what makes Christian generosity Christian? Well, you see in verse 9, you have to love how Paul is always inserting this weighty theology into very practical matters. He was never the one who said, “Well, you have theology over here and then you have discipleship and life and practice over here.” No, he’s dealing with a very practical matter: There’s Christians who are in need and he’s trying to get the Macedonians, to stir them up, to complete the contribution that they began. So here in the middle of this exhortation, verse 9, he drops in this great theology: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That’s the most important thing Paul could say to the Corinthians, and it is the most important thing your pastor can say to you about money. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In some ways, that’s where every conversation about your pocketbook should start and end. Okay, if you’re going to talk about generosity, here’s the first, you, if you’re a Christian in this room this morning, you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How can that not change everything? You know what it is, if you are a true born-again, justified, on your way to heaven believer, you know what it is it to be shown mercy. You know what it is to be given more than you deserve. You know what it is to have someone take pity on your poor, wretched soul.
It is no surprise, then, that we would be generous. How could we not? Paul says you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that although He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor. Isn’t that what we’re remembering in the Advent season? He left the glories of heaven to be born of a woman, born under law, born in the squalor of a borrowed stable. Such a profound act of condescension. He who had all riches imaginable did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.
How can we not be grateful?
And lots, I mean, everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, I presume. But to whom do they give thanks? To the cosmos? To fate? To evolution? To chance? We know to whom we give thanks. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the God in heaven, the Father of lights.
And one of the great things that gratitude does, I remember reading an article and John Piper, from Piper years ago, he made this point: Gratitude crowds out, crowds out vice and sin and small-mindedness.
Why is gratitude such an important Christian virtue? Because you find it much harder to be complaining, much harder to be salacious in your thoughts, much harder to be slanderous and gossiping in your speech, when what’s so filled with your heart is gratitude.
Just think of that little Grinchy heart and how it burst and grew. So it needs to happen in the Christian heart. And we have all the reasons in the world, because He who was rich for our sakes became poor. He became poor that we would become rich. He took the form of a servant that we would go free. He was rejected by men that we might be accepted by God. He suffered that we might be comforted. He was bruised that we might be healed. He was tempted that we might be delivered from evil. He became sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. He laid aside His crown that we might become a kingdom of priests. He left heaven’s throne that we might be brought to heaven someday. He descended to earth that we might be lifted up. He was born that we might be born again. He died so we can live forever.
The ultimate reason we are eager to give something is because we have been given everything. A stingy Christian is a contradiction in terms. There should be no such thing as a miserly Christian. How could it be? God has been unfathomably generous with us. How can we not be generous with others?
Jesus became poor that we might be saved by the Gospel. Surely we can give out of our wealth that others might come to know that same Good News.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, many of us came here and probably didn’t think that this would be a Christmas message, but in every way, it is. For we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor so that we by His poverty might become rich. What grace You have lavished upon us. What good news you have given and what good news we have to share with the world, and what a privilege that we can share of our time, our talent, our treasure, that this same Good News might go forth to the world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.