Bible Study of II Corinthians
It is important
that each one of you have the piece of paper, the bulletin insert,
in your hands. You also
need a pencil in your fingers.
The ushers are around the sanctuary, passing out bulletin
inserts and pencils. You
need the pencils for underlining and note taking.
Are we now ready to begin our Bible study?
Notice the title of
the insert. Scripture texts for Stewardship Sunday. To all you first time visitors or new visitors here at Grace
Lutheran, we specifically preach about money once a year on
Stewardship Sunday which is always the third Sunday of November.
The people in our parish know this.
Focus on the word,
stewardship. The word stewardship comes from the Greek word, oikos, which
means house or household. From
the Greek word, oikos, we get the word, oikonomics which sounds like
our word, economics. In
other words, the word stewardship means household economics.
Would you write the two words, household economics, above the
word, stewardship? I am curious.
How many of you people are interested in household economics? Could I see your hands?
Yes, we are all very interested in our household economics.
Focus on the word,
Corinthians. You need to know a bit of geography of Greece.
At the south end of Greece, on the sea, is the seaport of the
city of Corinth. People who lived in the city of Corinth were
naturally called the Corinthians.
Being a seaport town, the Corinthians were well acquainted
with sailors, ships, sea going commerce and prostitutes. There were
pagan idols from all over the world in that seaport, and so this
letter will concern itself with these issues facing the Corinthians.
Focus on the
chapters 8 and 9. These two chapters are the classic chapters on Christian
giving in the New Testament. There
is no other place in the New Testament where there is such a
systemic discussion of offerings. You will notice that there is no
mention of tithing or tithes in these two chapters.
Tithing is really an Old Testament concept
and there is not one single mention of tithing in these two
classic chapters. Tithing
doesn’t seem to be part of the earliest Christian’s theology and
their spirituality of giving.
Please listen as I
read from I Corinthians 16. Paul
wrote several letters to the church at Corinth and those letters are
grouped into first and second Corinthians.
I would like to read from a previous letter to Corinth and
his words help set the context.
He writes: “Concerning
money raised for the needy, every Sunday each person put aside a
proportion of what they earned.” How often were they to give?
… Yes, you are right, each Sunday or systematically.
They were go give how? They
were to give in… yes,
in proportion to what they earned.
So from I Corinthians 16, we learn two important principles
of Christian giving: systematically,
the first Sunday of the week, and proportionately.
They were to give a proportion of what they earned, the
poorer gave less, the richer gave more.
Focus on “our
brothers and sisters.” The
word, brothers and sisters, reveals that these people are family.
In fact, that is the way Paul feels about all the Christians
he has worked with around his world. These people are family.
These people may have different colors of skin and different
languages, but they are called brother and sister, family.
This phrase reveals a fundamental attitude of the heart to
all Christians everywhere.
God’s grace has accomplished in the churches Macedonia. Circle the
word, God’s grace. The
focus is on God’s grace and what God’s grace accomplishes.
It is grace that has the power to change people, not guilt.
It is God’s grace that changes people. … The other night,
at my adult inquiry class, I spoke with a woman who was struggling
with grace. She even
telephoned her friend saying that she didn’t get it;
but a week later, she telephoned again and exclaimed, “I
got it. I got it.”
She finally got it that God loved her unconditionally,
freely, she couldn’t earn it, didn’t deserve it.
As the book of Colossians says, “that you would come to
know grace as it really is.”
It is the power of God’s grace that accomplishes all good
things in the church. … Grace empowers great generosity. Grace is
the inner power that makes great givers. Guilt has no power to
produce great generosity. Not
the Ten Commandments. Not
the tithe. These are all law; they are all guilt. It is grace that empowered people in Macedonia to be great
givers. This is a very basic principle that needs to be clearly
they have been severely tested by the troubles they went
through. Circle the
words, severely tested. These
people were put to the test by the early persecutions of the
Christians. Many or
most of us have discovered when life severely tests you, you can
stronger through the suffering.
These severe troubles in Macedonia made these Christians
stronger in their faith, not weaker.
joy was so great that they were extremely generous in their giving,
even though they were poor. Circle the words, joy, so great, extremely generous and poor.
These people’s joy was so great.
This was not a middle class happiness that was dependent on a
good home and good job and good income and good cars.
This was an inner joy from knowing Jesus.
Great generosity comes from great joy.
The tall flower of generosity is planted in the soil of great
joy. … Let me tell you a story of Sister Mary who lives and
works in a slum outside the city of Nairobi, Kenya.
When you walk down the streets near her vocational school,
you have never seen such big smiles on the people in your whole
life. There seems to be
a radiant happiness coming from within them.
Sister Mary told us, “their great joy results in being
great givers.” It was strange; they were so poor yet so happy and their
inner happiness resulted in them being great givers, so she told us.
It is a fundament principle of Christian giving:
you cannot be extremely generous is giving without first
having a great joy within. This is also true of the poor.
Focus on verse
three: they gave as
much as they could and more than they could, of their own free will.
These people actually gave more than they thought they could.
This is a grand idea, a grand principle; that these
Christians gave more than they thought they could.
That idea is what we talk about in this church as well; that
we can give more than we thought we could. Focus
on the words, of their own free will.
Circle the words, free will.
These first Christians were doing this of their own volition,
of their own free will. The
Apostle Paul was not coercing them in Macedonia; some outside
pressures weren’t being put on them.
Their motivation came from inside, from their own free will.
Focus on: they
begged and pleaded with us for the privilege of helping.
I know Carl Mau in our congregation.
He is retired but used to be the Executive Secretary of the
Lutheran World Federation. He tells of his visit to the Soviet Union
and with the German Lutheran brothers and sisters there in a
particular congregation. He
told them of the starvation that was occurring in Central Africa,
and these poor Russians, (you can’t be a “back country”
Russian and not be poor,) how these Russian Christians begged and
pleaded with him to take their offering of ruples to help the
starving Africans. Carl
Mau said those impoverished Russian Christians literally begged him
to take the offering with him.
He couldn’t. He knew that he couldn’t get the ruples out
of Russia, but it was the attitude of impoverished Russian
Christians begging to give to African Christians that impressed him.
Why are Christians
so generous? That is the question in the Bible and for today.
Focus on verse six.
First they gave themselves to the Lord.
This is crucial. Any
generous giver has given. The children’s sermon was very important
today. All the children
came up front, I took an offering plate, one child volunteered, and
the child sat in the offering plate while I carried that child up to
the altar and that the offering plate on the communion table, as we
do with the offering plates every Sunday.
You all laughed at the situation, but also laughed because it
is so true: the best
offering to give is one’s self, and when you saw the child in the
plate on the altar, you got the message.
The best offering to God is our selves.
That is what verse six says, first they gave themselves to
Focus on the
phrase, and they gave themselves to us as well.
Now who is the “us?”
Is it the Apostle Paul or may it be the other Christian
brothers and sisters. The
“us” is not referring to pastors or apostles but the Christian
community. This double
oscillation is very important; this double giving of our hearts
first to the Lord and then secondly, to our brothers and sisters in
the Christian community. First,
we give ourselves to God and secondly, we give ourselves to our
Christian family around the globe.
Both giving are important.
Focus on verse
seven and Paul switches tactics here.
You are so rich in all you have: in faith, speech, and
knowledge, in your eagerness to help, and in your love for us.
And so we want you to be generous also in this service of
love. Please circle the
word, generous. I understand what Paul is saying here; I get it; I
often feel the same way about you, Grace Lutheran Church.
I often say to you that you are such a gifted congregation in
so many ways: music,
choirs, children, youth, retired, and leadership.
You have so many and varied gifts in this church.
May you also be gifted in your generosity to the needy as
well. You have all these gifts; I want you to be gifted in one more
area, generosity to the poor.
opening words of verse eight: I am not laying down any rules.
Here again, in this classic passage about financial
stewardship in the New Testament, there is no mention of the tithe,
the rule of tithing, the law of tithing. Paul does not lay down any
rules for giving. Rather,
he talks about grace, that God’s grace is the power that enables a
person to have happily, joyfully, gladly and is extremely generous.
Extreme generosity is motivated by God’s grace living
inside of us.
Let us read the
rest of verse eight. By
showing how eager you are to help, I am trying to find out how real
your own love is. This
is good. The eagerness
of wanting to actually help others less fortunate reveals how true
our love is.
In verse nine, Paul
focuses on Jesus Christ. Up
to this point, Paul’s looked to the church in Macedonia to inspire
our lives into generosity. Please,
you be as generous as the church in Macedonia.
Now Paul changes focus; he focuses on Christ. Jesus Christ
was rich became poor in order to make you rich.
God didn’t stay up in the riches of heaven but came down to
earth in the poor person Jesus of Nazareth, and by his death and
resurrection, you have been made rich. We are not only to be like the church in Macedonia; we are to
be like Christ, who gave himself and all his possessions away.
It is better to finish now what you began last year.
It is an inspiring word:
finish the job! Complete the project! Get it done! Complete
your Christian faith by becoming an extremely generous person in
your offerings for the poor. You
do so many good works; you have so many good gifts; finish the job,
complete the project and be extremely generous to the poor. The
Bible says: be as eager
to finish it as you were to play it.
We are always so eager at first in our planning; Paul says we
are to be just as eager to finish the job, and mature into being
Verse eleven and
twelve: circle the
word, eager, in both verses. There is an eagerness to wanting to be
anticipation, a planning, a let’s do it attitude.
An eager attitude makes all the difference.
words, God will accept your gift on the basis of what you give, not
on what you don’t have. No
gift is too puny, too small, too insignificant.
The widow in the gospel story only gave two coins that added
up to one penny, and the gift was of a great magnitude.
Not gift from the heart is too small for God.
Focus on verses
13-14. I am not putting
a burden on you. Since
you have plenty at this time, it is only fair that you should help
those in need. Would
you circle the word, plenty. The
word could be translated, enough.
I would like to see a show of hands:
has God given you enough to meet your needs in this life?
I thought so. We
all have been given plenty. Out
of fairness, we need to help those who haven’t so many material
goods at this time. It
is only fair to share.
Look at verse 15.
The Old Testament says, the one who gathered much did not
have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too
little. This sentence
is a reference to the story of the manna in the wilderness.
When the Jews were out in the desert, one morning they woke
up and there was manna on the ground, enough food for all.
Nobody was greedy; nobody
took too much manna or too little manna.
The Jews in the wilderness took what they actually needed and
no more. This becomes a
problem for us, because we sense that we have taken much more than
we actually need to live.
Focus on chapter 9,
verse seven. Each person should give then, as he has decided, not out of
regret or duty. This is
good. Don’t ask
Pastor O’Neal or myself how much you need to give for your
offerings. You are the
one who needs to make the decision about your offerings.
underline: not out of regret or duty.
Circle the word, not, and the word, duty.
Duty never makes for a generous giver. Duty won’t last.
Duty doesn’t inspire hearts. We’re not talking about Norwegian guilt here.
underline: God loves
the one who gives gladly. Circle the word, gladly.
We hear another translation in our minds:
God loves a cheerful giver.
In Greek, the word translates, hilariously.
Hilarious is even a happier word than gladly or cheerfully.
We are to give hilariously, taking such pleasure in giving to those
Focus and underline
verse eight: God is able to give you more than you need, so you will
always have (please circle the word, always) all (circle the word,
all) you need (circle the word, need)
and more than enough for every good cause.
What a mouthful. Have
you been given more than you need?
Yes. Has God
always taken care of you? Yes. Does God give you all your wants?
NO. Does God give you enough for all your needs? Yes. Do you
have more than enough to give to good causes?
Yes. God is
faithful to his promises and will meet our needs and we will have
more than enough to give away.
Verse nine. Circle
the words give generously.These words are repeated often. Circle the
word, needy, for these are the people who are the recipients of our
God’s kindness endures forever.
You can trust God. God is faithful to his promises…to meet
your needs, to care for you, so that you will have more than enough
to give away.
Focus and underline
in verse ten: God will supply you with all the seed your need, it will
grow, and produce a rich harvest from your generosity. Please circle the word, generous again. You can count on God. You
may not trust that God will take care of you.
God will supply you with all the seed you need; God promises
to make it grow; God promises a rich harvest from your generosity.
Do you trust God being faithful to these grand promises?
Focus on verse
eleven and circle the word, generous.
Again, it is another promise of God.
Do you believe that God will make you rich enough to be
generous? Wow. What
words. What promises.
God will make us rich enough to be generous, not so we become
rich enough to give ourselves of our abundance. Whether rich or
poor, we are generous.
underline: so that many
people will thank God for the gifts that they receive from us.
It blows your mind: A
ten dollar gift will feed a thousand hungry children one meal. Ten
dollars. Those hungry
children will thank God for the food that has been given to them
this day. May you give
generously, with generous hearts, so that millions of people will
thank, not you, but God.
Well, that is some
of what the Bible teaches about stewardship in the classic passage
from II Corinthians 8 and 9. Amen.