Cheerful Heart Giving

2 Corinthians 9

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Have you ever planted a tomato seed? What was going through your head when you buried it in the dirt? Were you wondering how this small speck of matter could ever turn into an ingredient for the perfect BLT?

What was your attitude when planting this seed? Where you already drooling over the image you had in your head of that BLT? Were you skeptical it would even grow? Or maybe it wasn’t your idea to plant it and you held a grudge that the task fell to you.

While Paul wasn’t writing to the Corinthians about tomatoes or BLTs in this chapter, he did parallel the similarity between tithing and sowing seeds. He wanted the Corinthians to give with a cheerful heart and not out of compulsion or with a heart that was holding a grudge because of giving.

Whether time or financially I feel like this can be a difficulty. There is always something else we could be doing with our time or something else we could be buying with our money. But the importance of giving our time or finances to the LORD is the attitude that we have when doing so.

If we plant that tomato seed with a heart of anger, we may not appreciate the process of watching God grow the seed we planted into a bountiful and beautiful tomato plant. Sure, we can plant it with anger and still enjoy the outcome of the BLT and maybe even that outcome is what will change our perspective next planting season. But the joy of watching God take what has been sown and multiply it into something that we could never even have imagined may be missed with a heart that is misplaced.

When planting a seed, whether time or money, with a cheerful heart we not only receive the opportunity to minister to others, we also are able to enjoy the process of the LORD multiplying it. In the end, when we harbor a cheerful heart for the LORD, the BLT will taste a whole lot better. 

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. What difference does the attitude make in either cheerful generosity or grudgingly given?
  2. Which attitude do you most often have when giving of your time? Or your finances? If there is a specific area in which you struggle to give cheerfully, how can you work towards improving that attitude?
  3. What do you gain when you give, especially with a good attitude, according to 2 Corinthians verses 6-15?

Saturday – June 25th, 2022

2 Corinthians 8

Tithes. It’s an uncomfortable topic. People get uncomfortable when you talk about money in general, and when you say they should give away their money, sometimes they can get downright feisty. If you are under 18, the idea of tithing is just that moment in church where they play an instrumental song and some people reach in their purse or wallet to discreetly turn in a folded bill. You may even participate with some money that your parents have given you. After 18 though – when you’re in charge of paying bills and then taking care of other living beings (whether that’s a dog, a child, or a plant), that’s when tithing can get overlooked. I know it does in my case. 

2 Corinthians 8, today’s reading, is all about giving which is just another word for tithing. Tithing was a word that originated in England in the Middle Ages to describe the custom of giving 10% of income to the church to support it during that time. Paul talks about this, but he doesn’t focus on the legalistic requirement of giving 10% to ‘do your duty.’ Instead, Paul frames this giving to support the ministry of the apostles, the ministry of spreading the gospel, as an opportunity, a privilege. He says, “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Cor. 8:3-4). To participate in the ministry of the gospel whether through actually traveling from place-to-place or supporting via funds was a good thing. It wasn’t a duty that they should begrudgingly do. Later in the letter to Corinthians, Paul goes on to say,  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Tithing is very much about our attitude. Are we cheerfully giving this offering to support the ministry of God? Or are we doing it only for the appearance of ‘doing the right Christian things’? 

When you think about giving of your time or money, how much should you give? Paul says this: “And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” In this, Paul again is pointing to the importance of attitude when considering how much time or money to give. He wanted the Corinthians to continue with the same desire, regardless of how much they actually gave. He also pointed out that if the desire to give is there, God doesn’t look at how big the gift is. He looks at how much is given in comparison to how much that person has. You can read more about this in the parable of the widow and the two coins in Mark 12:41-44. 

Ultimately, our tithes and offerings are a display of our trust in God. They harken back to the sabbath rest of the ancient Israelites in the desert. By giving God a portion of our time or our money, we trust that God will do great things with it in the world, and we trust that God will make sure that we are taken care of with what we have left. Now, ‘taken care of’ does not mean that we will get rich off of tithing. (That’s the false prosperity gospel.) Taken care of means that we will have clothes on our backs and food in our bellies (Matt. 6:25-34). Our tithes and offerings can also fix our relationship with money. Instead of holding it tightly and greedily, by giving our money away – we are reinforcing that it is not an idol in our lives. Our attitude towards money changes. 

What can you give back to God today? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Questions for Application: 

  1. Do you normally tithe? How does giving look for you? 
  2. Can tithing be more than just money? (For example, time serving at a church camp or participating in the worship band.)
  3. What is your relationship with money? How do you think that relationship affects your relationship with God?

Is it OK to be Rich?

More than a third of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day according to research done by the United Nations.  You might not consider yourself rich if you compare yourself to others in the United States (and many other countries), but most or all of you are probably quite rich when looking at the whole world.  Is it ok to be rich?

Let’s first consider Solomon, the richest king that ever was.  God gave him wealth, possessions, and honor such as no king before or after him (2 Chronicles 1:12).  God made Solomon rich, so the good news is that we have an example of someone who was very rich and it was ok in God’s eyes.

Being rich may be ok, but the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-24 received advice from Jesus that made him sad.  Jesus told him if he wanted to be perfect, he should sell his possessions and give to the poor.  He then told his disciples that it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom.  Jesus had more to say about the matter in Luke 6:20-26.  He said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  He went on to say, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”  Jesus was warning us that being rich could interfere with your salvation.

Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 says that whoever loves money never has enough, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income, and this is meaningless.  It also says that the abundance of the rich permits them no sleep.  However, it also says that it is appropriate for a person to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their labor during the few days God has given them.  It explains that it is a gift from God when He gives someone wealth, possessions, and the ability to enjoy them.

This may be a bit confusing to hear that wealth can be good or bad.  I think it all boils down to your attitude and how you spend your money.  If money is your master, you are always wanting and trying to get more, and you spend it all on yourself; that is bad.  If you realize that your money comes from God, is actually owned by God, and is not the focus of your life, it is fine to enjoy that gift from God from time to time.

I now want to change gears a bit here and talk about yesterday’s devotion on tithing a bit more.  I said it was not mentioned in the New Testament that we should tithe.  However, there are two verses in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42) that talk about the Pharisees giving a tenth of their spices and Jesus scolding them for neglecting justice, mercy, faithfulness, and the love of God, and saying they should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.  I do not consider these two verses a mandate for us today to tithe ten percent of our earnings, although I can see how it can be interpreted that way.  These individuals were giving a tenth of their spices and Jesus said they should continue to do that.  If they had said they were fasting, I think Jesus might have told them to continue to do that, but I don’t think that necessarily means we all must fast today.

I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think the ten percent tithe is a specific rule we must follow today like the many rules they were required to follow in the Old Testament.  However, I definitely believe we should be giving money to the church, and I think it would be fine to look at what they were instructed to do and model that by giving ten percent of your earnings to the church.  I also believe it is possible that God wants some people to give more than ten percent.

Paul never discussed tithing ten percent, but he did talk about giving.  In 2 Corinthians 8:3, he said the Macedonians gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 he says, “Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he told them that they should set aside a sum of money in keeping with their income on the first day of every week (1 Corinthians 16:2).  I think if it was still a rule to tithe ten percent, Paul would have mentioned it, but instead he talked about giving with the proper attitude and according to your income.

-Rick McClain

Today’s 2021 Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 55-56 and 2 Timothy 3

Everything or Nothing: A tale of two women

John 12

In Judges 17 we meet Micah’s mother. She promises a certain amount of money to God but holds back most (17:3). She built an altar and disgraces herself by not giving everything to God. Fast forward to the New Testament where we meet a woman who meets Jesus and takes her most treasured possession, her perfume, and pours it on Jesus’ feet. The comparison is stark. On one hand, you have Micah’s mother who holds back and on the other hand, you have a woman who lavishly gives everything at Jesus’s feet.

We all have things that we value and take great care to keep. At the beginning of John 12, we see the thing Mary considered precious — a bottle of expensive perfume. This perfume was not just a fragrance to Mary. It was worth nearly a year’s wages. Mary wasn’t just saving this perfume for a special day. This bottle was her financial security.

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).

In an act of love, Mary poured her perfume onto Jesus’ feet. She knelt to the ground and washed His feet, ignoring the opinions of others. Mary gave radically. She gave not knowing if she would be able to live through the day but trusting Jesus anyway. She gave with such extravagance that the disciples told her she had given too much.

To put Mary’s situation in today’s terms, it would be like going to church next Sunday, feeling called to give, and tithing your entire year’s salary! Yet, this is the same way God gave to us. He gave His best when He gave us Jesus. God not only calls us to radical faith, but He also calls us to radical giving.

What woman are you like? Are you giving everything to the Lord? Ask yourself how you can be more extravagant in your giving. What’s holding you back from pouring your security out at Jesus’ feet? How do these verses show us that we can trust Him with what’s most precious to us?

Is there anything in your life you have not given to God?

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 17-18 and John 12

Sour Gummy Worms & Copper Coins

Luke 21

My young cousin got a bag of sour gummy worms for Christmas this past year. The following week, he carried the bag along everywhere he went, proudly savoring each lick. He loved those sour gummy worms! At the end of the week, he tried to give me his precious worms; of course, I declined because I don’t delight in stealing candy from children. As he was leaving my house, he hid the candy in my bedroom because he wanted me to have them. He didn’t have much to give, but he gave all he had and did so sincerely. 

Luke describes a similar encounter Jesus had with a poor widow at the temple: 

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

We know three things about the woman mentioned: she was poor, she was a widow, and she gave a small amount of money to the church. Her story isn’t flashy and her name isn’t even mentioned. Yet, she honored God by giving the little she had. And you know what? Jesus said her gift was greater than all the others. 

Jesus had spent the past day discussing the intricate details of religious rules and hypothetical situations. They were concerned with religion, but perhaps not the conditions of their hearts. Their attitudes are juxtaposed by the poor widow whose heart was generous and faithful. By the world’s standards, the poor widow’s actions were foolish. She should have used the money to feed her family and allowed the Jews with more money to support the church. In God’s eyes, her giving was a reflection of her faith, and I am sure her family didn’t go hungry that night.

To be clear, God doesn’t need your money—neither your time nor gifts. 

I could have bought my own bag of sour gummy worms at the gas station down the street. In the same way, God can accomplish anything and everything by his own accord. However, He still wants your sour gummy worms, copper coins, and anything you have to give. 

God wants your trust.

God wants you to participate in the mission of the Church. 

God wants to bless you. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 25-26 and Luke 21

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