The Grace of Giving
Amazing Grace is one my favourite songs. It simultaneously confesses the human condition (‘a wretch like me’, ‘lost’, ‘blind’) but reminds us of God’s intervention – grace, God’s unmerited, unearned, love and favour in Christ. And it describes the result of God’s intervention – being found and seeing.
Like that song, when we think of God’s grace, we most often think of salvation – we are saved by grace (Eph. 2.8). This is the very heart of the gospel – the God’s graciousness in saving sinners, an act we don’t deserve but he gives it in anyway. But there is more.
I’ve always been struck by John’s prayer for his good friend Gaius in 3 John 1.2: ‘I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers’. The assumption is that Gaius’ soul was prospering – he was walking in and enjoying the peace, joy, and love that are ours in Christ. But John wanted Gaius to enjoy the full package – that he would prosper in all the details of his life to the same degree that he experienced spiritual prosperity.
Rather than limiting God’s working to our salvation – spiritual stuff – Paul reminds us that the Lord care deeply about the details of our lives. With this in mind, it’s interesting that in 2nd Corinthians Paul uses grace to describe the act of giving:
- We want you to know … about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia (2 Cor. 8.1)
- he should complete among you this act of grace (2 Cor. 8.6)
- see that you excel in this act of grace also (2 Cor. 8.7).
What is the ‘act of grace’ Paul is referencing? It is the collection for the needs of Jerusalem Christians in the midst of their need. Paul uses the example of the Macedonians – a relatively poor church, but generous – to spur on the Corinthians to great giving. And to think that the word he uses to describe it – act of grace – is the same word used to describe our salvation highlights the great value God attaches to giving.
In 2 Corinthians 9.6-11, Paul outlines several power-packed principles that reposition our perspective on giving. The key summary point Paul makes is this:
God gives grace that grows generosity.
1. The point is this:whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (v. 6). Paul uses the agricultural metaphor of planting seeds and harvesting crops to help us understand the way giving works: we reap according to the degree of our sowing.
2. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart,not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (v. 7). There are three kinds of givers: 1) reluctant givers say, ‘I give with regret’; 2) compelled givers say, ‘I give to get’; 3) Cheerful givers say, ‘I get to give!’. How can we become cheerful givers? Cheerfulness in giving financially is rooted in realising that it is an honour to partner with God in his purposes by through giving financially.