Incentive to Giving
June 3rd, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
2 Corinthians 8-9
INCENTIVE TO GIVING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 8 and 9
6-3-56 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Encouragement To Give. It is now in the eleventh year that the pastor has been preaching through the Bible. Starting at Genesis, going through the pages of the Holy Scriptures, and we have now come to the eighth and the ninth chapters of the second Corinthian letter.
The second Corinthian letter is divided into three very separate and distinct parts. The first seven chapters have to do with the church itself and the problems they were facing and Paul’s answer to those problems. The eighth and the ninth chapters have to do with the offering that he was taking among the churches. Then the last part, the tenth to the end of the book, has to do with a vindication of his apostolic ministry.
So we have come to the eighth and the ninth chapters which have to do with the grace of giving. And the reason Paul wrote the words was this. In the first Corinthian letter, which had been delivered to the church previously, he laid out a plan for the people whereby they might support the work of Christ Paul was laying upon their hearts. And this is the way that Paul wrote in his first Corinthian letter – First Corinthians 16:1-2:
Now concerning the collection . . . as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
[1 Corinthians 16:1-2]
Paul says in meeting the great need and the blessed opportunities afforded in the kingdom of Christ and the churches of the Lord Jesus, he says you’re not to give spasmodically. You’re not to give according to whim nor as to whether you may be present or not, but you are to give deliberately. You are to give purposely. You are to give plannedly. "This is what God has given to me, and week by week, upon the first day of the week, this part is set aside for God. This is dedicated to Him."
So many of us give when we come to church. So many of us have no plan in giving. So many of us tip the Lord just a little as we might be present – not according to the Word, not according to the commandment, not according to the Holy Scriptures. For God says, through the inspiration of His apostle, that a man is to think through how he is to give. He is to pray about it. And as God has prospered him – some of us that’d mean more; some of us that would mean less – but as God has prospered him, let him lay aside on the first day of each week according to the gifts of God to us [1 Corinthians 16:2].
So he had written that, I say, to the church at Corinth, and they received that zealously, happily, gladly – so much so that Paul says in the eighth chapter and the tenth verse, he says that "ye were forward to do this a year ago" [2 Corinthians 8:10]. And in the ninth chapter and the third through the fifth verses, he repeats the same thing. He says in the second verse: "For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia" – that is, Corinth and the churches surrounding Corinth – "Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many" [2 Corinthians 9:2].
Now, wasn’t that fine? That is glorious. Paul showed them how God wanted them to do it, and they were eager and zealous – he uses the word "forward" – to receive it and to do it.
All right, what happened? Nothing – nothing, not anything. A whole year passed, a solid year, and they had done exactly nothing. Wouldn’t that inspire you? Wouldn’t that thrill you? Wasn’t that a magnificent thing? Eager and zealous and willing: "Paul, we receive it as of God what you have said, this plan you have given us, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and we are forward and eager and zealous to do it," then they didn’t do anything at all.
That’s just about like most of us – just about most of us. Why, we’ll promise, "I’ll win somebody to the Lord," and we never do. "I’ll go see somebody about – about a soul," and we never do. "And I’m going to do this and lots of things besides," and we never do. That’s just folks. That’s people. That’s why we have to have the church, and that’s why we have to have the pastor, and that’s why we have to assemble here: to encourage one another in the doing of the thing that we have given our hearts to do. It isn’t because we’re malicious and mean and willfully subvert the will of God. We just don’t. We just don’t. Just don’t. Well, that’s why Paul wrote the letter.
Now, listen to it: they were so eager and zealous in it. Now, listen to Paul – Second Corinthians 8:11: "Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which you have." Then over here in the next chapter, he says the same thing, only he says it more forcibly. Listen to him: "Now I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you shall be in vain in this behalf; that, as I say, that ye may be ready: lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (no, that we say not, ye) shall be ashamed in this same confident boasting" [2 Corinthians 9:3-4].
"I told up there to those churches of Macedonia how zealous you were and how liberal you were and how eager you were and you were forward in doing this thing; and now a whole solid year has passed, and you’ve done nothing at all. And the brethren are coming with me down from Macedonia and they’ll find that out – that you haven’t done anything. And we – no, not we, ye – you be ashamed. "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye hath notice before, that the same might be ready . . ." [2 Corinthians 9:5].
So Paul wrote this letter, and he was anxious about them. "Here I’ve said all these marvelous things about this church – your zeal, and your eagerness, and your readiness. Now you haven’t done anything, and you’re not ready. And we’re coming down, and the brethren from Macedonia with me, and I’m ashamed. No, not I, but you’ll be ashamed. Therefore, I’m writing you both beforehand that you do this thing to which you so willingly and eagerly pledged your lives" [2 Corinthians 9:3-5].
All right, now, that’s the sermon. As he made appeal to the church at Corinth to give, I have picked out five things here by which Paul encourages the church there to give. And the first thing that he says is this. He encourages them by the example of others:
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit –
isn’t that an old-fashioned way of saying it? –
we want you to know of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
And this they did, not as we had hoped –
not like we thought they would –
but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and then they gave unto us by the will of God.
[2 Corinthians 8:1-5]
My, what a magnificent, what a magnificent thing. Up there in Macedonia, those poor churches, they had been ravaged by war. They had been taxed almost to confiscation. They’d been scourged from a thousand directions. And beside that, the churches themselves were in the throes of a constant persecution. They were afflicted, and they were poor. But Paul says the more they were afflicted and the poorer they were, the more liberal they were. "For to their power, yea, and beyond their power . . . they prayed us with much entreaty to receive the gift" [2 Corinthians 8:3-4].
And Paul says: "We, said, ‘No. No, you’re too poor. You’re too afflicted. We can’t receive from your hands. Not this much. Not this much. But they entreated us that we take the gift that they might have a fellowship in this ministry. And this is the way that they did it: not like we had planned, not like we thought for, but first they had a tremendous consecration service and gave their own selves to the Lord. Then they gave unto us according to the will of God" [2 Corinthians 8:4-5].
My soul, my soul, what if you had a church like that? The poorer they were, the more they gave. And when they came to that act of giving, they made out of it a great holy consecration commitment of themselves to Christ and then they gave according to the will of God. That’d encourage anybody, wouldn’t it? And it does us today.
Somebody sometimes will say, "But, preacher, you’re going to kill the church. Give and give and give until you kill the church. The church kill itself giving." And a pastor one time replied to that, saying – he said, "If I ever hear of a church that gave itself to death supporting the cause of Jesus," he said, "I’m going to count it a phenomenon worthy of a pilgrimage. And I’m going to the ends of the earth if needs be and find that church that killed itself giving to the cause of Christ. And I’m going to stand on the moss-covered roof of that defunct church and lift my hands in blessing to heaven and say, ‘O God, blessed art [they] who die in the Lord.’"
Ah, you just don’t die giving to Jesus, and you don’t kill yourself giving to the Savior, and no church ever lost a spark of its life because of their abundant liberality. Though we must hasten, that was the first one: exhorting those people in the church to give by the example of these others.
All right, he has a second appeal here. In the thirteenth and the fourteenth verses, he says: "For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be an equality" [2 Corinthians 8:13-14].
So I’d say a second thing by which he encourages the church to give is the sharing of the responsibility, the opportunity that God hath laid upon us. And I think all of us feel in our hearts an immediate sympathy with that. All of us have parts – all of us – and this is your part, and this is his part, and this is her part, and all of us share it together because, Paul says: "We do not want some burdened with a task they are too small to support and not big enough to carry. But I mean that there be an equality; not that some be eased and others burdened" [2 Corinthians 8:12-14].
I think he must have had in mind something like the carrying of a big burden like a log. And there’s a fellow down here at this end, and there’s another and another. And the one at this end can barely hold up his part but that there be an equality – that all of us assume this responsibility and share it alike.
There are glorious young people in this church. Once in a while – I never try to find out what anybody gives, never. But once in a while, it’ll come to my attention about a young fellow or a young girl in this church, and some of those young people give all. You would think they were millionaires. They work hard, and they need what they are doing, what they are receiving. They need it, some of them, to buy a home; they’ve just gotten married. Or they need it to pay the doctor’s bill; they’ve just had a little baby come. Or they need it to help them go to school. And if you ever saw anybody in your life that had a reason to bestow on themselves and their purposes what they had, some of these young people have those reasons. But they are so faithful. No matter how earnestly they’re trying to save to go to school or trying to buy a house or trying to pay the doctor’s bill or the hospital bill for a little baby, you’ll find them faithfully Sunday by Sunday setting aside a proportion, and a worthy one, of all God has given them for the service and ministry of Christ in this beloved church.
Paul says it isn’t just for them to bear it alone or just for these or for those, but all of us are to take our part, assume this task and responsibility, and share it alike – all of us. If I don’t do my part, there’s some little place in the kingdom of God that’s weak where it ought to be strong. All of us sharing alike that there may be an equality: "I mean not that some be eased, and others burdened: but by an equality . . . " [2 Corinthians 8:13] that all of us share alike.
All right, his third appeal. His third appeal concerns the reward that God makes possible to those who do give: "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully . . . For God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" [2 Corinthians 6:8]. Paul says no man ever out gives God, but as the man gives bountifully, God provides bountifully for the man.
Now, I do not think that you could make an equation like this: here you give this and God will give five or ten times as much, so you give this more and God will give that more. No, I don’t think it could be crass. I don’t think it could be material. I don’t think it’d be like that. I don’t think the formula would work out just like that.
But the reason why it wouldn’t is because you would not want it to. You couldn’t love God and have the spirit of grace in your heart and do it that way. You just wouldn’t. You couldn’t. But God does say that if a man is full of liberality and grace and he sows bountifully, "I will bless him bountifully" [2 Corinthians 9:6, 8].
What those blessings are, I’m not able always to say. Maybe things that I don’t receive as blessings, God intends or God knows in His infinite wisdom that that was the best blessing I could have in the world. God will give us those infinitely things that are best. If it means a thousand times I prosper in my business, God will give me that. If it means sorrow, God will give me that. But what is best, God is able to make His grace abound toward you [2 Corinthians 9:8], and He says that one who sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully [2 Corinthians 9:6].
And I can say in my observation that almost always when I see that thing financially, worked out materially, almost always it’ll follow that equation that I say we’re not to believe in. We’re not to accept. We’re not to do it that way. But, I say, almost always it works out that way.
Here is a man that picks God as his partner in his little business, and it isn’t long until he’s got a big business. Why? Because he’s got a big partner. Just try it. Just try it. See what happens. When you make a partner in your life and in your work, make a partner with God. See what happens. Things will turn. Things will break. Things will happen. And you don’t know how they happened or how they turned that way. God did it for you. Your other partner was taking His part of the task. He’s a good one, and He’s faithful. Try it and see. Paul encouraged them, saying: "He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" [2 Corinthians 9:6].
Now, there’s a fourth encouragement that he makes: "Every man," he says, "as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity" [2 Corinthians 9:7]. Squeezing blood out of a turnip, pulling the tail feathers out of the eagle. No, not grudgingly: "Oh I wish I could spend this on something else." Not grudgingly or of necessity: "Ooh I have to do this – belong to the church, and got to give a little," or, "I’m an officer in it and I’ve got to be an example." Of necessity? No, not grudgingly, not of necessity, but as a man longs in his heart: "for God loveth a cheerful giver" [2 Corinthians 9:7]. Giving for wanting to – want to, love to.
And I tell you, as I thought through this sermon and came to that passage and I thought of our church and what happens when we support it, ah there was a multitude of things that came before my mind. Wanting to – giving because I want to, love to, like to. Well, here are some of the things that I thought about, and it’d take me hours to say what that supports, but these are just some of the things.
Well, first of all, I thought of our missions here in the city of Dallas. I guess I thought of them first because they’re closest by. This church has eight wonderful missions, and every Lord’s Day, there are between thirteen and fourteen hundred youngsters and people in Sunday school in those missions. And they are listening to their pastors preach the gospel, and they’re being saved, hundreds and hundreds, and they’re being baptized. And once in a while, I go among them and I look at them, and I do it with such fullness of heart and such gratitude to God.
There is a family – and I’ve heard some of those fellows stand up and say things like this: the father, the head of the house, stand up and say, "Six months ago, I was in the gutter. Six months ago, I was a drunkard. Six months ago, every time I came home with my paycheck, I’d stop on the way home by such-and-such place. And when I got home, beat my wife, beat my children, and we lived in misery and in poverty and want. And six months ago, that young pastor" – and he’d point out one of our mission pastors – "six months ago, that young pastor came to see me, and showed me the way to God, and read to me out of the Book, and showed me how to be saved. And I gave my heart to Jesus, and I’ve been baptized. And since that day, we’ve had a new home and a new house. And I’m happy in the Lord, and I’m grateful to God for what you’ve done for me."
I had a part in that. I didn’t go see the man and I didn’t baptize him, but I had a part in it. Every Sunday, I bring a gift here to this church, and a part of that gift built that chapel out there and called that preacher and sustains that ministry. And I’m so glad. I am so glad.
"Well, preacher, don’t you begrudge it? Don’t you wish you’d given it to something else? How about buying a new suit? How about doing something else with it?" Well, I haven’t found anything yet, nothing yet. I haven’t found anything yet that has the recompense and the joy and fullness of heart like supporting that. I have a part in that.
When you have a little time, if you ever do, on a Monday or a Tuesday, go over there to our parking and recreational building that this afternoon we’re dedicating to Mrs. Veal. You go out there and just look around. You’ll see hundreds of children. Where do they come from? They come from places where they don’t have any playgrounds, where they don’t have any opportunities, where they don’t have anything except just poverty and misery. You go over there and look at those children, and under the guiding hands of a staff in this church, you’ll find them playing there all those different games. And they’re shouting, and they’re laughing, and they’re having a good time. They’re our mission children. They’re gathered up over this city, and they’re playing up there in a place that you’d never in the earth have an opportunity to provide for them had it not been for the wonderful gift of a wonderful woman and for the sustaining ministry of this blessed church. I have a part in that. I don’t regret it.
And what could I say more? I say it’d take hours. What could I say more about the beautiful nurseries to which our lovely mothers and fathers bring their children here and all of the staff and the work and ministry of this downtown church, building a lighthouse in the very heart of this city and one God has unbelievably blessed?
Why, I’d be hours, I say, when I speak of our mission program beyond. Whenever you put a gift here, one-half of it – a little more than half – goes for the missionary causes of Christ all around this earth: here in the city, and the state, and the Southland, and beyond the seas. I don’t regret it.
I don’t regret it. Going around with some of those missionaries – see them give medicine out to the sick, I helped buy that medicine. I don’t regret it. Seeing them build a compound for lepers, I don’t regret the little part I had in that ministry. Seeing them build a little church way back there in a bush country or in an African jungle or over there among the refugees in Hong Kong or down there in South America, I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it.
I just have this deeper persuasion that had our people done more for Christ in the great missionary preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, we wouldn’t have so much Communism and so much infiltration and so much fear and so much terror and the awe of catastrophe that lies in an ultimate war. We wouldn’t have it today.
I don’t regret. I don’t regret. Glad to do it – "not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" [2 Corinthians 9:7]. Glad to do it. Glad to do it. When time comes to pledge, glad to do it. And when time comes to carry through Sunday by Sunday, on the first day of the week, glad to do it.
I love our Baylor Hospital here. That’s our Baptist hospital – all those faithful men who guide the destiny of that institution, pouring their lives into that ministry. I love that hospital and love to help support it. And blessed Baylor University where I went to school, where we have seven hundred preacher boys, I love that school, and I’m happy to support it. And all of these – our orphans’ home – I cannot say it all – but this church supports it and prays for it and gives to it.
And there’s not an investment that a man make in any philanthropy or in any charity in God’s earth that has the tremendous dividend that God pays as when we give to this wonderful and precious church: "not grudgingly or of necessity, but out of a full heart; God loveth a cheerful giver" [2 Corinthians 9:7].
I close because in the last appeal he makes here, I could not begin to encompass it in an hour like this. So it’s going to be the sermon tonight – what I think is, I suppose, the most beautiful sentence in the Bible.
His last appeal, the fifth one, that he makes to the church to give is this: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" [2 Corinthians 8:9].
Don’t you hear Dr. Fowler quote it so much as he kneels down here in prayer? "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" [2 Corinthians 8:9].
That’s the thing that explains the alabaster box. Judas couldn’t understand it. It is too much for him [John 12:3-6]. Give all of that to the Lord? Waste all of that upon the cause of Jesus? Why, you could have sold it. It was a year’s wages! And pour it all out there on the Lord Jesus?
Well, he couldn’t understand it, but we do. We know how she felt. Everything she owed to Him – everything. And as the days of His passion pressed upon Him, and the day of the cross came so nigh, she anointed His body for the burying and wiped His feet with the hairs of her head [John 12:3, 7]. This is why the grace of the Lord Jesus, who had everything, became poor that we, through that poverty, that sacrifice, that we might be rich [2 Corinthians 8:9].
And any man who ever loves the Lord will know what that feeling is: just owe it all to Jesus. Any part of me that is not redeemed, I can claim for my own and I can keep it for myself. But all the part of me that looks to Jesus for salvation and redemption, that part I owe to God. And that part is all of me. My soul, that it might be saved; my body, that it might be raised; and my whole life, that it might be redeemed: all of it I owe to God.
Through His poverty, I am made rich [2 Corinthians 8:9]. Ah, these incentives. Why, just to enumerate them makes you feel, "Preacher, pass that collection plate again. Pass that collection plate again. I didn’t do what I could today. Preacher, pass that again. Pass it again."
Well, we don’t do that of course, but this morning, this holy hour, we can do like the Macedonians did. We can give ourselves anew and again to Christ. We can consecrate ourselves to Him. And as these future days unfold, we can offer to God our equal best – what I am able to do, what you’re able to do – and God taking it all together and summing it up in the greatest ministry this earth has: this church – its giving program, its prayerful intercession, its heart ever open to the appeal and the call of Christ.
And now, before our memorial, we’re going to sing our hymn of invitation. If you’ve been listening on the radio, maybe you’re not a Christian, maybe you’ve never given your heart to the Lord. Right where you’re listening, would you bow your head? Would you offer Jesus your heart and your life? Would you do it? Would you do it? "Today, Lord, in the forgiveness of sins, bringing my soul to Thee in faith and trust; looking to Thee, Lord, save me, and save me now." Would you do it? And in the great throng of people here this morning, somebody you, confess your faith in the Lord; somebody you, put your life with us in the church. One somebody, a family you – however God shall say the word and make the appeal – while we sing this song, into the aisle, down here to the front: would you stand by me while all of us stand and sing the song together?
written plan, delivered sometime before, 1 Corinthians 16:1ff.
with deliberation; thinking the matter over, praying about it, deliberate
purpose, not impulse, not spasmodic feeling.
Giving according to a well-considered plan. This is set apart for God.
eager willingness to do it (8:10; 9:2), but they had failed to carry
through. (8:11; 9:3-5).
appeal for their giving:
The example of others. 8:1-5,8.
poorer they were, the harder time, the more they gave.
Compare: A member one time unbraided the pastor:
“You are going to kill the church.”
“Don’t think so, no church ever gave itself to death.” But reminds me of a colored pastor. He announced “if any man would notify
him of a church that had killed itself by contributions to the cause of Christ,
he would count it a phenomenon as worthy of a pilgrimage, would go to the ends
of the earth, if needs be, to stand upon the moss-covered roof of that defunct
church, lift up hands and say: “Blessed are the dead who die in the
A duty, a responsibility to share.
as he is able.
A reward in giving.
Compare: Luke 6:38 “Give and it shall be given
Compare: Proverbs 11:24 There is that scattereth and
yet increaseth, as there is that with holdeth but it tendeth to poverty.
Compare: The Dead Sea and Galilee.
Giving from wanting to.
work we support.
The sacrifice of Christ.
= Philippians 2:7.
anointing of Jesus, wiping with her hair, his feet.