1 & 2 Corinthians: Day 36

Motivations for Giving

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Today's Text: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, Psalm 126:1-6, Hosea 10:12

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, Psalm 126:1-6, Hosea 10:12

“Jesus talked about money more than any other topic!”

Growing up, my dad issued this statement every time he spoke about stewardship. I have no idea if he was actually right—I have never tallied up the passages myself—but he was certainly on to something. Jesus was, without a doubt, concerned about our possessions. Between His parables and His one-on-one interactions, Jesus often addressed wealth, greed, investment, and stewardship. Whatever the precise frequency may have been, Jesus talked about money a lot.   

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul seems to pick up where Jesus left off. He is bold and unashamed in instructing the Corinthians to give. His tone is straightforward, and He seems totally unembarrassed by the indelicate topic of money.

The combined witnesses of Jesus and Paul remind us of an oft overlooked truth: how we talk about money matters. God doesn’t simply want us to give; He wants us to do it for the right reasons, and to think about our finances in a holy way. Along those lines, Jesus and Paul both steer us away from two common errors in our language about finances.

The first error is thinking of our finances as private. When it comes to money, many of us have a hands-off approach; we don’t want to be told what to do with it. I have heard stories of church attendees walking out of the service, never to return again, simply because the sermon was about stewardship. Money is a touchy subject, and as a result, pastors can be skittish about discussing it. Some even apologize to their congregations on the rare occasion that they do address finances.  

Paul, on the other hand, is unapologetic. He does not mince words when he warns, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,” (v. 6). Based on passages like this one, it’s impossible to read Scripture and conclude that our money is nobody else’s business. God is not ambivalent about our wealth, but instead lays claim to it, so we cannot balk when our church community invites us to be generous.

The second error in our thinking about money is that of the prosperity gospel. This error gives inordinate attention to wealth, and it worships a transactional god whose grace is something we earn. The prosperity gospel interprets Paul’s words in a materialistic way, promising that if you give your money away, you are guaranteed to make much more in return.

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9 seem especially vulnerable to the distortion of prosperity preaching, since he promises “whoever sows generously will reap generously” (v. 6). However, what distinguishes Paul’s message from the prosperity gospel is motivation. The prosperity gospel is motivated by material gain, whereas the “cheerful giving” that honors Christ is motivated by gratitude. Put another way, we express our gratitude to God by being generous with others, just as He is generous with us.

What is interesting about these two errors is that they produce the opposite effect. One discourages us from talking about money, while the other over-emphasizes it. But Scripture offers a third option. We can and should talk about money, but in the right way and for the right purpose: to the glory of God, the love of others, and the good of the world.

In truth, our finances are really not our own. They are God’s resources, which we are called to steward well. “And God is able to make every grace overflow to [us], so that in every way, always having everything [we] need, [we] may excel in every good work” unto to Him and for His glory (v. 8).

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Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.

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  • Monica Davis

    Amen!

  • Kelly Hock

    Love and gratitude … my prayer today is to love well and keep my heart grateful… these are not things that come natural to me… it will be a conscious effort to do this. But today I start!

  • Julie Waldvogel

    Giving freely to others is like a thank offering to God.

  • I heard a pastor say if you want to know what people value, look at their checkbook. Another way to say “where your treasure is your heart will be also.” If I have a big 401k, it is possible I’m not trusting God with my future. If I’m spending lots on private schools, maybe I don’t trust God with my children’s lives. If I fill my home with “stuff” maybe I’m putting my comfort over the comfort of a brother. Money is never decided upon in isolation, it reveals so much about our character. I pray we as a church will begin to talk more about money and how to honor God with it.

  • Karen Lockwood

    I used to go to a church where every Sunday before the offering we sang, “All things come of Thee, oh Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” It was a good reminder that it’s all His and to give out of gratitude to Him.

  • Verse 11 tells us why we are so blessed. “So that we can be generous on EVERY occasion…will result in thanksgiving to God”

  • Although Paul is instructing the church here about financial giving, I think you miss the greater message if you read this passage just in the light of money. Paul ends chapter 9 thanking God for “the indescribable gift”! This gift wasn’t monetary, it’s the unearned gift of eternal life through the grace filled sacrifice of His son, Jesus. Once we realize that this gift is for each of us, we can live in the overflow of grace-giving described in verse 8. All we have and all we are is because of God’s grace. We share this grace with others not out of obligation, but with cheerful, Spirit-led hearts. Realizing all we have has been given to us by grace and to give grace-filled as well.

    • Terri

      Amen! I love this verse with its unlimited possibilities in Him because of His grace! In EVERY way. ALWAYS having EVERYTHING you need. You may excel in EVERY good work.

    • PamC

      Well said. Thank you!

  • Pam White

    I have had a love of “things” for a while now. I realized that I turn to shopping for comfort instead of turning to prayer. Lately, The Holy Spirit has been convicting me that the things aren’t really mine at all—everything is His and that I need to turn to Him and lean on His strength. Shifting my thinking has loosened my grip and I’ve found myself giving away more and more. There is psychological rest in letting go of the material things and realizing that I don’t own anything in my own and also physical rest from having to care for them. Having fewer “things” frees up mental space for me and allows more room for Christ in my life! My lessons about “things” also applies to my finances. It’s not mine but His and there is rest in submitting to His will regarding the use of those resources.

    • Rachel

      Yes me too! This is a big area God is showing/teaching/growing me in. Just because I can buy something doesn’t mean I should. We just bought a house and the Holy Spirit is training me not to just fill it with stuff, but to decern what is actually best and what to giving away in the process. Thank you Jesus for it all, the spiritual gifts, the physical ones but also all the lessons I a learning.

    • Kristi L

      In the same boat as you, Pam! This devotional is so timely. May we remember our identity is in Christ and our joy is found in Him, not in the things of this world.

    • Jennifer Martin

      Amen!

    • PamC

      Yes! This has been my struggle for the better part of 2 years. Thank you for being so eloquent.

    • Elle

      This is a great point. I’ve been trying to use my money in ways that recognize the dignity and divinity of people. Which means spending more money on a smaller number of ethically made goods, rather than buying lots of cheap junk I don’t need and that won’t last. The True Cost is a great documentary about some of the harms that cheap consumption of fashion is having around the world. If I’m steward of these resources on behalf of Christ, then I feel like I need to do better to use them ethically.

  • Emily B

    I really like what it says in 2 Corinthians 8:5 about giving. It says ‘that they first gave themselves FULLY to the Lord, and THEN to others’ …I also like that 2 Corinthians 9 suggests not only a financial giving but the GIVING of ones self. We HAVE to remember that Christ spoke in PARABLES, and so did His disciples (wealth and investment can mean much more than money) …It’s IMPORTANT to LISTEN to that still small voice inside us, which is the Holy Spirit, and to do/act on, ONLY what the Holy Spirit is telling us, no matter the consequence!! Tap in with th Lord PERSONALLY, learn HIS voice and do as HE commands. He is a BIG and FAITHFUL Father (much more than we could ever imagine) who ALWAYS follows things through to the end. Be Blessed today Ladies!!

    • Shannon

      I agree. I think it’s also important not to excuse ourselves from giving financially by saying we are giving our time and energy. I grew up in a small farming community, and I often heard people say that since they “could not” tithe money, they served in the church as their “tithe.” I think this is robbing God of an opportunity to show His power and provision for our lives. Yes, serve with a cheerful heart! But also give money with a cheerful heart!

      • Emily B

        Totally agree!! It’s good to be held accountable on both ends. Only doing and saying what God wants of us!!

  • Kelly Chataine

    As we read earlier, Jesus emptied Himself and gave everything He had to give so that we might have life and have it abundantly. What an example He gave us all. When my husband fell, I was able to share the gospel with doctors, surgeons, nurses, nurse-techs, custodians, and strangers. I had different relational connections with these people and God empowered me to share. At the same time, my church family and community gave to us so wonderfully and unselfishly. Letters, notes, and cards would arrive with encouragement and love. Care packages including food, water, and toiletries would arrive for me to use because I was away from home a lot. Gas and restaurant cards were given. Sometimes I would open a card and there would be fifty dollars included. Sisters in Christ that would drive a long way to sit, talk, and pray with me. God used my church family and community to care for my every need and more. I was and continue to be amazed by it all. My husband and I want to be open to help others in the same way. God is so good!

    • Becky

      I hope your husband is improving Kelly. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Trisha

      Kelly, Your post expands on the point about our financial lives not being private. This community shared everything with you-time, money, effort, the sacrifice of time away from their own families to drive and be with you. I believe the great issue with money is that it is taught in a vaccum instead of wholeness of life-community, friendship, caring for the least within a community, and more. I too pray your husband is well on the road to recovery.

  • Churchmouse

    Jesus was generous on the earth though He had few earthly possessions. He gave generously of what He had – the Truth about Himself. I find it is easier to be generous with my money than with sharing the Gospel. Writing a check is easier than taking the time to talk with someone about sin and salvation. Yet God calls me to be generous in all that He has given me to steward : my faith as well as my finances. Sharing the Gospel honestly and vulnerably is the greater challenge. I’m praying today for a more generous spirit in this regard.

  • Kristine

    They say you spill what you are full of. May our cups overflow with love and gratitude and may these be our gifts to the world, so that through us, they may see Him

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