Chapter 3 – The Grace of God and Money

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Cor. 8: 9.

In this and the following chapters we have Paul’s teaching on the subject of Christian giving. In connection with a collection he wishes the Corinthian Christians from among the Gentiles to make for their Jewish brethren, he opens up the heavenly worth of our earthly gifts, and unfolds principles which ought to animate us as we offer our money in God’s service. He does this especially as he cites the example of the Macedonian Christians and their abounding liberality, and makes them for all time the witnesses to what God’s grace can do in making the ingathering of money the occasion of the deepest joy, of the revelation of the true Christlikeness, and of abounding thanksgiving and glory to God. Let us gather up some of the principal lessons; they may help us to find the way by which our money can increasingly become a means and a proof of the progress of the heavenly life within us.

1. The Grace of God always teaches us to give. “We make known to you the grace of God which has been given to the churches of Macedonia.” 2 Cor. 8:1. In the course of the two chapters the word grace occurs eight times. Once of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sakes became poor.” Once of “the grace which God is able to make abound to us.” The other six times of the special grace of giving.

We all think we know what the word means. It is not only used of the gracious disposition in God’s heart towards us, but much more of that gracious disposition which God bestows and works in us. Grace is the force, the power, the energy of the Christian life, as it is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. We all know the command to stand fast in grace, to grow in grace, to seek for more grace. We rejoice in the words, exceeding grace, grace abounding exceedingly, grace exceedingly abundant. We pray continually that God would increase and magnify His grace in us.

We know the law of the Christian life: that no grace can be truly known or increased, except by acting it out. Let us learn here that the use of our money for others is one of the ways in which grace can be expressed and strengthened. The reason is clear. Grace in God is His compassion on the unworthy. His grace is wondrously free. It is always giving, without regard to merit. God finds his life and his delight in giving.

And when His grace enters the heart, it cannot change its nature: whether in God or man, grace loves and rejoices to give. And grace teaches a man to look upon this as the chief value of his money — the Godlike power of doing good, even at the cost of enriching others by impoverishing ourselves.

Let us learn the lessons. If we have God’s grace in us it will show itself in giving. If we want new grace, we must exercise what we have in giving. And in all we give we ought to do it in the consciousness of the grace of God that works it in us.

2. The Grace of God teaches to give liberally. “Their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality, for according to their power, yea, beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace.” 2 Cor. 8:2. What a sight! And what a proof of the power of grace! These newly converted Gentiles in Macedonia hear of the need of their Jewish brethren in Jerusalem — men unknown and despised — and at once are ready to share with them what they have.

Of their own accord, they so give beyond their power, that Paul refuses to accept their gifts: with much entreaty they implore and persuade him to accept the gift. “Their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”

It is remarkable how much more liberality there is among the poor than the rich. It is as if they do not hold so fast what they have: they more easily part with all; the deceitfulness of riches has not hardened them; they have learned to trust God for tomorrow. Their liberality is not indeed what men count such; their gifts are but small. Men say it does not cost them much to give all; they are so accustomed to have little. And yet the very fact of their giving it more easily is what makes it precious to God; it shows the childlike disposition that has not yet learnt to accumulate and to hold fast. God’s way in His kingdom of grace on earth is ever from below, upwards. “Not many wise and not many noble are called. God has chosen the weak and the base things.” And even so He has chosen the poor in this world, as they give out of their deep poverty, to teach the rich what liberality is.

“Far beyond their power gave they of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift.” If this spirit were to pervade our churches and men of moderate means and of large possessions were to combine with the poor in their standard of giving, and the Macedonian example became the law of Christian liberality, what means would not flow in for the service of the kingdom.

3. The Grace of God teaches to give joyfully.

“The abundance of their joy abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” (8:2.) In the Christian life joy is the index of health and whole-heartedness. It is not an experience for times and seasons: it is the abiding proof of the presence and enjoyment of the Savior’s love. No less than our spiritual exercises, it is meant to pervade our daily duties and our times of trial: “a joy that no man takes from you.” And so it inspires our giving, making the offering of our money a sacrifice of joy and thanksgiving. And as we give joyfully, it becomes itself a new fountain of joy to us, as a participation in the joy of Him who said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

The blessedness of giving: would that men believed how sure this way to unceasing joy is, to be ever giving as God lives to give. Of the day when Israel brought its gifts for the temple, it is said “then the people rejoiced, because with a perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord; and David the King also rejoiced with great joy.”

That is a joy we may carry with us through life and through each day, unceasingly dispensing our gifts of money, our lives or service all around. God has implanted the instinct of happiness deep in every creature; it cannot help being drawn to what gives happiness. Let us get our hearts filled with the faith of the joy of giving: that joy will make to rich and poor our calls to give among our most precious privileges; it will be true of us, “and the abundance of their joy abounded to the riches of their liberality.”

4. The Grace of God makes our giving part of our surrender to our Lord.

Paul says of their giving (8: 5), they not only did this, “but first they gave their own selves to the Lord.” In this sentence we have one of the most beautiful expressions for what is needed to salvation, and what it is in which full salvation consists. A man who has given himself to the Lord: that comprises all our Lord asks of us; all the rest He will do. The expression is nowhere else found in Scripture; we owe it to this dealing with the matter of the collection. It tells us that giving money will have no value, except we first give ourselves; that all our giving must just be the renewal and carrying out of the first great act of self-surrender; that each new gift of money may be a renewal of the blessedness of entire consecration.

It is only this thought that can lift our giving out of the ordinary level of Christian duty, and make it truly the manifestation and the strengthening of the grace of God in us. We are not under the law, but under grace. And yet so much of our giving, whether in the church plate, or on the subscription list, or on special occasions, is done as a matter of course, without aught of the direct relation to our Lord. A truly consecrated life is a life moment by moment in his love; it is this that will bring us to what appears so difficult, ever to give in the right spirit and as an act of worship. It is this will make “the abundance of our joy abound to the riches of our liberality.”

5. The Grace of God makes our giving part of the Christlike life.

“See that you abound in this grace also, for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor.” (8:9.) Every branch and leaf and blossom of the mightiest oak derives its life from the same strong root that bears the stem. The life in the tiniest bud is the same as in the strongest branch. We are branches in Christ the Living Vine; the very life that lived and worked in Him. Of what consequence that we should know well what His life is, that we may intelligently and willingly yield to it. Here we have one of its deepest roots laid open; “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he become poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” To enrich and bless us, He impoverished Himself. That was why the widow’s mite pleased Him so; her gift was of the same measure as His: “She cast in all she had.” This is the life and grace that seeks to work in us; there is no other mold in which the Christ-life can be cast. “See that you abound in this grace also; for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus, that he became poor.” How little did the Macedonian Christians know that they were, in their deep poverty, and in the riches of their liberality, giving beyond their power, just acting out what the Spirit and grace of Jesus was working in them. How little we would have expected that the simple gift of these poor people would become the text of such high and holy and heart-searching teaching. How much we need to pray that the Holy Spirit may so master our purses and our possessions, that the grace of our giving will, in some truly recognizable degree, be the reflection of our Lord’s. And how we need to bring our giving to the cross, and to seek Christ’s death to the world and its possessions as the power for ours. So will we make others rich through our poverty, and our life be somewhat like St. Paul’s: “poor, yet making many rich.”

6. The grace of God works in us not only the willing, but the doing. (8:10.) “You were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but also to will. But now complete the doing also; that as there was the readiness to will, so there may be the performance also.” We all know what a gulf in the Christian life there often is between the willing and the doing. This prevails in the matter of giving, too. How many long for a time when they may be better off and able to give more. And meantime that wish, the fancied willingness to give more, deceives them, and is made to do duty for present liberality. How many who have the means, and intend doing something liberal, yet hesitate, and the large donation during life, or the legacy in the will, is never carried out. How many count themselves really liberal, because of what they will, while what they do, even up to their present means, is not what God would love to see. The message comes to all: “Now complete the doing also; that as the readiness to will, so the completion also, out of your ability.”

“It is God who works in as to will and to do”; let us beware, in any sphere, of hindering Him by unbelief or disobedience, and resting in the ‘to will’, without going on to the ‘to do’. The Christian life needs exercise; it is by practice that godliness grows. If in anything we find that our giving has not been up to this Scripture model, not as liberal and joyful, not in as perfect accord with the spirit of our entire surrender to our Lord, or of His making himself poor for us, let us at once, in addition to the readiness to will, complete the doing also.

7. The grace of God makes the gift acceptable according to what a man has. (8:12.) “For if the readiness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” The God who sees the heart, judges each gift by the ability to give. And His blessed Spirit gives the upright heart the blessed consciousness that the gift on earth has found approval and acceptance in heaven. God has been careful in His Word to teach us this in every possible way. All the world’s judgments of the value of gifts are reversed in heaven; the love that gives liberally according to what it has is met by the Father’s love from above. Let us seek to redeem our giving from all that is commonplace and little by taking hold of the blessed assurance: it is acceptable. Let us refuse to give what appears to satisfy us: let us pause, and rejoice in God’s call to give, and in His Spirit that teaches how much and how to give, and the deepest joy of giving will come to us — the Spirit’s seal that the Father is well pleased.

8. The grace of God through the giving works out the true unity and equality of all saints. (8:13.) “I say not this, that others may be eased and you distressed; but by equality, your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance may also become a supply to your want. That there may be equality. As it is written: He that gathered much, had nothing over: and he that gathered little had no lack.” Another ray of heavenly light on this appeal for a collection. Money will become the bond of union that binds the Christians of Jerusalem and of Corinth into one. They are one as much as Israel was one people. As in their ingathering of the manna the feeble and the strong were to bring all into one store, that all might share alike, so in the body of Christ. God allows of riches and poverty, God bestows His gifts with apparently unequal hand, that our love may have the high privilege of restoring the equality. The want of some calls us to the love and the help and the blessedness of giving to others. And at another time, or in different spheres, the very ones who needed help may, in their turn, out of their abundance bless their helpers. Everything has been so ordered that love will have room to work, and that there will be opportunity to cultivate and to prove the Christlike spirit.

What a call and what a field in the needs of the world for all God’s people to prove that God’s plan is theirs: “that there may be equality,” and that the spirit of selfish contentment with my greater privilege has been banished by the Cross. In philanthropy and missions what a need for all saints doing their utmost ” according to their power — yea, and beyond their power.”

In sight of the heathen world, oh! what an appeal that there be equality and that we shall share and share alike with them what God gives us. What new, unthought of, eternal value, money gets as one of the powers for giving to the perishing, of the abundance we have in Christ.

There is no room left to enlarge on the further lessons of 2 Cor. 9. Let me just mention them:

(9: 6.) Let the giving be bountiful: it will bring a bountiful reward. 
(9: 7.) Let the giving not be grudging or of necessity: the cheerful giver receives God’s love. 
(9: 8.) Let the giving be trustful: God will make all grace abound. 
(9:11-13.) Your giving brings glory to God by the thanksgiving of those you bless. 
(9:15.) Your giving reminds of God’s giving, and calls to thanks for His unspeakable gift.

What a world of holy thought and heavenly light opened up by the gifts of the Macedonian and Corinthian converts! Will we not, under the power of that thought and light, review all our giving and see that it be brought into perfect accord with the Divine pattern in these chapters. Shall we not begin at once, and yield to Him, who became poor for us, everything that self-interest and self-indulgence has hitherto claimed and held. And shall we not beseech Him to show in us by His Spirit that the one worth and blessedness of money is to spend it for our Lord, to bless our fellowmen, to use it as an instrument and an exercise of grace, and so to turn even it into the treasure that lasts for eternity.