Principles in Giving
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Principles in Giving

From Series: The Grace of Giving

2 Corinthians 9:1-15  (ID: 2534)

Most Christians are prepared to acknowledge that we should give. But do we know why? Drawing from Paul’s practical encouragement to the Corinthian church, Alistair Begg reminds us that although generous giving brings its own rewards, this should never be the incentive for our generosity. Because giving is an expression of our faith, it should be determined privately and prayerfully, not out of obligation or pity. In this way, we can give cheerfully even as God is glorified.


Sermon Transcript:

I invite you to turn to the New Testament now, to 2 Corinthians and chapter 9; 2 Corinthians 9, and we’ll read from verse 1:

“There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.’

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

Amen.

You may want to keep your Bibles open there, and we’ll pause and ask God’s help as we study together:

Father, we confess that on our best day we are unprofitable servants, that we’re entirely dependent upon you for the ability to speak and hear and understand and obey. And so it is to you alone we look. We lift our “eyes to the hills [and say,] where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”[1] Help us then, Lord, we pray, as we study the Bible. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, in turning to 2 Corinthians chapter 9, we’re coming for the third time to consider what Paul refers to in 8:7 as “this grace of giving.” We have not studied giving at Parkside for about eight years; prior to that, we didn’t really do anything with it for twelve, and it may be another eight or twelve before we come back to it again. And so I think it’s imperative that we pay careful attention to these three studies, and in light of that, I determined that we will begin this morning by building on where we were last time, and I want to give you the Cliff[s]Notes, as it were, of where we’ve been in our previous two studies.

A Review of What We’ve Learned

Last time we learned that any consideration of giving must begin with the fact of God’s giving . That’s how Paul begins chapter 8, telling them about the grace that God has given the Macedonians. It’s how, you will notice, he concludes chapter 9: that “because of the surpassing grace God has given you.” And any attempt to address the question of money and the giving of money that does not begin with an acknowledgement of the fact that all that we have and are is from the hand of God is a teaching that starts from the wrong place.

When we read the Bible and come to discover who Jesus is, we discover that God has given to us immensely in Jesus and that we in turn must give ourselves unreservedly to him.

We noted, then, that the Macedonians were an example to us, in that, according to 8:5, “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” And again, we said that that was foundational, that any consideration of giving money that does not begin with the giving of oneself starts, again, at the wrong place. And that is why many people from the outside looking in to churches—and often not absent justification, in many instances—look from the outside and say, “Well, it appears that the church is just about trying to get money or collecting things for itself,” and so on. It is only when we come to read the Bible and come to discover who Jesus is that we discover that God has given to us immensely in Jesus and that we in turn must give ourselves unreservedly to him , discovering him to be a Savior and a Friend and a Lord and a King. And that is exactly where the Macedonian believers were: “They gave themselves first to the Lord.”

And then we noted, in 8:1, they gave in response to God’s grace. It was because God had provided for them that they had grateful hearts and they were able to give to others. And we tried to summarize that with those three words beginning with g: grace, gratitude, and giving. We noted that their giving was not simply in concurrence with their ability, but that, according to 8:3, they gave “beyond their ability.” They gave beyond their comfort zone. They were prepared to endure the squeeze, as it were, so that others may not feel the pinch, and they curtailed their wants so that they might give to other people’s needs. We then noted that they gave without being prompted or prodded; that’s the phrase that ends verse 3 and begins 8:4—hence the significance of it—they gave “entirely on their own.” And they were so excited and interested in this whole concept of giving to God’s people that, according to verse 4, they “pleaded” for the “privilege” of giving.

We then, in the evening—and many were not present in the evening—paid a little attention to the question of tithing, recognizing that most considerations of giving are almost exclusively tied to this notion that we are required, obligated, to take a tenth of what we have and give it to God. And so we looked briefly at the Bible; we saw that tithing was the basic pattern of giving in the Old Testament. We also then went on to notice that tithing is nowhere stated as an obligation in the New Testament. And we thought that that was probably significant in its absence, especially when you think of the extent of, for example, Paul’s Jewish background, being “a Hebrew of [the] Hebrews.”[2] If ever there was anybody who was going to, in a letter such as this, put to the very front and foremost the Old Testament obligation of tithing, then we would expect that Paul would be the person to do it. And therefore, the fact that he leaves it out must, by his very silence, nudge us in one direction.

We also recognized that while the New Testament does not lay down the principle of the tithe, we have to be honest and say that neither does it set it aside. And therefore, when we take the Bible as a whole, it is not unreasonable to assume that the presupposition of the New Testament is that when men and women think of giving to God, that they would assume that their giving would more than equal the tithing obligations under the old covenant.

We then spent a moment or two thinking about the priority of the local church. Why is it that we would give to the local church? We turned to Acts chapter 4: “They brought their gifts to the apostle’s feet.”[3] We considered briefly Galatians 6: that those who are fed or taught should “share all good things with their teacher.”[4] We looked at 1 Timothy chapter 5, where Paul tells Timothy that “the elders who direct the affairs of the church … are worthy of [a] double honor.”[5] And so we said to one another that the place where we are fed and cared for is the place where our giving begins ; other organizations and opportunities may come afterwards but not before.

And then we wrapped it up by looking briefly at 1 Corinthians 16, where we saw that our giving to God’s work should be planned, it should be regular, it should be proportionate “in keeping with [our] income,”[6] and at the end of it all, it is, as Hebrews 13:16 reminds us, another evidence of spiritual sacrifice.

Service to the Saints

So that’s where we were, and now we’re at chapter 9. And Paul begins at chapter 9 by saying that there is really no need for him to repeat himself when it comes to this question of “service to the saints.” The phrase “service to the saints” we’ve already seen in chapter 8, and it is also the terminology used by Paul in Romans 15 where he addresses, again, this question of the collection that was being made for the struggling saints in Jerusalem.[7]

As you read the opening five verses as a paragraph, I think you will notice along with me that there is no sense in which we could ever say that Paul was cajoling the people into giving—certainly there is no notion of him chiding the Corinthian believers—but the tone, the tenor, of his appeal to them is largely that of encouragement. And he encourages them by acknowledging, first of all, their eagerness to help in verse 2. He says, “I know your eagerness to help, and [in fact, I’ve] been boasting about it to the Macedonians.” The churches in the south, in Achaia—which is where Corinth was, in southern Greece—were now going to contribute to the churches in northern Greece, up in Macedonia. And Paul, in his conversations with the Macedonians, was boasting about the Corinthians’ giving, and in his conversations with the Corinthians, he boasted about the Macedonians’ giving. So he was very skillful in the way in which he encouraged them by making reference to one another. “They will be encouraged to learn,” he said, that their “enthusiasm”—which is there mentioned again in verse 2—that “their enthusiasm has been the means of stirring most of these Macedonian believers into action.” So that having told of their generosity and the enthusiastic approach to giving to the work of the Lord, it stirred the people in Macedonia up and said, “If the Corinthians can do it, we can do it as well.”

And this may actually be the only basis that I can find for the idea of “matching funds.” And it isn’t explicit, it is implicit. I’m not a great fan of matching funds, as my colleagues know—I’m always afraid of it—but I suppose here that I can take a half step towards it, insofar as Paul says, “Listen to what the Corinthians are doing; come on, Macedonia!” And he says to the Corinthians, “Listen to what the Macedonians are doing; come on, Corinth!” And that by their generosity and by their “enthusiasm” they’re a means of stimulating one another; I think there is something in that.

But although he says in verse 1, “there is no need for [him] to write … about this service to the saints,” in verse 3 he says that he’s “sending the brothers” down. I like verse 3: “But I am sending the brothers.” In other words, there’s an intense practicality about Paul. Sometimes when we talk about giving and think in spiritual terms, there’s a danger that we either become very legalistic and obligatory about it all, and thereby turn everybody off. The other possibility is that we become so sort of high-minded in the way we speak about it that nobody really knows what we’re talking about. And they want to know: What’s the expectation here? Well, Paul is masterful, isn’t he? He says, “You know, your eagerness has been a terrific help. Your enthusiasm is a stimulation to others.” He said, “But just in case—because there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip—just in case promise made is not going to be promise fulfilled, I’m going to send the brothers down to you so that they make sure that the boasting that I’ve been doing about your promise to give doesn’t prove to be a bunch of hot air. It would never do,” he says in verse 4, “if some of the Macedonians were to accompany me on my visit to you and find you unprepared for this act of generosity.” So, do notice the obvious practicality of Paul.

And perhaps we can say, in summary on this little paragraph, that in this matter of “service to the saints” we should acknowledge that the enthusiastic giving of others may be a stimulus to our generosity , and that, in the same way as if you have siblings who are enthusiastically generous and you’re a little bit stingy, it may be possible that you will catch something of their enthusiasm for generosity and that it will relieve you of your stinginess.

At the same time, in chapter 8 and in chapter 9, it is clear that there is a need for careful administration when it comes to the matter of funds themselves. Paul in chapter 8 is concerned about the character of those who will be conveying the funds, and here in chapter 9 he’s concerned that there is a mechanism for ensuring that the promises that were made will be promises that are kept. And he does so without any embarrassment at all. Nobody reading his note to the Corinthians would be in any doubt as to what he was saying. He was saying, “I know that you have been eager and enthusiastic, and I know that you have made promises about what you’re going to give. It is distinctly possible that you may not do so, or you may not do so in a timely fashion. Therefore, I’m sending the brothers down to you to ensure that you do what you said you would do, that you do it in a timely fashion, and that the means of helping others will get to them in due course, and that none of us will have occasion for embarrassment.”

The very making of a promise may be the thing that holds us to it.

Now, I think it teaches this: that there is a place for making promises to God, and sometimes even making promises to others, about what we plan on giving. The very making of a promise may be the thing that holds us to it.  Some of us may not want to make promises, because we have a sneaking suspicion we may not fulfill them. But if you think in financial terms, our lives are riddled with promises. I don’t know your circumstances, but I can guarantee that whether it is the mortgage on your home, or whether it is a contractual obligation that you have on a car, or whatever else it might be, you have tied yourself up with all kinds of promises that people are anticipating you will keep—and rightly so. When it comes to the issue of giving to God’s work, some of us are very diffident about making those kinds of promises. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Why would that be? Surely, of all people, we would promise God. And then, of course, we recognize that God may have to use various stimulants in order to help us to make sure that we fulfill the promise that we’ve made.

Paul’s great concern, in summary, is that they would continue to be those who were eager to help rather than some who, in verse 5, were grudging in their giving.

Some Necessary Reminders

So, in the opening paragraph he says, “There’s no need for me to repeat myself,” and then, in the balance of the text, he says, “but I do need to give you some necessary reminders”—some necessary reminders. And here they are; we’ll go through them, and when we’re through them, our time will be over.

First of all, in verse 6: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly … whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” This is essentially a proverbial statement. It’s the kind of thing you find in the book of Proverbs—for example, Proverbs 11:24: “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” I learned it in Scotland; it went like this: “There was a man they said was mad. The more he gave away, the more he had.”[8]

One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds … but comes to poverty.
 
A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.[9]

It’s a proverbial statement; it’s not a categorical promise. And Paul essentially uses a proverbial statement by way of encouragement here so that people would understand: stingy sowing, stingy reaping.

I mean, if you plant a dozen daffodil bulbs in the—whenever you’re supposed to plant them—don’t expect that you’re going to have, you know, just meadows of daffodils come the springtime. There may be a few of them die, and the ones that come through are horribly weak, and what you thought was going to be this amazing display looks pretty paltry. Anybody would’ve told you: stingy sowing, stingy reaping. However, if you go crazy and, in an expression of abundance, in a kind of hilarious fashion, fire those things all through your grass at the front and the side of your house, then when the time comes for them to bloom, then you will have this amazing display. Farmers understand that. Town dwellers get some picture of it.

And while we should be cautious about excessive literalism, which is what this sort of stuff falls foul of in the prosperity gospel stuff… Be very, very careful about taking this in a wooden way, you know: press button a, put x in, get y out. This is not a categorical promise; this is a proverbial statement. But in guarding against excessive literalism, we need at the same time to recognize that generous giving brings its own rewards . Generous giving brings its own rewards. The stingy never know. The stingy can’t know. Only generous people know, ’cause only the generous are on the receiving end of what God supplies.

Secondly, by way of a necessary reminder, our giving is a matter of the heart; that’s verse 7: “Each [individual] should give what [they’ve] decided in [their] heart[s] to give, [and] not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Peterson paraphrases it, “I want … you to take plenty of time to think [this] over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting.”[10] That’s very helpful! Because if you think about charitable giving, so much of it is driven by either arm-twisting or sob stories. Who can resist the scenes of poverty and need that are presented to us—at phenomenal expense, incidentally—on our screens? Urging us to do things, which may be well to do and right to do. But nevertheless, it is a manipulative process. Or mechanisms that are set in place in your workplace that relate to charity which owe nothing to your own heart being involved in the issue; it is simply that you found yourself in office number six, and the requirements for office six, in order to meet the demands of this program, are x, therefore, everybody’s in for a certain quota, and so it goes. But it’s not a matter of the heart.

Paul says it shouldn’t be that way. It should be that each one should decide in his heart what to give. And if you think about it, that’s eminently sensible, because our circumstances differ from each other. Even now, this morning, they differ. And from today to a year hence, they will probably differ some more. Some of us have disposable income that we did not have. Others of us no longer have disposable income that we once enjoyed. And therefore, for any one of us to try and manipulate the other in order to do something that it is not in their right interest under God to do has no substantiation in the Bible. It’s a matter of the heart. Shouldn’t be a matter of the calculator! Everybody should decide in his heart—shouldn’t decide with his calculator.

God is not impressed with our giving. How can the maker of the universe be impressed by anything we ever do? If we gave him every single thing we have and are, we only give him back his own.

The picture here is not grudging giving or reluctant giving or compelled giving. It is generous, cheerful, and personally determined. How is your giving to the work of the gospel to be? Personally determined, generous, and cheerful.  Cheerful! The word is hilaronhilaron, in Greek, which is the word in Greek that gives us our English word hilarity. There is to be a hilarious dimension to the way in which the people of God give. It is possible for us to give with our hands and pull it back with our eyes, isn’t it? You could give somebody something with your hand, but your eyes say, “I don’t really want to give this to you.” Whether it’s a twenty-dollar bill to your daughter or whoever it is: “Dad, can I have twenty dollars?” “Yes”—but the eyes say it all! You give with your hand, but your eyes say, “Nah, I don’t want to give this to you.” God looks upon the eyes of our hearts. He knows. He’s not impressed with our giving. He can never be impressed with our giving. How can the maker of the universe be impressed by anything we ever do? If we gave him every single thing we have and are, we only give him back his own.  Personally determined, cheerful, and generous.

That brings us to our next point, which is: we can’t outgive God.  That’s verse 8: “All grace … in all things at all times, having all that you need.” So that as we scatter, God supplies us with sufficiency—not only sufficient for ourselves but sufficient for sharing with others. “Having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” This is not “having all that you need,” full stop. This is “having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” And this is the key to noticing what is said in verses 10 and 11: as we give, God increases our ability to give. Isn’t that what verses 10 and 11 are saying? “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for [the] food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You[’ll] be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.”

Now, these two verses are fraught. They’re not fraught in and of themselves; they are fraught with difficulty because of the abuse to which they’re subjected routinely by those who teach on giving. And if you listen for very long at all to people talking on so-called Christian television, you will find that they very quickly get here, and this is the basis of the whole “seed money” prosperity gospel strategy. If you wondered where it comes from, this is where it comes from—which, of course, is a reminder to us that we can make the Bible say anything we want it to say, unless we study the Bible in submission to its truth within its context, and where we do not put full stops or exclamation marks where there is no need for a full stop. In other words, “As we give, God increases our ability to give,” says Paul; he states that as a consequence, not as an incentive.

I was in Louisville, I told you some time ago—I woke up in the morning, I was in a strange room—there to speak at the seminary. And someone had set the alarm for me without my asking, and to a station that I didn’t know anything about. And I just came to with somebody saying, “If you will sow a seed of thirty-nine dollars, then it’ll come back to you many times over.” And I was just coming into consciousness, and I thought, “Where in the world have I ended up?” And then I listened to it for a little bit, and then I was too lazy to actually get up and go over and turn it off, so I just shouted at the radio for about five minutes until I finally couldn’t stand it any longer.

But it was all this stuff! It was a prosperity gospel. Essentially, it held stuff like this out—verse 11, “You will be made rich in every way,” full stop. “If you do this and this, then ‘you will be rich in every way,’ therefore, do this and do this.” That’s not what Paul says! Paul says that the generous man will be refreshed, that generosity spills over in the goodness of God, and as a result of the over-spilling goodness of God, “you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” It’s not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. And we are not the end. God is the end. Grace, gratitude, giving, thanksgiving. God’s grace, our gratitude, our giving, the thanksgiving of those who receive—that’s the principle. And that’s what’s being driven home here.

We will never give generously without discovering afresh God’s ability to supply our needs—so that we may then give generously again.

We need at the same time to humbly acknowledge that there is a reason why people may abuse this, because it says what it says. And the danger in dealing with the Bible is the danger of either going above the line by saying more than what is said or by going below the line by saying less than what is said. And the key is to stay on the line. So I dare not go below the line, because I don’t want to go above the line. Therefore, let me try and stay on the line, which seems to me to allow us to say this: Paul is suggesting that we will never give generously without discovering afresh God’s ability to supply our needs. We will never give generously without discovering afresh God’s ability to supply our needs—so that we may then give generously again.  

Why is it that generous people seem to constantly have their funds topped up? Because they’re generous people! And God entrusts resources to generous people because generous people get the resources to where they need to go.  And since he knows that every time he gives them a bunch of stuff they give it away, he gives them more stuff so that they can give more away. But we will never know this except as a theory until, proportionately, we become those who join the company of the generous.

And it’s not about the size of the money; it’s about the proportionate impact. So you received, as a student—somebody gave you a special birthday gift; they gave you a hundred dollars in an envelope, and you were at that time confronted by a responsibility or an opportunity to give, and you went through that huge battle in your mind: “Ah, goodness gracious! A hundred dollars! … Why, you give ten? I only have to give ten, don’t I? Yeah, well there we go. That’s ninety; that’s good! Well, hey! No! Well, I don’t…” And then all of a sudden, put it in another envelope and slip it under the person’s door, they don’t know who you are, they don’t know what’s happened, and they sit at their breakfast and thank God for answering their prayers, and you’ve become the means of that as a result of someone’s generosity to you, passing it on. And somewhere down the line, in the next two or three weeks, you’re sitting on a bus somewhere and you say, “You know, I gave that hundred dollars away, and that’s when I got that thing that came back to me from So-and-So that I forgot all about. And I had the other thing that I never even remembered about that, and the thing that I had and that’s … I got three hundred bucks!” And then the voice said, “And what’re you going to do with this three hundred?” Say, “Well, I only have to give thirty. It’s thirty; I got two-seventy.”

You see what an amazing cop-out that is? And what a tyranny it is for some people that can’t squeak out ten percent? Some people can’t give ten percent at a certain point in their life! They just flat out can’t! And other people can give way more than it. So you bang that drum, you hammer the people that can’t do it, and you let off the hook the people who could give 70 and 80 percent of their after-tax income without even feeling it. That’s why principles are so much better to deal with than laws. And as Christians, we have an incipient tendency to want laws, because principles are not just quite as easy to navigate.  He gives us principles. He could have reinstituted Old Testament laws. He doesn’t.

By our giving, then, he says, we supply the needs of God’s people. Verse 12a. What a privilege to become the means of supplying the needs of God’s people! And ultimately, he says, our giving results in thanksgiving to God. That’s 12b: “This service that you perform … not only [supplies] the needs of God’s people but [it’s] also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” The person who’s on the receiving end of the giving of those who’ve been both supplied and prompted by the giver eventually look past the hand of the one who gave and thank God, who’s the giver of “every good and perfect gift.”[11]

Giving and the Gospel

Now, we’ve just got a couple of minutes left, so let’s just look at the final statement here on the screen. Verse 13, Christian giving is directly related to the gospel of Christ: “Because of the service by which you have proved [yourself, man] will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else,” and so on. In the most intensely practically terms, the theology of the Corinthian believers and the Macedonian believers is being expressed, at least in part, in their generosity. Because their generosity—their gift—is going to Jerusalem. Who lives in Jerusalem? Largely Jewish believers. Who are the people in Macedonia and Achaia? The gentile believers. So when the Jewish believers, who are struggling financially, are able to go out and get something to eat in the market, and their friends and neighbors say, “You seem to be doing a little better. What happened to you?”

And they say, “Well, some of the people from Achaia and Macedonia sent money up to the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and it’s been scattered amongst us so that our circumstances would prevail.”

And the people said, “But aren’t the folks in Greece gentiles?”

And they said, “Yeah.”

“And aren’t you people Jewish by birth?”

They said, “Yes.”

They said, “Well, how does that work?”

Said, “Well, see, Jesus is the key. In Jesus there’s neither bond people or slave people or free people or Jewish people or gentile people; we are”—Galatians 3—“all one in Christ Jesus.”[12] And it was their generosity in obedience to the gospel that declared their theological presuppositions. And the exact same is true of any local church. I can prove it to you. I can prove to you that the theological presuppositions of Parkside are worked out in many ways, but not least of all in our giving.

I hadn’t thought this out properly until I read John Stott on it. And Stotty says—most helpfully, as always—that by our giving we give expression to our theology. “For example,” he says, “when we contribute to evangelistic enterprises, we are expressing our confidence that the gospel is [the] power [of God to] salvation, and … everybody [needs] to hear it.”[13] That’s why we give money to evangelistic enterprises. When we give money—when we contribute—to economic development, to humanitarian need, we are expressing our Christian conviction that every man, woman, and child is made in the image of God and should not be obliged to live in dehumanizing circumstances. We are saying something about the compassion and care of God. And when we give to the maturity of a local church, we are acknowledging the fact that the local church is central in the purposes of God both in the task of evangelism and in economic development, and in the building up of the people of God.[14]

So you say, “Okay, I get it. Talk to me about where we’re giving our money.” Alternaterm: unwanted pregnancies, pregnancies, and the question of abortion—humanitarian and evangelistic, two-fold. Ambassadors in Sports: a soccer ball going all around the world into Turkestan and Uzbekistan and South America, reaching out with the good news of the gospel. Bolivian pastors in the foothills of the Andes and beyond, brought together to study the Bible, to receive a decent meal, and to be enabled to tell others about the glorious news of Jesus. The Cornhill Training Program in Scotland.

I just had an email this week asking if I would give a response to a question from a journalist in Glasgow about a strange thing that this person had discovered: namely, that this week—in fact, tonight is the commissioning service for it—there is a small effort beginning in Glasgow where there are twelve students who are actually going to study the Bible for a year to see if they can’t be better equipped to tell others the good news of Jesus. And the journalist, to whom I have not yet spoken, wants to know if I think that’s a good idea. Well, I’m going to tell him, not only is it a good idea, but it is an idea that our people are substantially committed to, because as you have come and given money, not only have we been able to go to Bolivia and go downtown with Alternaterm and go around the globe with Ambassadors in Sports, but we’ve gone back into Scotland to say, “Out of Scotland came this fellow, and if we could have some others who are better equipped than he was, then we are prepared to make a substantial contribution to help to that end.”

Most of us won’t go to China; we’re not going to the 1.3 billion of China, but by our consistent, faithful, generous, cheerful, hilarious, personally determined giving, we share together in reaching the world for Jesus Christ.

And on that day when a company that no one can number gathers around the throne of God, they will declare that “salvation belongs to [the Lord] our God, [and to his Son] who sits [up]on the throne,”[15] and there will be those who are there not as a result of anybody twisting your arm at Parkside, not as a result of anybody producing a succession of heart-rending videos and transparencies, but as a result of a group of sensible people studying their Bibles, taking their time, and proportionately, personally, generously—perhaps even hilariously—determining to give as God has prompted them.

You’ll notice I haven’t said a word about figures or about amounts or about any of that stuff. Who cares? Who cares? Who even cares? God knows.

Father, thank you for the Bible, and thank you that it comes with clarity. Any confusion is always on our end. And we pray that we might respond to Paul’s word to those believers to “see that you … excel in this grace of giving.”[16] We pray, Lord, that we might learn from your Word and, prompted by your Spirit and left entirely on our own, that we might give and discover that you are the God who gives in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”[17]

Hear our prayers. Help us in this as in every aspect of our Christian lives. May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be our portion, now and always. Amen.


[1] Psalm 121:1–2 (NIV 1984).

[2] Philippians 3:5 (NIV 1984).

[3] Acts 4:34–35 (paraphrased).

[4] Galatians 6:6 (paraphrased).

[5] 1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV 1984).

[6] 1 Corinthians 16:2 (NIV 1984).

[7] See Romans 15:25.

[8] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Paraphrased.

[9] Proverbs 11:24–25 (NIV 1984).

[10] 2 Corinthians 9:6–7 (MSG).

[11] James 1:17 (NIV 1984).

[12] Galatians 3:28 (paraphrased).

[13] John Stott, The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2007), 126.

[14] Stott, 126.

[15] Revelation 7:10 (NIV 1984).

[16] 2 Corinthians 8:7 (NIV 1984).

[17] Luke 6:38 (NIV 1984).

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.