Generous in Every Occasion

Sermon 1825 2 Corinthians 9.10-15 October 9, 2022

We are in the midst of one of the greatest feedback loops in history. Pumpkin spice. In 2003 Starbucks came out with the first Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL for those in the know). It was so popular it returned the next year. It expanded. Beer is now pumpkin spiced. Pancakes, syrups, biscotti—all pumpkin spiced already in September! I will not be surprised if in the near future I walk into a grocery store and see a sign on the Halloween pumpkins, “Pumpkin flavored.” Something catches on, gains steam and gets bigger and bigger. A feedback loop.

Paul is telling us generosity in Christian giving is a feedback loop.

Generous in Every Occasion

1. From God (10)

2. To Us (11)

3. Through Us (12-13)

4. Back to God (14-15)

“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. (10).”

Up until modern times, farmers might face a dilemma. How much of the crop to store away as seed for next year’s crop and how much to eat to stay alive! Most of the time there was no dilemma. A good year provided plenty to store away and plenty to eat. Paul is talking about a good year. God has given a good harvest with plenty for all.

But Paul isn’t talking about farming. He’s talking about our Christian lives. Did you catch what the harvest was? God would “enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

When I see that word “righteousness” I always think of the right standing we have before God. We are righteous in God’s sight—ever since we were baptized, ever since we first believed. God took off our greedy natures. And everybody is by nature greedy. “Do you want to share that cookie with Grandpa?” I ask my two year old grandson. He looks at me so nicely, “No.” It doesn’t get any better as we get older. Just listen to the political ads on both sides. What are they going to put in our pockets?

Jesus was never greedy. Jesus never failed to share and do what he could. Did he know only one of the ten lepers would come back to thank him? Probably. He healed them all anyway. Wine for the wedding at Cana. Fish and bread for the 5000. He was generous in every occasion. Jesus was not stingy in taking our sins upon himself. When he hung on the cross Jesus died for all the greed and selfishness the human race had and ever would display. That’s why, for Jesus’ sake, God the Father has declared us not guilty of greed. He has declared us right with him, righteous.

That righteousness shows in our lives. We are generous in every occasion.

“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 (11).”

Well, already you can see this feedback loop in operation. As we pass on the Lord’s generosity, it returns as praise, thanksgiving, to God.

We are rich in every way. Christian giving doesn’t depend on what is in our wallets. It depends on what is in our hearts. If we recognize God has given us everything we need and more, our lives will be filled with gratitude, contentment and purpose. We’ve seen the opposite in co-workers who, perhaps, were not Christians. They lived for travel. They lived for shopping. That was their identity. But they were always disappointed. They got sick. The destination was not what it was cracked up to be. The high heels made her feet hurt. They could spend everything they earned, but they would still not be happy. There was an emptiness inside them, a poverty of spirit.

We Christians are filled filled with the Spirit. Jesus is living within us. We can be generous because of that. We love our fellow man. We love our Lord and think the spread of his Word in our world is just the thing that will save us all from becoming nuclear toast, if riots or road rage don’t get us first! God puts material blessings in the hands of the very people who are rich in spirit. In the early days a new member of ours, she had been one of the team nurses for the original Los Angeles Rams, asked me if we had many wealthy people in our congregation. I told her “no,” but that wasn’t the point. “When everybody does what they can, everything turns out OK.” The rich in spirit give what they can. The rich in spirit do what they can.

Generous in every occasion. From God, to us, through us.

“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 (12-13).”

The service Paul was talking about was the relief drive to help the starving Christians in Jerusalem. A drought had hit the Promised Land—hard! The often persecuted Christians in and around Jerusalem were not doing well. The congregations of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and Greece decided to gather money and send it to Jerusalem. It seemed only fair. The Jerusalem church had shared its apostles and teachers with them. They could share their material possessions with Jerusalem. One area’s abundance supplied another area’s lack. By this they proved their faith was genuine, active and self-sacrificing.

Christian giving is never about self. What kind of Christian would set up a tax-deductible charitable organization to pay for only his own grandchild’s education at the Lutheran Elementary School? I think the offering reports we give you have the disclaimer on the bottom that says, “No goods or services have been received or services rendered in connection with your contributions.” In the same way, Christian giving doesn’t stop at the property line. I know, I’ve had good members remind me, “Charity begins at home.” We need to keep our church and property well maintained. The lights and AC cost money. Called workers need to be paid. Our mortgage holder would look dimly on cancelling our property insurance because angels protect our property.

But our Christian giving goes beyond that. It goes to people in our town who do not know Jesus. That’s why our Sunday School is free. That’s why we don’t charge admission for worship or Bible classes. That’s why we send men, Zach Turley and Anthony Navarro, back east to train to become called workers somewhere in our national church body, even though they could have served us well here. Our church was built by resources (loans, manpower—me!) from back East. What we give to back East shows our gratitude for what God has done as we continue the loop. From God, to us, through us.

Generous in every occasion. From God, to us, through us, back to God.

Every feedback loop has to be closed. A to B to C back to A. Otherwise it runs out of steam. Christian giving doesn’t run out of steam. Christian giving goes on and on and on.

“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 (14-15)!”

Now the feedback loop is complete. Because you are generous in every occasion, people marvel at how God is working in you. You do not act according to your sinful human nature, giving just enough to make ends meet or giving just enough so others don’t give your congregation the stink eye. Human calculations, pride, one-upping the other guys, don’t even have a place in your thinking. You give because the Lord has gifted you such wonderful blessings, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, that you want to pass that on to others as a way to say thanks to God. That’s unnatural. Taxes aren’t voluntary. Uncle Sam doesn’t say, “Just pay what you’d like to pay.” But when everybody willingly does what they can, everything will be OK. People notice and praise God for your generosity.

It builds up God in their eyes. They think God is a good God, a great God, a God they should get to know more about. And as they do, we’ve got others enjoying a harvest of righteousness from God. And others, and others, and others as they all pass on the Gospel that makes us rich inside.

Generous in Every Occasion

1. From God (10)

2. To Us (11)

3. Through Us (12-13)

4. Back to God (14-15)

The only way a feedback loop can fail to work is if one of the links were broken. God is not going to let us down. He will faithfully give us all we need, making us rich in every way. The weak link is you, me. Will we see that our faith is not only an exercise of prayer and worship, a struggle to resist temptation and pursue spiritual virtues? Or will we also see that our faith expresses itself by what we give? Christian giving is truly the greatest feedback loop in history.

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