Supply and Demand

Sermon 1751 2 Corinthians 8.1-9, 13, 14 July 4, 2021

Supply and demand. It explains a lot of things. So many people wanted (demand) to renovate this old house, the supply couldn’t keep up. The price of homes was rising so fast, because there were so few of them (supply) on the market, so many potential buyers felt it was wiser to redo this old house rather than sell it and scramble to find another one. Supply and demand also explained the infuriating delays. You’d like to think it shouldn’t be this way, that supply would always meet demand, like the old question. “Do you know how many pizza joints there are in this town?” “Just enough.” But the rule is supply and demand eventually will equalize.

That’s what the British thinker, Adam Smith, hammered home. Supply and demand was the hidden hand that moves the economies of nations. Even if you think your account can’t be overdrawn, because you still have checks, the hidden hand of supply and demand moves you, too. You demanded certain activities from different parts of the house. Form followed function as plans were drawn and carried out. Supply and demand for living spaces.

Supply and demand can apply to lots of other areas besides economics. So it is not surprising that we see the Apostle Paul using the picture of supply and demand to address Christian giving.

Supply and Demand

1. Christ became poor that we might become rich.

2. We have a supply of faith

3. Which meets the needs of others.

When we talk about any Christian living, we have to talk motivation. Why do we do the things that we do? Do we act out of love or are there ulterior motives? Is Junior only helping mom clean the house because he wants to ask her if he can go to a party at a friend’s house on Friday night? Motivation makes all the difference.

Christ motivates our Christian giving. His love for us moves us.

“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 (9).”

Grace is all over the Bible. “By grace are you saved through faith.” “Grace be unto you and peace.” A good definition of grace is God’s undeserved gift of love, God’s undeserved gift of forgiveness. The key words are undeserved and gift. If you don’t deserve something, and you get it anyway, that’s grace! If something is a gift, that means you did not have to earn it. It has been freely given. That’s grace!

Christ freely gave us his spiritual wealth. Before he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus was God of gods and Lord of lords. He ruled heaven. He had unmatched power and glory. He had honor above everyone and everything. He was 100% God with all the perks and privileges. He set the stars in place and called them by name. He commanded the heavenly hosts. He shone brighter than the sun. But when he came to earth he put it all away. He became poor, was born in a barn, in the shivering cold of a winter’s night. He grew up in a poor family and never owned a home. “Foxes have their dens and birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” He was misunderstood by his own people, betrayed by a close friend, condemned to death and executed as a terrible person. His lifeless body was thrown into a borrowed tomb. Jesus did none of this for himself. He couldn’t be any more God than he already was. There was literally nothing in it for him personally. He did it all for you. He did it all for me. He loved the world so much he did it for everyone.

As Christ was rich, we were poor. Our sin had ruined us. “What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus pondered (Matthew 16.26). He knew the answer the psalmist had already given, “The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough (49.8).” If sin can be viewed as debt demanding payment, then those who cannot pay that debt are in a world of hurt. In the bad old days they and all they had were sold into slavery to pay the debt. More often than not, once court costs, lawyers’ fees and interest were assessed, the debt was never paid off. Each of us is a poor beggar, with nothing in our hands but the cross of Christ as we pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Through Jesus’ suffering and death we became rich. God credits our faith as righteousness. He treats us as holy, just the type of people he wants in heaven. What money cannot buy, eternal life, we possess through faith. Jesus did that for you and me, for everyone. Supply and demand. He had the righteousness we needed. He suffered hell for us. We will live in his heaven. Supply and demand.

This is what Gospel motivation works. Supply and demand. We have a supply of faith.

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will (1-6).”

Faith is the supply needed to meet the demand. The world thinks it is money. If you have some rich people, your church has it made. That’s not the case. The supply needed to meet the demand and make everything work is faith. The Macedonian churches were small and dirt poor. Bad farmland, off the shipping lanes, not much going on in northern Greece.

Yet the Macedonian churches were rich in spirit, abounding in faith. There was a famine in Jerusalem. The believers there were struggling. They had been persecuted, jailed, fined and now they were facing starvation. But it was a localized famine. Asia Minor and Greece had been spared. The Macedonian churches begged Paul to let them take part in the relief offering. Paul consented, though he was worried that the Macedonian churches barely had enough to feed themselves the way it was. They first devoted themselves to the Lord. They recognized this gift of theirs would glorify the Lord. Then it would help the Lord’s beleaguered people. And they gave more than Paul thought they ever could give, “beyond their ability,” Paul says. A pattern of giving developed. Of all the churches Paul would start, only the Macedonian churches would regularly send offerings to Paul to help him with his daily needs so he could devote himself full-time to the Gospel. This relief offering showed them what they could do and keep on doing.

There’s the supply. It meets the needs of others.

“So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality (6-8, 13, 14).”

The Corinthians had a need. They had a need to recognize spiritual gifts were not the only areas where their faith could exercise itself. Yes, they could worship like angels. Yes, their sermons were insightful and their Bible classes gave you something to chew on for the entire week. Yes, they were on fire for the Holy Spirit as they spread the good news to the inhabitants and visitors to Corinth. But they needed to see they could put their material possessions to work for the Lord’s cause. The Lord had given them their physical wealth to help others, especially the needy Christians in Jerusalem.

At one time they had recognized this, being one of the first churches in Greece to sign onto the project. But they had let the task slip from their priority list. They were the only church not finished with the collection. They may not have gotten much farther than the initial pledges given to Titus. Their faith needed this offering to discover the Lord of their life was also the Lord of their wallet.

It goes without saying there was a need among the Christians in Jerusalem, the mother church, the seat of uncommon Christian sense and brotherly guidance. Others would be in need later, maybe even the Corinthians. Supply and demand.

How does this all apply to us? Since it is the Fourth of July, I will start there and quickly move on. So many times our leaders have recognized America could uniquely supply the needs (demand) of the world. When the early years of World War II exhausted combatant nations, neutral America offered the Lend-Lease Act and shipped war materials to England and the Soviet Union. Everybody knew the loans would not be repaid. After the war, America emerged uniquely unscathed. The Marshall Plan for Europe and McArthur’s iron hand in Japan spurred former enemies to rise from the ashes. Throughout our history we have rightly seen ourselves as a city on a hill, our liberty and freedoms visible for all. We have tried, sometimes better than at other times, to instill that love of freedom and an exercise in democracy in countries across the globe, even offering lopsided trade regulations to foster the growth of emerging economies. At its core, this is altruism, a wish to share something that will help people live better. Let’s commend America for that. God shed his grace on her. Praise him for it. May she live up to her potential and promise!

Now let’s turn to topic I am more familiar with, Christian giving.

Christian giving is impossible without faith. Christ’s love compels us. Without faith the only reason we give is to pay the bills and keep the lights on because we expect the church to serve our needs. Supply and demand explains that, with a twist. When it comes to the common good, the common need, everyone gives almost as much as it takes to meet your demands. No surprise that the pandemic has put a crimp in our finances. Supply and demand in the common good predicts we will always fall short of what we need. Even with a stripped down staff, we are spending seven dollars for every six we take in.

Now, let’s look at this like Christians instead of economists. God has met our needs. Although Jesus was rich, he became poor to save us from our sins and give us an eternal home. We want to show our love for him also when it comes to our money.

Faith is the supply God has given us. God has taken care of our forever. God will take care of our tomorrow. Faith sees the needs of this world, yes, food and clothing, house and home, family and possessions, but faith looks beyond those needs God provides for through wages and earnings. Faith looks to the spiritual needs the world always ignores. Who will buy the Sunday School material if not us? Who will build a church and pay for it, if not us? Who will see to it that time is budgeted for visitors to be visited and introduced to our church? Who will fund the time to share the Word of God with those who do not know it? Who will pay to train and send pastors and teachers across our nation and our world, if not us?

We have the supply of faith. We see the spiritual need.

This could be yet another case of supply and demand not quite functioning as smoothly as we’d like. This could be a case of distortions in the supply chain, the economists call it, if the Lord were a federal bureaucrat who, in a frantic race to secure testing or vaccines, did not take into consideration he first needed to get special vials able to hold the super-cooled vaccine and ordinary pipettes needed to sample chemicals (true story). Our Lord isn’t a federal bureaucrat. He is the all-knowing and almighty Lord. All things are under his sway. As he has provided us with faith, so has he provided us with the insight to see the physical resources we have to meet the needs we face. The pandemic has impressed on us how much money we spend on well, let’s just say, discretionary items. Hard to eat out when take-out is the only option if the restaurants are even open. Hard to get away when no one was flying and Disneyland was closed. But life went on and we found other ways of enjoying family and friends, even if it was on a computer or phone. The financial discipline we showed then can continue to some extent in the future. Through our honest assessment of how we live and a love for Jesus translated into a love for others, supply can meet demand quickly. Look at what we are giving. Is that what we want to give or is there a kink in the supply chain? Look at what we are giving for the proclamation of the Gospel. Is that the best we can do or can we rebalance our finances to better reflect the faith we have been given?

The Gospel came to us because the Lord moved others to give. Give as the Lord has blessed us so others can receive that same Gospel of eternal life. Then there will be equality. Supply will meet demand.

Supply and Demand

1. Christ became poor that we might become rich.

2. We have a supply of faith

3. Which meets the needs of others.

The Corinthian congregation responded to Paul’s words. They completed the collection and the beleaguered faithful in Jerusalem praised God for the generous gifts they received. We will respond, too, because it would be such a shame to renovate this old house and then stiff the maintenance costs needed to keep it looking top-notch and functioning at peak efficiency.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts