When you hear ‘Body of Christ,’ what comes to mind? I am sure most of the responses would be something such as “church” or “serving” or “members” or “community.” On the other hand, I would almost guess that the last word that comes to mind would be giving.
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at what it means to be a healthy member of the ‘Body of Christ.’ We began by looking at encouraging one another by each other’s faith, which as you might guess, involves community…spending time with one another, whether in ministry or outside of ministry, such as in our homes, coffee shops, or even on vacations. We then looked at serving one another, which again involves community. We, as individual members, collectively make up the body of Christ, and we each have been given a gift to serve one another in the body. The (super)natural byproduct of our serving one another is that the body grows. So you can see that being a Christian, or a healthy member of the body of Christ, requires us to be involved in each other’s lives so that we are able to walk in a manner that reflects what the New Testament teaches. How does ‘giving’ come into this picture of community?
Most people look at giving as something between themselves and the Lord, which it most certainly is. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.” We also read in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that ‘Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ So, yes, each one of us must purpose in our heart what we will give to the Lord, set it aside, and do it with a cheerful heart…but it is so much more than us dropping cash or a check in the offering plate as it passes by us on a Sunday morning.
The text that we just looked at in 2 Corinthians 9:7 is a small piece of fabric on the larger quilt that Paul is presenting here in chapter 9. The chapter is not just about the heart that should be behind our giving (vv.6-7), but about the larger picture of the ministry of giving that was designed for the body of Christ. Paul began the chapter by boasting about the readiness and willingness of the saints in Corinth who desired to give to those in need (described as “the ministry for the saints” in v.1). But then later in the chapter he further describes how this ministry of giving is not just about us putting money in the plate but involves the greater community of the church. Paul writes in v. 12-13, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.”
As you can see, the ministry of giving positively impacts the community of the body of Christ. It not only impacts the body of Christ when we give by supplying the needs of the saints, but it also impacts the body by producing an abundance of thanksgivings to God. Additionally, by our walking in obedience, God is glorified. Have you ever looked at your giving in that light? Have you ever thought about the bigger picture at hand in this ministry of giving? When we give, the money is used to help supply the various needs in the body, and then those who are on the other end of our giving, those who have been blessed by our giving, in turn give thanks to God. Amazing! But that is not all…there is more.
One of the biggest hindrances in our giving is ourselves. Our fear often blocks us from giving in the most sacrificial way because our need for money often eclipses our trust in the Lord. We must learn to trust the Lord more and more as we determine in our own hearts how much we are going to give. We all need to realize that God is even in control of our finances, and He is most certainly way bigger than our checkbooks. So with that mindset (and “heartset”), we should not be bound by fear but by joy, knowing that God is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think. In fact, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:8 that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Did you catch that? Having ALL sufficiency in ALL things at ALL times. Is there any greater promise? In other words…the things that we fear most should be set aside because God promises us that He is able to make all grace abound to us so that in turn we may abound in every good work.
Giving sacrificially begins in our heart as we look at these promises and wholeheartedly trust that God will do just as He says…but as we do walk in obedience and give sacrificially, the ministry of giving takes on a larger role in the body of Christ. It produces thanksgiving in the hearts of those blessed. It enables us to abound in every good work. It makes the body grow and ultimately brings glory to God.