September 29, 2019

The Hilarious Giver
II Corinthians 9:6-15

You know, most of us have smartphones, but I wonder why they call them phones. We rarely use it to make phone calls. In fact, most people will respond more quickly to a text than they will a phone call.

You know, there are some things you miss by texting instead of calling. In the old days, if you made someone angry or surprised you could hear it in their voice. The same was true if said something funny. Once you heard the laughter you could tell if a person really thought your statement was funny.

In the world of texting we’ve invented all these little acronyms to let people know we’re laughing and how hard we’re laughing. If something's just a little funny we text “BG” for “big grin.” If it’s moderately funny you might text “LOL” for “laughing out loud.” If it’s funnier than that you can text, “BAG,” for “busting a gut.” And if it’s insanely hilarious you text “ROFL” for _____? That’s right, “rolling on the floor laughing.”

Aren’t you glad the biblical writers didn’t have smartphones? Translating the Bible from Greek to English was hard enough. Imagine how hard it would have been to translate Greek smartphone texts.

I think if the Apostle Paul had a smartphone he would have put ROFL at the end of today’s text, because in this text he tells about doing something that may cause us to “roll on the floor laughing.” Really! See if you can find Paul’s ROFL as I read today’s text from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their 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 enriched 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 the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others 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!

Okay. Did you catch Paul’s ROFL? It was in verse 7, although the English translation didn’t really do it justice. At the end of verse 7 Paul says, “. . . for God loves a cheerful giver.” In the Greek, that word translated “cheerful” is the Greek word, “hilaros,” the word from which we get the English word “hilarious.” So what’s Paul saying here? He saying “God loves a hilarious giver – ROFL.”

Now this idea of hilarious giving may sound strange to you but let’s look at the text more closely to understand why Paul would want us to give hilariously.

First, we become hilarious givers when we learn the true motive of giving.

What is your motive for giving? What motivates you to put your check in the offering plate?

I think too many Christians give simply to keep the church from going bankrupt. And granted, the church does need your contribution to do its work and to pay its bills. But giving out of necessity will never make you a hilarious giver. Giving only brings us joy when our giving is motivated by a thankful heart. That’s what Paul is saying in this text.

In verse 12 Paul writes, This service you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but it is also an overflowing expression of thanks to God.

Did you hear Paul? The motive for giving is more than just supplying need. The reason we give is to express our “overflowing thankfulness to God,” and when we approach giving in that kind of spirit, we become hilarious givers.

When our children were preschoolers I would let them help me pick out birthday presents for their mother. One day Ginger and I went shopping for Pat’s present. After we had picked out the perfect present we went to the checkout counter to purchase it. As we were standing in line, Ginger reached in her pocket and gave me the last dollar she had. “Here Daddy,” she said. “Take my dollar to help buy Momma’s present.”

“Thank you, Ginger,” I said, “but I don’t need your dollar. I can take care of the cost by myself.”

Then Ginger looked at me with as though I had insulted her and said, “But Daddy, I want to give my dollar because I love Momma, too.”

In that instance, my daughter reminded me of the true motive for giving. She did not want to give because she felt obliged to meet a need. She wanted to give because giving was her way of expressing her thanksgiving and love.
Every Sunday when we pass the plate we do more than give you a chance to meet the church’s needs. We give you a chance to say “I love you,” to God. We give you a chance to thank your Lord for all he has done. And when that becomes your primary motive for giving, you become a hilarious giver.

What will it take for you to become a hilarious giver? You will become a hilarious giver when you understand that love is our true motive for giving.

But secondly, we become hilarious givers when we understand the true principle behind giving.

Too many people give begrudgingly because they view giving as losing. When they write a check and see a decline in their checking balance they think they have lost something. If that’s the principle behind your giving, your giving certainly becomes a burden.

But in our passage today, Paul explains that giving is not losing. Giving is a way of investing with the promise of generous return. Listen again to verses 6 and 8. Paul writes:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. . . (For) 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.

In this passage Paul uses an agricultural metaphor to explain the true principle of giving. He explains that a farmer does not lose seed when he generously commits it to the ground. Instead, he sows it generously because he knows that the greater the investment, the greater the harvest.

The same is true with our money. When we give generously we don’t lose what we give. We simply invest our gift with the promise of a generous return.

Now, don’t misunderstand me as I talk about a generous return. I’m not saying that the more money you give the more money you’ll get. When Paul talked about the principle of generous return he had something more than money in mind.

You see, the rewards of giving are greater than the accumulation of material things. When we generously give God does supply our needs, but he does more than that. When we generously give God provides us with a joy and a peace that no amount of money can buy. That’s what makes us hilarious givers.

It was early morning and Pat and I had stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast. During our meal we overheard the conversation between our waitress and a young man sitting at the counter.

He began, “I got to go to work in a few minutes. I wish I could find some way to get by without workin’ such an early job. I hate to get up in the mornin’. By the way, how early did you have to get here?”

“I been here since four.” She said it as a matter of fact with no sound of complaint in her voice. “I don’t mind gettin’ here so early, but today I’ve about run out of steam. I was up with my sick baby all night long and later this afternoon I’ve got to take her to the doctor. I know I work long hours, but I’m lookin’ for a second job. My baby stays sick a lot and what I make here jist ain’t enough to pay for all doctors’ bills.”

Now I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m overly generous. Too often, I can be stingy, but on that particular morning Pat and I felt led to leave our waitress a generous tip. Without saying a word I slipped a $100 bill under my plate, paid our bill and walked out the door.

As we started to drive away, I could see the waitress as she discovered her tip. Immediately, she jumped up and ran to the window to see if we had gone. When she saw our car she waved wildly and on her face was a look that made the giving all worthwhile.

As long as I live, I’ll never forget the feeling I had that day. I was happy. I was hilarious and nothing else I could have purchased with that 100 dollar bill would have brought me that kind of joy. You see, I didn’t lose $100 that day. I invested it into the will of God, and the return on my investment was much greater than money could ever buy. Yes, that look on the waitress’s face made me feel like I should ROFL – roll on the floor laughing.

Giving. It’s not something we do because the church needs our money. It’s what we do because we love God. Giving. It’s not losing. It’s planting seeds that produce a harvest no money could ever buy.

I like what Winston Churchill said. “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Want a good laugh? Try generous giving, because God loves a hilarious giver.