A Love Offering
"For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints - and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us". (2 Corinthians 8:3-5, ESV)
I spent two years of my life in college as a speaker for children’s and teen’s camps, retreats and revivals. My friend would lead worship (which I served as his backup singer!), then I would bring the message each night. We would often lead games, talent contests, scavenger hunts, chaperone other activities and counsel with troubled teens and kids. We traveled to different towns and churches 2-3 weekends out of the month sharing Christ wherever we could.
In those days, we would work for food, t-shirts, Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, money…whatever they offered. Sometimes churches would let us know upfront what we would get paid, and other times we got what Baptist churches referred to as a “love offering.” That usually meant that they would take up an offering each night, and whatever was collected was how much “love” we received. Of course, kids and teens didn’t usually bring a lot of money to church events like that, so we often didn’t “feel the love” when we finished singing and preaching our hearts out.
Although we never did it for the money, the financial support we received was one expression of how much we were loved and valued by them. Whatever we received was always a little sweeter when we knew that it came out of sacrifice or extreme gratitude. A $300 check never meant as much as a grandmother handing me a $10 bill as she prayed and thanked us for sharing Christ with the “young people.”
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is writing to Christians who had lost their motivation to express their love through generosity. In contrast to the Corinthians, Paul talks about others who expressed themselves in a “wealth of generosity” even beyond afflictions and “extreme poverty.” (v. 2, ESV) In verse 3, Paul says that these generous believers “begged” him for the opportunity to give.
The key to their generosity, according to Paul is found in v. 5: but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (ESV). The reason these other believers were able to give so generously was because they first gave themselves to the Lord. They didn’t just give their money or their time. They gave themselves to the Lord…to His will and His purposes.
Once they placed their lives in God’s hands, their resources became just a means to leverage the purposes of God on this side of heaven. They begged to give because it was an opportunity to achieve their life purpose: to glorify God and help others experience the same joy of salvation that they had experienced.
All month we have been asking the same question: What is something that I love that I would be willing to sacrifice because I love people more? The foundation of this question is found in the sweet generosity of those early believers who begged for the opportunity to sacrifice for the glory of God and love of others.
Next week in our worship services, our entire church…all campuses, all services…will be challenged to love God through sacrificial giving. As we are taken to the edge of God’s love and promises, I pray that you give yourself first to God, then by his will to others.