Have you noticed the Amazon smile logo? That yellow arrow is more than just a decorative swoosh. The Amazon logo was created to represent the message that it sells everything from A to Z (the arrow connects the two letters) and also represents the smile that customers will experience by shopping on their website.
There is a special, rare kind of smile that is often missing in our modern-day Christianity-the smile of sacrifice! I Corinthians 8 provides us with the “A to Z” of divinely infused joy through sacrifice. Chapters 8 and 9 deal with the missionary offering Paul was receiving for the believers in Judea. While these chapters focus primarily on a special missionary relief offering, they help us grasp some of the principles and promises of Christian giving.
Godly sacrifice broadens our smile in two ways:
1. Portrayed Smile
Have you ever noticed the silly things photographers do and say to get you to smile in a picture? In older pictures there were no smiles, and then some genius figured out that if we say “cheese” the corners of your mouth turn up, your cheeks lift and your teeth show. If God were in charge of our portrait, He would ask us to say ”sacrifice.” Why?
Sacrifice portrays your church. (1)
The sacrificial spirit of the first-century churches is what got the world’s attention! In contrast our “convenient Christianity” has no arrest-your-attention value to this world!
This church was a presented as an example by the Apostle Paul (“we do you to wit”). In chapter 8 are the same directions Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 16:2, but they had not yet been obeyed. On the first day of the week (the Lord’s Day), the believers (the Lord’s people) were to bring their offerings (the Lord’s tithes and offerings) to the church meeting (the Lord’s house). The believer’s first responsibility is to his own local church. Furthermore, since this offering was to be a witness to the Jews from the Gentile churches, it was important that each congregation be represented. The Macedonian “churches” remind us that sacrificial gifts should be brought first to your local church! I recently heard a pastor say, “The New Testament has no message for the believer who has no church.” Your church cannot properly “paint a picture” of God that this world and other believers can know (“wit”) without visible sacrifice by each of us!
This community of believers also demonstrated the enabling of the Lord (“grace of God bestowed”). While their material welfare apparently deteriorated, their spiritual well-being increased commensurately. Paul attributed this to the grace of God, His unmerited favor. II Corinthians 9:8 Paul adds, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” Our financial ability is not based upon what we have but what we have given that allows God’s grace to “abound.”
Sacrifice portrays your commitment. (2-5)
Sacrifice enables the believer to show what’s inside the “shell.” This first includes a commitment in weakness (2-3). According to Randy Alcorn, “Giving isn’t the luxury of the rich. It is the privilege of the poor.” In “deep poverty” these believers experienced three exciting things: abounding joy, rich liberality, and divine power. It is humbling to receive gifts from people in far greater need than you. This often happens on mission trips where the poor serve their best food to visiting Americans and do it with great smiles of joy. They’re not pretending that their sacrifice makes them happy. It really does! Christian giving does not depend on material circumstances so much as spiritual convictions.
Sacred sacrifice also demonstrates a commitment in willingness (4-5). When have you heard a member in your church complain about ” too little preaching on giving”? Entirely on their own initiative these Macedonians became involved in the collection. Paul, perhaps thinking they too were suitable candidates for aid, hesitated to approach them about the need in Jerusalem. The Macedonians were eager channels of God’s blessing because they lived in accordance with His will. One could wish that today more churches were like the Macedonians who pleaded for the privilege of sharing. As Paul adds in the next chapter, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Co. 9:7).
2. Proven Smile
I recently read a tongue in cheek comment by the criminal Al Capone, “A smile will get you pretty far…but a smile and a gun will get you farther.” Often as believers, our motives are in question. In the face of fear or skepticism, a smile WITH SACRIFICE proves our sincerity!
Sacrifice proves your love (6-8).
Matthew 6:21 records Christ saying, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” True sacrifice proves your love in totality (6-7). The Corinthians, hearing about “the collection,” asked Paul what part they might have in it. Paul instructed them concerning these arrangements. Good intentions had not been translated into fruition, however, so Paul asked Titus to look into the matter. For us to profess to be spiritual, and yet not give faithfully to the Lord, is to deny what we profess. Faith, preaching, witnessing, studying the Bible—none of these is a substitute for the grace of giving.
Genuine sacrifice also testifies to a love in truth (8). I recently read a description of President Teddy Roosevelt by his own daughter, “He wanted to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening.” In contrast, the actions of the Macedonians revealed their love and devotion to God and others. 1 John 3:18 instructs us, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” The expression “put your money where your mouth is,” while the expression has its origins in gambling, it needs to be said to all of us in the validation of our love!
Sacrifice proves your Lord. (9)
Only around 10 percent of vehicles made in North America now have manual transmissions, down from 35 percent in 1980. And that number is expected to keep shrinking, according to the consulting firm IHS Automotive. Improvements in the function and fuel economy of automatic transmissions have essentially killed the manual in the U.S., says Jack Nerad, the senior editor of Kelley Blue Book. When you let go of “manually” doing your life and respond the “automatic” prompts of the Lord, you become a more efficient and effective believer! As someone recently said, “We are most like God when we are giving.”
Our sacrifice presents our Lord with grace. Paul uses not only the example of the Macedonian churches, but also the example of Christ Himself. How rich He was—and how poor He became! According to Alcorn, “The same Greek word is used for Christian giving as for God’s grace. Christ’s grace defines, motivates, and puts in perspective our giving. Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God in our lives. It doesn’t come out of our altruism or philanthropy-it comes out of the transforming work of Christ in us. This grace is the action; our giving is the reaction.” (Alcorn) As another author put it, “As thunder follows lightning, giving follows grace.”
Our sacrifice also portrays our Lord with gratitude (9b). Have you ever had a person hold the door open for you when you are still 20 yards away, forcing you into an awkward jog of gratitude? I ask you, why are we so awkward in our gratitude to such a giving God? The Corinthians had directly benefited from His generosity. He became what they were (poor) so that they could become what He was and is (rich). Therefore was a material offering to Him too much to ask? Notice how this section on giving ends! It does not end with “Congratulations on your generosity,” but “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” (II Co. 9:15) David Livingston declared, “I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.” Grateful hearts are always connected to giving hands!
When you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, “Does this hurt? How about this?” If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. Either the doctor has pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there’s something wrong, and the doctor will say, “We’d better do some more tests. It’s not supposed to hurt there!” So it is when pastors preach on financial responsibility, and certain members cry out in discomfort, criticizing the message and the messenger. Either the pastor has pushed too hard. Or perhaps there’s something wrong. In that case, we’re in need of the Great Physician because it’s not supposed to hurt there.
Paul, ever sensitive to the charge that he dominated the churches he founded preferred that their motivation not stem from external commands (8:8). He wanted them to be motivated by their internal devotion (the sincerity of their love) to him and more importantly to the Lord. Could the Corinthians face being compared with the Macedonians in this regard? Or could they face being compared with their Lord, who is supremely worthy of emulation? Earlier in this epistle He reveals his pure motives, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (II Co. 1:24).
I recently heard a celebrity say, “Smile; it increases your face value.” For the believer this increase in face value requires a willing decrease in personal assets! Will you commit to a life of sacrifice that broadens your smile with a portrait and proof of supernatural joy?
Here is a link to the video version of this post.
How else have you discovered that your sacrifice infuses divine joy in your heart and life?