For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:12-15)
As we close out this series of bulletin articles about worshiping God in spirit and truth, we come to the act of worship which is giving. As a newcomer to East Main, I must start by sharing with my church family here how encouraged and spiritually strengthened I am whenever I observe the generosity of this congregation as shown in your weekly giving. One of the reasons we assemble is not only to worship, but also to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds…(and) encourage one another” (Heb. 10:24-25). In like manner, the apostle Paul’s fellowship with the Philippian church was strengthened by their “participation in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5) – i.e., their “sharing” with him “in the matter of giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15-16). The same could be said for the fellowship between the Gentile Christians and their Jewish brethren whom they financially helped (Rom. 15:26-27). Brethren, whenever I examine the myriad of various church works, ministries, benevolent works, and mission works scattered throughout this world which East Main financially supports, not the least of which is my own work here and that of Wayne and Seth, I am filled with joy and gratitude. I am encouraged greatly and motivated to work even harder to serve our God and my church family here at East Main. Indeed, I have no doubt that all who are helped both benevolently and spiritually by your generous weekly giving have the same attitude described in the 2 Corinthians passage quoted above. Thank you.
Some wonder why giving is considered an act of worship. There are several reasons. One reason is that the early Christians were commanded to give on Sundays, the day they came together to worship (1 Cor. 16:1-2; cf. Acts 20:7; Rev. 1:10). Another is that the Sunday contribution of 1 Corinthians 16 is the same contribution discussed in Romans 15:27 and 2 Corinthians 9:12. In these passages the contribution is described as the Gentiles being “indebted to minister to (the Jewish Christians) also in material things” (Rom. 15:27), and as “the ministry of this service” (2 Cor. 9:12). “Minister” (leitourgeo) is used elsewhere in the New Testament in passages which imply worship (Acts 13:2; Heb. 10:11). “Service” (leitourgia, taken from leitourgeo) likewise is used in New Testament passages which imply worship (Lk. 1:23; Heb. 9:21). Another reason is found when one examines all the Greek terms whose English translations revolve around worship terminology and considers these concepts within the framework of giving the way God wishes. When one gives to God’s church “according to their ability, and beyond their ability…of their own accord,” “bountifully,” “as he has purposed in his heart,” “not grudgingly or under compulsion,” but rather with a “cheerful” attitude (2 Cor. 8:3; 9:6-7), is that not offering honor to God (proskueneo)? Is it not revering God (sebazomai)? Is it not serving God (latreuo)? Is it not acting piously towards God (eusebeo)? The obvious answer to these rhetorical questions is “Yes,” especially when one considers that in giving Jesus wants us to “first give (ourselves) to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5).
Let us remember God’s promise as given through Paul’s pen: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:6, 8). Those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully…not for personal gain, but rather so that we will be fully equipped to abundantly help in every good work and deed. I see this here in East Main, and it encourages me greatly.