Giving With Purpose
If we could learn anything from the negligent Achaians, specifically those in Corinth, it would be to put our money where our mouth is. They at first had good intentions to do what was right in reference to contributing to the famine victims of Judea. However, their performance certainly lacked. It lacked so much that it took the Holy Spirit, through the inspired mind of the apostle Paul, to correct their financial dysfunction. In His instructions to correct their procrastination, the Holy Spirit gave some points that we must seriously consider in order that we too not fall victim to the same procrastination.
Among all the instructions that were given in the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians, there are some points that will help us to get on with getting the job done in reference to our contributions. If any of these points are ignored, our contributions and collections for any ministry of the body of Christ will certainly be an indication of our lack of concern for God’s work through the body, or at least our procrastination in doing what we have promised to do.
A. Purpose our contribution:
Paul instructed, “Let each one give according as he purposes in his heart …” (2 Co 9:7). Contributing to the work of God is not something that is done nonchalantly. It is determined before the act of giving actually takes place. The Greek word for “purposes” is proaireomai. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used. It seems that the Holy Spirit looked throughout the Greek dictionary in order to choose a specific word to enjoin upon Christians a life-style of intended sacrificial giving. The word means “to prefer,” “to choose,” or “to purpose with considerable intent.” The passage could be translated, “Let every one give as he has determined before hand.”
The use of the Greek word indicates that one should make a heart-determined plan to make his contributions. When one is purposing in his heart, he is forming his life around his contributions. The contributions, therefore, are the indication of one who has the Lord’s work at heart. When one has given his heart to the Lord, then his offerings are intentional, directed and planned. There is no sporadic action on his part. On the contrary, with great consideration, he sets aside that which he intends to give. There is no “spur of the moment” contribution with the one who has purposed in his heart.
Because we are to plan beforehand what we intend to give, then purposing our contributions is a sign of faithful discipleship. Making plans as to how we will return to God that which is His is simply the behavioral pattern of a faithful disciple. If one is not giving anything, then certainly his discipleshp of Jesus would be questioned. But in the context of Paul’s instructions concerning planned giving, we might question whether one truly has the heart of a disciple if he is not planning his giving. Disciples plan to give, for they understand that giving is a part of being a disciple of the One who gave us all. As the Father planned to give His Son before the creation of the world, so Christians must plan their giving before the collection is taken by the church.
B. Promise the purposed giving.
Paul introduced his instructions on making a purposed contribution with the words, “Therefore, I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren so that they go before to you and make up beforehand your previously promised generous contribution …” (2 Co 9:5). What he was saying to the Corinthians was that they needed to fulfill what they had promised in reference to a special contribution for the famine victims of Judea. For a variety of reasons, they had fudged on their promise. And since he was on his way to them with some of the brethren from Macedonia, Paul was writing in order that they not be embarrassed about making promises and not keeping them (See 2 Co 9:3,4).
The Greek word for “previously promised” in 2 Corinthians 9:5 is prokatangello. The word means “to announce beforehand.” A year before, the disciples of Achaia made a promise to give to the collection that was being made for the famine victims in Judea (2 Co 9:2). They had made a public declaration that they too would give to the need, which promise Paul had announced to other disciples in order to spur them on to likewise contribute. In Paul’s instructions concerning what they had promised, there are a great number of lessons to be learned concerning contributions. Read carefully what he instructed them in 2 Corinthians 8:10,11:
And in this I give advice: For this is advantageous for you who were the first a year ago not only to do, but also to desire to do this thing [contribution]. But now finish doing it so that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there may be also a completion out of what you have.
Desire without completion means nothing. Talk without the financial walk of what one has promised manifests a lack of integrity. We must commend the Achaians for their desire. But desire means nothing if there is no performance. At least the Achaian disciples were better than the person who makes no commitment at all to give, or the one who says he just cannot afford to make a promise.
The disciple who has given his heart to the Lord, has also given his promise to do the business of the Lord. Before one becomes a disciple, therefore, he must seriously consider how he will purpose in his heart that which he is going to give to the Lord, as well as, make a promise that he will complete his planned giving. Jesus reminds all of us,
For which one of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him. (Lk 14:28,29).
C. Perform the promise:
The Achaians had the desire. They evidently made a promise of giving a substantial amount, for Paul used their promised contribution as an example for the Macedonians (See 2 Co 9:1,2). But now they had to perform, as Paul wrote, “But now finish doing it …” (2 Co 8:11). The Greek word that Paul used here is from the root word epiteleo which means “to bring to completion.” What Paul was now asking of the Achaians was that they execute that which they had previously purposed and promised a year before.
The contribution about which Paul was writing was a special contribution for a special need. We have discovered that people will often do well in making such contributions. In all their dysfunction as members of the body of Christ, the disciples in Achaia at least responded to the special needs of those who were suffering from a famine in Judea. We cannot fault their desire to help, though their performance somewhat lacked. Nevertheless, they did make the contribution. They purposed in their hearts to get the job done, and with some encouragement from the Holy Spirit through Paul, the deed was done. If disciples make such promises today, but procrastinate, then the leaders need to be teaching the exhortations of 1 & 2 Corinthians.
We feel it is also significant to mention that when the Achaians made their promise to give the special contribution for the special need of famine victims, they were probably less than five years old in the faith. We mention this because we know of disciples who are decades old in the faith, and yet, they have never been challenged to make a special contribution to a need outside their local area. They have never given to mission efforts outside their local area. They have never given to any disaster relief needs outside their local area. Their contributions have usually been for those things they could personally enjoy. Consequently, the selfish motive for their contributions has led them to never being blessed for their contributions. Giving to our “building fund” has its selfish ulterior motives. Giving to increase our comforts in worship is not sacrificial giving.
The Achaians had no New Testaments in their possession to read these instructions as we have today. We might fault them concerning their delay in performing the deed of unselfish contributions, but we cannot fault them on their response to the instructions of the Holy Spirit to contribute to needs outside their local area, and thus to something that they would not personally enjoy. Now we have no excuse if we have failed to purpose in our hearts to give. We have no excuse because we can simply pick up a New Testament and read the instructions that moved the Corinthians to get the job done. The godly giver seeks to live after the One to whom he has given his life. He reads with interest every instruction concerning that must be done to follow the God who owns everything. There is thus only joy in the heart of the one who seeks to be as Jesus who gave all for us.