2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (The VOICE)
[Paul Says:] 6 But I will say this to encourage your generosity: the one who plants little
harvests little, and the one who plants plenty harvests plenty. 7 Giving grows out of the heart—
otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t
say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that “God loves a cheerful giver.” 8 God
is ready [and able] to overwhelm you with more blessings than you could ever imagine so that
you’ll always be taken care of in every way and you’ll have more than enough to share.
9 Remember what is written about the One who trusts in the Lord:
He scattered abroad; He gave freely to the poor:
His righteousness endures throughout the ages.
10 The same One who has put seed into the hands of the sower and brought bread to fill our
stomachs will provide and multiply the resources you invest and produce an abundant harvest
from your righteous actions. 11 You will be made rich in everything so that your generosity
will spill over in every direction. Through us your generosity is at work inspiring praise and
thanksgiving to God. 12 For this mission will do more than bring food and water to fellow
believers in need—it will overflow in a cascade of praises and thanksgivings for our God.
13 When this mission reaches Jerusalem and meets with the approval of God’s people there,
they will give glory to God because your confession of the gospel of the Anointed One led to
obedient action and your generous sharing with them and with all exhibited your sincere
concern. 14 Because of the extraordinary grace of God at work in you, they will pray for you
and long for you. 15 Praise God for this incredible, unbelievable, indescribable gift!
This week I went to Facebook and posted to all my Facebook friends: What makes you laugh or smile?
I got quite a few responses. My results matched up well with my friend Steve. All the comments revealed
something to me that people like to talk about what makes them laugh or smile. Combining our results,
here are the top 6 reasons that people laugh or smile.
#6. Why people laugh or smile: Food. Over all ice cream won out for sure, but there were some very
interesting responses. What makes you laugh or smile? Steak and ice cream, Oh… I mean my family and
my loved ones.
#5. Why people laugh or smile: Sheldon Cooper. He’s a character on the TV show the Big Bang Theory for those of
you who may not know. He is a very precise and logical person. Mr. Spock from Star Trek would be his hero or
mentor. Here are some Sheldon Cooper quotes:
- People say you can’t live without love. I think oxygen is more important.
- You can’t have half a sandwich. It’s not half of a whole sandwich. It’s just a small sandwich.
- I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.
#4. Why people laugh or smile: Their pets. Dogs, cats, baby calves made the list. Any of you who connect with
me on Facebook know that my dog Hunter is a popular subject. He is always good for a laugh. This is one of
most frequent causes of my smiles or laughter with him. [Pull out giraffe.] It may be hard to tell, but this is
actually supposed to be a giraffe. It is Hunter’s very first toy. Actually, it’s amazing that it is still in one piece.
It doesn’t matter what else we get him, by the end of the day, there always has to be some playtime with the
giraffe. Playtime may also include a 4 foot log, but that’s another story.
#3. Why people laugh or smile: Puns. Jokes that exploit different meanings of words. This is not my strong suit,
but they’re so pun, right? Ha-ha-ha, I did warn you.
- Did you hear the joke about the high wall? It’s so hilarious. I’m still trying to get over it.
- Yesterday, I accidentally swallowed some food coloring. The doctor said that I’m OK, but I feel that I
dyed a little inside.
- I’d tell you a chemistry joke, but I know that I just wouldn’t get a reaction.
#2. Why people laugh or smile: Their spouses. I have many good stories about this, but since Marines are
not supposed to smile, my stories including my husband must remain confidential.
And by far the number one thing that makes us laugh or smile is: babies, toddlers, kids, grand kids. Spending
time with them. The things they say. How they say them. Their facial expressions and the list goes on and on
and on. Kids make us smile.
I wonder if there is any correlation between this random Facebook survey of what makes us laugh and smile
and what makes God laugh and smile. Have you ever thought about that? Yes, God laughs and God smiles. We
are created in the image and likeness of God. We laugh and smile. It is so important to us. We like to talk about
it. All those Facebook responses. Your friends tell funny stories. You wanting to share something wonderful that
has happened in your life. Yes, God laughs and God smiles, and it’s full of joy. Could it be that we the children of
God, are the main cause of God smiles and God’s laughter? I’d like to propose to you today that our faith and our
trust in God are at the very heart of what makes God smile. What do you think?
Turn in your bibles to the book of Matthew Chapter 7. I am starting with Verse 7. This is Jesus talking to a big
crowd of people on the side of the mountain, what we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount.
“Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds. And to the one who knocks the door
will be opened. Which of you if your son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish
will give him a snake? If you then though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?”
To hold out your hand, and in a moment of need and desire for connection to ask God, for God to pour his
good gifts into our lives. I think this is something that makes God smile. You see that is because it’s an act of
faith. I mean have you ever wanted to ask someone for help? Or wanted to ask someone to come alongside and
to give you some encouragement in your time of need? Maybe you’ve held back because you don’t want be
turned down. Right? It is painful to be told no.
In faith, when we hold up our hand to God and we ask, Scripture teaches us that God loves to give good gifts
to his children. And that act of faith is followed by another act of trust, and that is to actually receive what is
given. You see whenever we ask, and we choose to ask for it on God’s terms, it’s an act of trust to believe that
God will give us what we need.
We may be asking and having our hand out, “God give me this.” God says, “Well, how about that?” Then the
“how about that” is better then what we asked for. And so it’s in the receiving from God on God’s terms that
also takes strong faith. The asking and the receiving.
But for so many people, this is where our relationship with God stops. It always supposed to go to a next step.
We ask. We receive. Then, we let it pass through to others.
In today’s scripture passage Paul is talking to the followers of Jesus in Corinth. He’s talking to them about their
life of generosity with each other and with Christians all around the world, especially those in Jerusalem. He says
this curious phrase. We have probably all heard it. That “God loves a cheerful giver.” Now, the Greek word for
“cheerful” there is the Greek word hilarion.
It is where we get our word hilarious. That God loves a hilarious giver. So free and so appealing. We are freely
allowed that which God provides to us to pass on to others.
When we give, when we release through faith for the sake of others, it feels good, right?
There is something that when we step out in faith … all these actions they all take faith … When we step out in
faith and are generous with people, generous with our ears, that we’re generous with our hearts. That we’re
generous with our finances and our material possessions. That when we’re generous with our time. When we
release those for the sake of others, something happens in us, and it feels good.
Are you with me? Have you ever had this experience? Yes? Have you ever wondered why it feels so good to be
generous? Well you see, it feels so good to be generous because that is how we were made to live. Being created
in the image and likeness of God, for God so loved the world that he… gave. Yes.
The heart of who God is, God is generous. God gives good gifts to his children. This is central to what it means to
do life together, Simply Church. It’s what we’ve been calling this series of sermons.
What are the simple straightforward ingredients that God has called us to arrange our life around? To be all that
God has called us to be the church for the sake of the world.
We began this series with this word of encouragement to train ourselves to be godly. That we would arrange our
lives intentionally and such a way so that God can change us. Transform us. That we center our life, that we
discern, that we focus. That we see the world through the lenses of God’s eyes. Only Holy love.
That all of our decisions that we make, should be discern and decided through the lenses of God’s holy love.
When we do that, we will be pushed together. We will be unified. This unity will be real, and this unity will be a
call that God’s work that he worked in and through our lives. Oh, I want to be a part of that.
The pivot point of what we are to be together, is to live lives that reflect God’s generosity back into the world. This
is central to joining God in his mission of making disciples and making all things new in the world. That God
makes all things new through us.
Wow! God really means that when he says that in Revelation 21:5, “Behold I am making all things new.” And God
has filled us with his Spirit. As we walk with God, and as we as we commit ourselves to each other to this lifestyle
of generosity, God is making the world new. All things. And God does it through all of us, together.
In our Scripture passage for today, Verse 8 says, “And God is able” … In your picture in your mind and in your
heart, as you draw the picture of God there, and we do this every day, does your picture include a God that smiles?
And does your picture include a God that is able? Who is able to meet our needs?
It says here in verse 8,” God is ready and able to overwhelm you with more blessings than you could ever imagine
so that you’ll always be taken care of in every way”… And don’t stop there … ” and you’ll have more than enough
to share.” And the circle just keeps on going and going. God is at work ready, willing, and able to pour gifts into
our lives. Do we have the faith to receive them, and do we have the faith to pass them on. Is this in your God
One of the things that we are tempted to do is that we are tempted to live our lives outside of the margins. This
is not to be confused with seeing people on the margins of society. We are always supposed to do that. Here, I am
talking about paper, notebook paper. I love getting a new pad of paper, cute or interesting covers. Devices to make
sure that they stay shut. When I was in school, I loved getting new school supplies at the beginning of the year,
including a new fresh pack of notebook paper. When I was in school I wrote on notebook paper. Do kids still write
on notebook paper these days? Whenever I was in school, I was taught never to write, where? In the margins. My
teacher wrote on my papers there. I always hoped to get my papers back with as little writing, but what we are
taught to do in our culture is to fill the whole paper up. We are taught to fill our lives so full. We are to take it and
use it all for ourselves. This is what is called living life outside the margins, and guess what? It is utterly
When was the last time that you told someone you were busy, or you told someone you were tired? You look at
the bottom line of your finances, and you said there’s just not enough. We’ve all been there, and we all have the
power living, dwelling, in us to allow God to lead us to live life, not outside the margins, but inside the margins.
When we learn to live life inside the margins that creates space, so that we can be all that God is calling us to be for
our family. We can be all that God is calling us to be for one another here at Joseph United Methodist Church. We
can be all that we are called to be for every person that God will place in our path today.
Have you already figured out where you going after church today? Are you going to a shop or a restaurant for
dinner? Obviously, you’ve having lunch here. If you thought, “OK maybe today God might use me to be a blessing
in the life of somebody. You get excited about the opportunity and the possibility, and you are aware and you are
ready. You have margin in your life. A pastor in Texas, Amy, says it like this, “When we learn to live on less, we
always have more to give.” That includes our money, that includes our calendar, that includes whatever. We learn
to live on less. We always have more to give. We are tempted to live our life like this. [Squeeze fist together.]
This is how we are taught by our culture to live that once you get it, you hold on to it whatever it may be. If you hold
on to it long enough, your hand starts to hurt. Notice that. Go ahead and try that for a second. You can feel how
uncomfortable that starts to become. The natural response is to let go, and that feels so much better.
Holding on to something for your own benefit. You see how different that is than what God invites us to do.
Keeping our hand constantly open so the circle of asking and receiving and giving can be unbroken. We are
tempted to think that an overabundance of stuff will make us happy. Instead contentment is found in relationships,
not more and better stuff. Desires and dreams are fulfilled in the context of relationships. Let me say that again.
Desires and dreams are fulfilled in the context of relationships. Relationship with God and others and being willing
to abandon our closed hand.
This past Wednesday was what? Halloween, right? It was also something else, it was the 501st anniversary of the
beginning of what is known as the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was hammering his 95 thesis to the
church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and it unleashed this crazy transformation that the church went through.
We are still feeling its effects over 500 years later. In his honor something with you from Martin Luther. He said
that there are three conversions that are necessary in the life of a Christian: the conversion of the heart, the
conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse. For us to experience conversion looking at all of those
things differently is an act of faith. An act of surrender of laying down our lives for the sake of God, for the sake
of his Kingdom, and for the sake of each other.
Paul invites the Christians at Corinth to be generous on every occasion. Whenever you read those all-encompass-
ing statements that Paul and Jesus make, do you believe that they’re possible. Can we truly arrange our lives in
such a way that we can be generous on every occasion?
It’s a process of learning to live our life within our margins with our time, with our money, with our listening
capacities, to live our lives within the margins and to truly believe in to trust that since God is generous, God
is calling us to be generous in our whole life. One of the things that we do here at Joseph UMC when we join is
that we make a commitment to uphold our church through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service,
and our witness. Everyone say it with me, our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.
This is how we come to know, this is how we come to know that we can count on each other. We arrange our
lives. This is how we are in our life together for God for each other. Whether you are a member or not. This is
the premise of Joseph UMC. That we can count on each other for each and every one of those: prayers,
presence, gifts, service, and witness. Each one is an act of generosity.
They don’t just happen. They are intentional acts on our part to move God’s glorious mission forward of making
all things new in our lives and in the lives of others.
Paul ends this passage by saying these words, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” The indescribably
gift that Paul talks about is the opportunity to give. You ever think about it like that? That giving is a gift in it
of itself. No matter what it is that you give. That is a gift. It’s like it’s twice. It is a gift to the receiver, and it is
a gift to the one who gave because we are living in to our glorious nature of being people created in the image
and likeness of God. Paul says here that our giving, no matter what it may be, should be like this. “That each
of you should give what you have decided in your hearts to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”
I confess to you. I can confess to you. Is that okay? I confess to you, and almost every pastor I’ve met would
agree with me, that during this time of year when we focus on our giving and begin to prepare for 2019 by
encouraging you to fill our your estimate giving cards … You should have those in your bulletins …
This is hard for me because no matter what I say, there are going to be some of you that are upset by it.
There’s some of you that are put off by it. It is not my intention to upset or to put off any of you. It is only
my intention to give you the opportunity to respond. So, I take those words seriously. I’m not trying to twist
your arm but kind of am I? It’s just hard, but it’s important work if you believe that the church and what
the church is doing in your life and in our community and in the world is good work. That should move
you to the edge of your seat. It should be exciting to have the opportunity to cooperate with God generously.
So what we’re going to do here in just a minute is we’re going to give you the opportunity to respond.
I hope you have taken the time in the past few weeks to read the correspondence I’ve been sharing with you
through the mail and through the newsletter. I hope that you have been holding up this question. Have you
been holding up this question? Hopefully you have. “What part, what amount of my income is God calling me
to give to the missions at Joseph UMC of joining God in making all things new?” and that you have a prepared
your card and are ready to respond.
In a moment I’m going to ask those who are helping with the collection to come forward. We’re going to turn
to 3148 in the Worship & Song Book (the green book) and sing. While we are singing, the estimate of giving
cards will be collected. This is a matter of prayer. Giving always begins with God. God channels his gifts
through us, and we lay it on the altar. I want you to prayerfully offer your gifts to God. You can put your card
in the basket believing that God is going to use our gifts to be a blessing to the world.
Let us pray. God we give you thanks for the abundant gifts that you pour into our lives. And Lord as you
invite us to be people who are generous just like you. Our financial giving is just one part of that life of
generosity. I pray, I pray that you will give us joy in releasing back to you just a portion of what you give to
us, so that your mission of making all things new in our lives and in the world from this church can to continue
to flow forward. So, God we offer our intentions to you and pray that you will bless us so that we may be a
blessing to all. In Jesus name we pray. Amen