During Generous December one phrase that has come up in the announcements, preaching, and our social media is the idea of “equal sacrifice.” As a church, we have called everyone who calls Mercy Hill home to equal sacrifice when it comes to Generous December. God is calling each of us to equal sacrifice, but that does not mean equal gifts.
So the question is, how do we know when we are “sacrificing?” How do we know when we are giving according to what God has given us? Below are three helpful guidelines, all from 2 Corinthians 8, that will help us think about what “sacrificing” means for us this Christmas season.
1. Give according to your means.
In 2 Corinthians 8:12–14 Paul states, “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.”
The Bible never calls us to give out of what we don’t have, the Bible calls us to give out of what we have. And not only that, it calls us to give “according to” what we have. Practically speaking, each person in the church is in a different stage of life and may be in a different place financially. This is why the Bible never calls us all to give the same amount but to give according to what we have. So the question is, am I giving according to my means? Does the size of my gift reflect what I have?
2. Give until it hurts.
In 2 Corinthians 8:3 Paul states, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,”
Not only did the churches in Macedonia, who Paul is talking about here in 2 Corinthians 8, give according to their means, they gave even “beyond their means.” Honestly, one of the only ways that we can truly know that our giving is a sacrifice is to give more than we can spare. Only then do we know that we have truly sacrificed.
This is what the churches in Macedonia did. From an outside perspective they did not have anything to spare, and yet they were extremely generous. Look at what Paul says about their poverty and generosity in 2 Corinthians 8:2, “their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”
C.S. Lewis once stated,
“I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.”
3. Give as a response to the gospel.
2 Corinthians 8:9 states, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
The last, and most failsafe principle when we are thinking about what God would have us give, is to give as a response to what God has given us in the gospel. Giving should never solely be based on need, or duty, or even as a way to have joy. Although all of those can be part of the motivation to give, the ultimate motivation to give is based on what Jesus has given us.
When we forget this truth, that Jesus has given us everything in the gospel, it is easy for our giving to slip into habit or duty. And when this happens, our giving will typically look more like “sufficient” giving rather than “sacrificial” giving. Before we open our hands to give this Christmas, we must remember that God opened heaven and gave us his only Son.
-Bobby Herrington (Executive Pastor)