2 Corinthians 8:1 - 9:15

Be Generous

© 2000, J.W. Carter
     www.biblicaltheology.com              Scripture quotes from KJV


Consider the following situations. Would you be willing to share your money in this situation?   Why or why not?  How much money would you give?  What other information might impact your decision?

  1. You are walking down the street and a dirty panhandler comes up to you asking for money.

  2. A telephone solicitor calls you asking you to purchase tickets to the policeman’s' ball with all proceeds going to children's charities.

  3. Your neighbor has been a victim of downsizing and is working a minimum wage job to support his family, and is financially suffering.

  4. You see an, obviously poor, middle-aged woman sitting at an intersection with a sign, "will work for food."

  5. Your Sunday School class is asked to provide funds to enable a Vietnamese mission congregation to have a Thanksgiving day dinner.

  6. Your church has set a goal for the Christmas missions offering and has announced that the offering will be taken over the next few weeks.

  7. You receive a telephone call from the "County Firefighters" asking for a financial pledge.  You receive in the mail a pledge form with a return address in another state, and the “small” print reveals that it is a fire victim's fund with no real connection with the County Firefighters.

One has to be wise when responding to those who would take advantage of a generous giver.  Often we get resistant when we are solicited to give.  How do you decide what and who to give to?  Or, do you become cynical because of all of the charlatans, and fail to give

You have probably heard repeatedly the teaching that a tithe is returning to God one tenth of your income, yet come tax time your records show that your financial giving has fallen short.  Is obedience 10% of gross?  10% of taxable income?  Or is it whatever you want to give?

Matt 6:19-21.  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Where your heart lies is greatly exposed by your checkbook and credit card receipts.

The book of Second Corinthians, chapters 8-9, were written to the church by Paul to prepare them for a collection that was to be taken for the members in the struggling church in Jerusalem.  His solicitation of support was not unlike many of the similar, valid, needs that we continually encounter.  God meets people’s needs by using other people.  We are His hands when we work for him, His feet when we take His love with us, and His mouth when we both preach the gospel and minister to others in His name.

2 Cor. 8:1. 

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

Paul is about to brag on the Macedonian churches for the gifts they gave to help the struggling church in Jerusalem.  Members of the Jerusalem church were persecuted by the rest of the Jewish community.  They were disowned by their families and Jewish friends, they were fired from their jobs, and were not allowed to take part in the general economic activity.  They were not allowed to own land, buy and sell, etc.  This stress placed them in a particular point of need.

Furthermore, there was a growing rift taking place between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians within the church, and this act of generosity by Gentile Christians could go a long way to helping to restore the relationships of these Christians to where it should be.   The need was great, and God gave the Macedonians an opportunity to help. Paul was particularly impressed by the Macedonian churches' gifts.  Why?

2 Cor. 8:2-5.

How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

The Macedonian churches, those in the area of Northern Greece, were in poverty (Vs 2), and when they heard of the need, they gave generously out of that poverty to the Lord.  One of the tenets of Jewish law included the giving of alms to the poor.  It had been established that the Gentile Christians were not required to submit themselves to Jewish tradition, and were not obligated to this almsgiving.  Consequently, their gifts communicated something that many Jews would have a hard time understanding, when their gifts were not given from religious obligation, but out of their poverty they gave because they wanted to.

Imagine back to when you were younger, and following an evening meal your mother asked you to come dry the dishes she had washed.  What was your first typical response? Most kids would probably groan, look for rationalizations that would free them of this responsibility, and never actually see the opportunity that was being presented.  Kids do not see this as an opportunity to give the gift of time to the mother.  Imagine instead of that request, some of your best friends come to your door and invite you to come outside with them to play in an activity that you really liked.  What was your first response? You might have chosen to dry the dishes, but did so only because you were asked to.  However, when you were invited outside to play, you could barely be held back.  What is the difference in these responses?

The difference is illustrated in the response of the Macedonian churches.  When they heard of the need, they, out of their own poverty desired to help in a spirit more like the spontaneous response of joining with friends in an enjoyable activity than out of an obligation.  They had to truly sacrifice in order to give, yet sacrifice they did.

I am reminded of the way I have been treated while doing missionary work.  We go to meet needs of others, oftentimes who are struggling themselves, and so often we find ourselves having to accept spontaneous gifts from them fully knowing the real sacrifice that was required for them to do so.  They would feed us the best they had when we knew that they would suffer for it later.  What motivates people to sacrifice and give like this?  There is such joy in their giving, that to do anything but graciously accept their gifts would cause them to be embarrassed.

Once, after spending a period of frustration, tithing to a church that was saving its money in investments and refusing to spend it on ministry, God called us to a small, struggling, church that did not have the money to do many ministries it desired.  My wife and I started digging around trying to find ways to get more money to give to this ministry as we poured our lives and our money into it.  We gave to the first church out of obligation to God’s call.  We gave to the second church our of the sheer Joy of seeing it used for God’s work.  At one point the pastor asked us to stop, and after the pastor delivered us a scolding for our one-sided giving, we conspired together to purchase over a hundred chairs for the choir loft and fellowship hall.  I was able to show him a greater joy in giving.

Just like these examples, our giving can be done out of the same two motives: out of obligation, from spontaneous joy and a desire to give.  Paul describes this spontaneous generosity demonstrated by the Macedonians as evidence of the grace that God had given the churches there.  God’s grace is always at the heart of any act of worship, and giving is no exception.

2 Cor. 8:6-7. 

Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.  7Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

Following this experience with the Macedonian churches, Paul lays down a challenge to the church in Corinth.  We can see that Titus was sent to collect the gift from the Corinthian church, and Paul encourages them to abound in giving in the same way.

 

2 Cor. 8:8-9.

I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. 9For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 

Do you wait until the “money comes in” to give?  Such is faithless giving.  Giving should be inspired by sincere love, not by obligation or force, so as we look at Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian church, we see this clear message.  Paul instills here a little competition, not so much in the amount of their giving, but in the love that they demonstrate.  We might have the sincere love for those in need, but fail to give when we are not aware of the need.  Paul is making them aware so that they can respond in love and receive the blessing that comes from knowing that God has been able to use them for His kingdom purpose.

2 Cor. 8:10-16.

And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. 12For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 13For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. 16But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.

What was the challenge that Paul laid before the church?  A year earlier the church had agreed to share in the offering, and he was now going to put them to the test.  Giving was not new to this church.

Paul asked the people to give, like the Macedonian church, from a willing heart, and out of their means. One would expect to see equal sacrifice rather than equal gifts.  To those whom God has given much, a greater gift can be received, but the value of that gift is the same.   Verse 15 agrees with other similar verses that state that the amount of giving is not as important as the amount with respect to how much we have.  Much is expected from those who have much.  Still, the poor widow's copper mite had more value to God than the talents of the proud Pharisees.

Also, Paul validates his request by the use of other witnesses to his purpose.  He handled the taking of the offering with care.  What was he trying to avoid?  We must always be very responsible with gifts that are given, particularly when they have been given to God.  Those gifts must be used for the purposes intended by the givers.  Those gifts are God’s property, and abusing them is an unconscionable act.  Also, the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were already very suspicious of Paul and the Gentile Christians.  Any act of impropriety would severely affect the truth of giving that is being proved here.

We should be wise when we encounter requests for gifts.  Paul was making it very clear that the gift that he was soliciting was to support God’s work in the kingdom.  One of the ways we can be wise is to be observant that the requester of a gift is not a phony.  Paul was no phony.

2 Cor. 8:17-24.

For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. 18And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; 19And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: 20Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: 21Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. 23Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. 24Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

So, Paul sent Titus and others ahead of him to Corinth to collect the offering, and reiterates his reasoning for doing so.  Paul wants the Corinthians to clearly see that the offering will be treated with integrity.

2 Cor. 9:6.

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

Some people have misused and misapplied this verse and come up with another gospel.  They teach that if you give, God will be obligated to add to your account financial amounts far greater than your gift.  Some go so far as to argue that financial status is directly proportional to obedience in giving.  Such statements are usually made by those who are expecting to receive funds from those to whom they are preaching this false gospel.  Solicitors also will use arguments to make people feel guilty for what they deem is inadequate giving.  One way we can clearly discern whether the gift given or solicited is Godly is to consider the motives of both the giver and the receiver

What are some poor motives for giving?  Some could give with an expectation of a return on your investment.  Some might give so that their giving can be seen by others, and by so doing, have their ego massaged.  Some might give in order to maintain some control over the receiver, to tip a balance of debt in their favor, expecting some future advantage 

How would you characterize one who gives out of correct motives?  Giving is an act of worship of God.  When we give out of a love for God, desiring to contribute what we have to God’s work, we are demonstrating correct motives.  When we give out of correct motive, what kind of harvest do we reap?  Certainly we experience the peace and joy that comes with the knowledge that we have been obedient, and have made a difference for God’s kingdom.  We often receive the blessing of seeing the impact that our giving has on individuals, groups of individuals, or on God’s kingdom work.

2 Cor. 9:7-11.

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8And 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: 9(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) 11Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Look at each of these verses.  In verse 7, the amount that we are to give when an opportunity presents itself is identified.  How much should we give?  Are we to give 10% of gross income, or 10% of net income?  Of course, neither of these options may be the correct answer for us.  The scripture clearly states that the correct level of giving is that which one “decided in his heart to give.”  Do realize, of course, that the heart that Paul talks about is one that is seeking obedience to the Lord.

Giving is not to be out of reluctance or compulsion.  A gift so given will not bring joy to the giver.  How are we to give?  Here the scripture refers to a “cheerful giver.”  When one gives of the correct motives, one cannot help but be cheerful in so doing because of the joy of knowing how this act of worship is pleasing to God, and constructive to both the receiver and the giver.

Part of the reward is shown in verse 8.  What is it?  (1) God will supply all of your needs, and (2) you will be abounding in good work.  Some have said, “You cannot out-give God.”  We might clutch tightly to our resources, hedging against the unknown difficulties that may be in our future.  By so doing we are demonstrating a lack of faith.  The scriptures encourage us when we hear God’s promise that He will supply our needs.  When we depend on our own resources, we take away the opportunity for God to bless us in this way, and lose out on the opportunity to give in obedience.

Let's not forget the relationship that “good works” has to “faith”:  Works are a fruit of faith that grows out of the very nature of a Christian, just like an apple is a fruit that grows on an apple tree by virtue of its nature.  We do not give in order to become a good Christian, we give because we are joyfully obedient to our call as Christians and would have it no other way.

When we make a gift to the poor, its impact on that person or persons is temporary.  What does verse 9 say about its impact upon us?  The spirit of generosity that is in the heart of the giver is a fruit of their righteousness before God.  The gift will soon be consumed, but the righteousness that is in the heart of the obedient believer is there to stay.

Note, again, that verse 10 does not say that God will necessarily multiply your gift and return it to you;  instead we will receive a reward of righteousness.

2 Cor. 9:12-15.

For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; 13Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; 14And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. 15Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

Another reward for giving is shown in verses 12-15.  How is our giving an expression of thanks to God?  We are acknowledging that what we possess is His anyway, and we are thankful for it.

How do you feel when your church responds to a faith offering with an impressive amount of giving? 

Recently my wife and I took on the financial commitment to fly three Belarussian girls to America and have them in our home for six weeks, clothing them, feeding them, caring for them, and sending them back home with clothes and gifts.  The bill for this endeavor was in the neighborhood of $5,000.  We made the commitment to care for the girls without fully knowing yet where the money to do this would come from.  We simply knew that this was something that we must do.  How do you think we felt when the church took up an offering that paid for the airfare for two of the girls.  How do you think we felt when our Sunday School class gave us $700 to buy groceries for the period of their visit, and for clothes for their return trip?  Not only were we blessed by their giving, each person who contributed to this gave a part of themselves to this ministry.  Had we paid all the expenses ourselves, we would have robbed others of the opportunity to be part of what we were doing. 

Who, do you suppose, we thanked for the gifts?  We gave thanks to both church and to God.  By their giving, the people were able to be part of the ministry that we had taken on.  God was glorified through the entire experience both in its impact on the Belarussian children, and in the hearts of those who took part.

We will find many similar opportunities to return to God a part of what He has given us.  We have so much to be thankful for, and we have been blessed by God in so many ways.  Let us never hold onto what he has given us in a grudging and selfish manner, but rather, let us learn the joy that comes from giving to God's work so that we can be a part of it, so that God's work can continue unhampered by our disobedience, and so that God can be glorified.