In last week’s study titled “Paul Reveals His Heart – Titus’ Good Report” we learnt about the believer’s responsibility as it relates to walking in holiness, and humility being one of the attributes of a godly leader and that leaders were not exempted from real life issues – conflicts and occasional fears; but in all of it, God sends His comfort. In today’s study we shall be looking at Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians to give generously
GIVING IS BY GOD’S GRACE - VERSES 1-2
“Now, brothers and sisters, we want to tell you about the grace of God which has been evident in the churches of Macedonia [awakening in them a longing to contribute]; 2 for during an ordeal of severe distress, their abundant joy and their deep poverty [together] overflowed in the wealth of their lavish generosity.”
Paul begins with an example of sacrificial giving by referencing the churches in Macedonia. The churches of Macedonia had been planted by Paul on his second missionary journey--Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. Paul points to the fact that their generosity was due to the gracethat God has bestowed on them. That despite adverse conditions, God has enabled the Macedonians to financially assist destitute Christians whom they did not personally know. The Macedonians make it absolutely clear that our stewardship does not depend upon our circumstances. It depends upon the quality of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We give because He first gave to us His amazing grace.
In this type of giving, there is no pressure on the giver. There is no public display, no competition and no manipulation of the givers. It is honest, open, transparent and genuine giving from the heart.
The apostle Paul had already taught the Corinthians some great principles of stewardship as we see in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. "Now, concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come"
They gave methodically. Paul instructed them to give "on the first day of every week." It was periodic giving. The church received the gifts every Lord's day.
They gave personally. It was a personal privilege and responsibility to give. "Let each one of you" give.
They gave regularly. They were to "put aside and save." You will never give consistently unless God comes first. When you give Him His part first, before the house note, car notes, even food, you will give as a gift of grace.
They gave impartially. They gave as God caused them to prosper. Each person gave "as he may prosper." They gave in proportion to what they had.
They gave confidentially. Paul wanted them to take the offering before he came, so "no collection be made when I come." He did not want a big show. He didn't want to make a contest out of it. Do it privately so that when I get there we can concentrate on other matters. It is an act of grace. Do it methodically, individually, regularly, impartially and with confidentiality. It is a matter of the heart. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES - VERSES 3-5 It is easy to see how wealth can well up in generous giving. But how is it possible for extreme poverty to overflow in a wealth of liberality? Verses 3-5 provide the explanation. "For, as I can bear witness, [they gave] according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability; and [they did it] voluntarily." 4 begging us insistently for the privilege of participating in the service for [the support of] the saints [in Jerusalem]. 5 Not only [did they give materially] as we had hoped, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us [as His representatives] by the will of God [disregarding their personal interests and giving as much as they possibly could]. [AMP] So, how is it possible? First, it is because the Macedonians gave not justas much as they were able(literally "according to their ability") but beyond (v. 3). The sense is that they determined what they could comfortably contribute and then went beyond this figure. Second, what they gave, they gave entirely on their own (v. 3). In essence, the Macedonians were not pressured into giving. They gave willingly. In fact, they urgently pleaded to be involved (v. 4). Finally, the Macedonian generosity was possible because they gave themselves first to the Lordand only then to Paul (v. 5). Their preeminent concern was how best to serve Christ. It is here that they exceeded Paul's expectations. They gave out of their poverty because of the sincerity of their commitment to Christ as Lord. So great was their desire to serve Christ that they would not allow their economic situation to keep them from being involved in the Lord's work. This is why Paul describes the collection as a service (v. 4). It is not just a financial obligation. It is a ministry opportunity to the saints (v. 4) - those set apart to be God's possession A TRUE SIGN OF OUR SINCERE LOVE FOR GOD - VERSES 6-9 "So we urged Titus that, as he began it, he should also complete this gracious work among you as well. 7 But just as you excel in everything, [and lead the way] in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in genuine concern, and in your love for us, see that you excel in this gracious work [of giving] also. 8 I am not saying this as a command [to dictate to you], but to prove, by [pointing out] the enthusiasm of others, the sincerity of your love as well. 9 For you are recognizing [more clearly] the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [His astonishing kindness, His generosity, His gracious favor], that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich (abundantly blessed). [AMP] The Corinthians had made a previous commitment to help in "the support of the saints" in Jerusalem. Following from 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. They said they would do their part to relieve the suffering of the believers. It was Titus, who encouraged their giving in the first place, so Paul urged him to visit them and encourage them to complete their share in this ministry of giving. Paul commends the Corinthians reminding them that God has blessed them abundantly (v. 7). They excelled in everything, leading the way. They had faith, utterance, knowledge, all earnestness and love. Now it was time to demonstrate it by showing their love to the Lord by capitalizing on the opportunity to give. In these verses the apostle uses several cogent arguments to stir up the Corinthians to this good work of giving. He urges upon them the consideration of their eminence in other gifts and graces, and would have them excel in this of giving also, v. 7. Most people love to be complimented, especially when we ask a gift of them for ourselves or others; it is only just natural that we give commendation to whom God’s grace shines always and not only when something is required from them. The best way to determine the sincerity of our love for God is when people are given the option to choose to give; not commanded to. Paul wanted to motivate them by the sincerity of their love for the Lord to give (v. 8). Because we do not have to be commanded to give before we give. In verse 9, you get the feeling as if Paul was saying: “Now if you think these Macedonian churches are an excellent example of the stewardship of grace, let me show you an even greater example of Jesus!” He didn’t give out of poverty but became poor so we can be rich! A WILLING MIND MUST GO WITH SINCERE ENDEAVORS - VERSES 10-12 "10 I give you my opinion in this matter: this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to take action [to help the believers in Jerusalem], but also [the first] to desire to do it. 11 So now finish this, so that your eagerness in desiring it may be equaled by your completion of it, according to your ability. 12 For if the eagerness [to give] is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” [AMP] Paul then proceeds to encourage them to finish what they started; their good purposes, and their forwardness to begin this good work. Good purposes, indeed, are good things; they are like buds and blossoms, pleasant to behold, and give hopes of good fruit; but they are lost, and signify nothing, without performances. Akin to Faith without Works! So good beginnings are amiable; but we shall lose the benefit unless there be perseverance, and we bring forth fruit to perfection. Seeing therefore the Corinthians had shown a readiness to will, he would have them be careful also in the performance, according to their ability. This willing mind is accepted (v. 12), when accompanied with sincere endeavors. When men purpose that which is good, and endeavor, according to their ability, to perform also, God will accept of what they have, or can do, and not reject them for what they have not, and what is not in their power to do: and this is true as to other things besides the work of giving. The MSG version says: “So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last yearand not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. CONCLUSION - VERSES 13-15 13 For it is not [intended] that others be relieved [of their responsibility] and that you be burdened [unfairly], but that there be equality [in sharing the burden]— 14 at this present time your surplus [over necessities] is going to supply their need, so that [at some other time] their surplus may be given to supply your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written [in Scripture], “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not lack.” [AMP] The MSG version says: “This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written, nothing left over to the one with the most, nothing lacking to the one with the least.” It is important to note here that Paul’s mission was to motivate the Corinthian church by comparing attitudes, not monetary amounts. It is the Macedonians' joyful, willing and earnest attitude that is set before the Corinthians, not the size of their contribution. Finally, Paul is quick to point out that generous giving is an act of divine grace (8:1). It is only as God blesses and enables that we are able to give in the first place. Parts of this study was culled from: http://www.abideinchrist.com/messages/2cor8v1b.html