By John McCoury
Roan Mountain Tennessee
In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, the Apostle Paul develops ten principles of Christian giving.
1.Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God (8:1.6). Paul begins by referring to the generosity of God, to “the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches” (v. l). In other words, behind the generosity of Macedonia, Paul saw the generosity of God. Grace is another word for generosity Our gracious God is a generous God, and He is at work within his people to make them generous, too. Christian generosity is fundamentally an outflow of the generosity of God.
- Christian giving can be a gift of the Spirit (8:7). As the believers excel in the spiritual gifts of faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love, the apostle urges them to excel also “in this grace of giving.” Why is it important to draw attention to this? It is because many of God’s endowments are both a generous gift given to all believers and a gift given to some. All Christians are called to be generous, but some are given the gift of giving. Because they have been entrusted with significant financial resources, they have a special responsibility to be good stewards for the common good.
- Christian giving is inspired by the cross of Christ (8:8-9). The Corinthians were not being commanded, much less browbeaten, to give generously. Rather, the sincerity of their love was being put to the test by comparison with others and especially it is implied by comparison with Christ. For they knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—not only is the grace of God at work in them (v. 1), but the grace of Christ challenges their imitation (v. 9). The poverty of Christ is seen in his incarnation and especially his cross, while the” wealth” he gives us is salvation with all its rich blessings.
4. Christian giving is proportionate giving (8:10-12). During the previous year the Corinthian Christians had been the first not only in giving but in desiring to give (v. 10). Now Paul urges them to finish the task they had begun so that their doing would keep pace with their desiring. And this must be according to their means (v. 11). Thus, Christian giving is proportionate giving. The eager willingness comes first. So long as that is there, the gift is acceptable according to what the giver has, not according to what he has not (v.12)
- Christian giving contributes to equality (8:13-15)- Paul’s desire is not that others may be relieved while the Corinthians are hard-pressed, for that would merely reverse the situation, solving one problem by creating another. Rather, he desires that there might learn that there might be equality (v. 13). He goes on to repeat his argument illustrating the principle from the supply of manna in the desert. God provided enough for everybody. Larger families gathered a lot, but not too much, for nothing was leftover. Smaller families gathered little, but not too little, for they had no lack (v. 15). Thus, Paul put the affluence of some alongside the want of others, and then called for an adjustment—that is, an easing of want by affluence. Twice he concluded that this was with a view to justice.
- Christian giving must be carefully supervised (6:16-24). The handling of money is a risky business, so Paul writes both that “we want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer liberal gift’ (v. 20) and that we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man (v. 21). That is, he was determined not only to do right, but also to be seen doing right. (Notice the steps Paul took determined not only to do right but also to be seen to do right. (Notice the steps Paul tool in verses 16-23.) Thus, the people who earned the offering to Jerusalem had been elected by the churches because they had confidence in them.
- Christian giving can be stimulated by competition (v 9:1-5). It is rather delightful to see how Paul plays the north and the south against each other. He boasts of each to the other, in order to stimulate the generosity of both. True, competition is a dangerous game to play, especially if it involves the publication of the names of donors and the amount they have donated. But at least these verses provide a biblical base for the concept of matching grants. We can all be stimulated to greater generosity by the known generosity of others.
- Christian giving resembles a harvest (9:6-11a). Two harvest principles are here applied to Christian giving. First, we reap what we sow (v. 6) • Each donor should give “what he has decided in his heart to give.” Neither reluctantly, nor under compulsion, nor for that matter calculating what he will receive in return (Luke 6:34, 35), but not grudgingly, because “God loves a cheerful giver” (v. 7). The second harvest principle is that what we reap serves a double purpose. It is both for eating and for further sowing. The God of the harvest is concerned not only with alleviating our present hunger, but also making provision for the future. In the same way God will “supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness” (v. 10).
- Christian giving has symbolic significance. There is more to Christian giving than meets the eye. Paul is quite clear about this. In the case of the Greek churches, their giving symbolized their “confession of the gospel of Christ’’ (v. 13). It was a deliberate, self-conscious symbol of Jewish-Gentile stable in the body of Christ. In similar ways, Christian giving can express teaching because our gift symbolizes our support of the cause to which we are giving. For example, when we contribute to evangelistic enterprises, we are expressing our confidence that the gospel is God’s power for salvation and that everybody has a right to hear it. When we contribute to economic development, we express our belief that every man, woman, and child bear God’s image and should not be obliged to live in dehumanizing circumstances.
- Christian giving promotes Thanksgiving 9:11b-15 Four times in the concluding paragraph of these two chapters, Paul states his confidence that the ultimate result of his collection will be the increase of thanksgiving and praise to God (V 11-14).) Christian giving leads people not only to thank the donors but also to thank God and to see their gifts in the light of his—the indescribable gift of his Son.
John McCoury is pastor of Evergreen church in Roan Mountain, Tennessee and the chaplain at Roan Highlands Nursing Center