For the Love of God, Volume 1/September 19
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 15; 2 Corinthians 8; Ezekiel 22; Psalm 69
THE LONGEST SUSTAINED ENCOURAGEMENT in the New Testament to give money is found in 2 Corinthians 8—9. Today I shall reflect on some of the emphases in 2 Corinthians 8.
(1) Paul encourages the Corinthians to give by referring to the generosity of the Macedonians, who lived in the province to the north and were often viewed by those in Achaia, including the Corinthians, as a slightly inferior breed. Relaying evidence of the grace of God in the lives of some brothers and sisters in Christ can become an incentive to others to conform more closely to Christ.
(2) Paul stresses that the Macedonians were not only generous in the context of their own “severe trial” (8:1-3), but that their financial giving was a function of the fact that “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will” (8:5). The apostle does not think nearly so much of the kind of gift that is a substitute for giving oneself in principle to the Lord Jesus, and, derivatively, to his servant-leaders.
(3) There is considerable stress on perseverance and consistency in this matter of giving. Apparently the Corinthians had pledged the year before to give a certain amount. Now Paul sends Titus to encourage them to bring to completion what they began so well. So today: planned, regular, generous giving is better than the big binge that is wrung out of you by one emotional appeal, in part because the former is a better index of a heart consistently devoted to Christ and his work.
(4) Paul judges that Christian generosity is one of the things in which Christians as a whole should excel—along with such virtues as pure speech, knowledge, complete earnestness, and love for godly leaders (8:7).
(5) Paul does not want Christian generosity to be the result of a new legal demand: “I am not commanding you,” he writes (8:8). The highest possible incentive to be generous, in a self-denying way, is found in the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (8:9). For Paul, it is unthinkable that anyone who really delights in knowing this Christ could be stingy.
(6) Paul wants the Corinthians to know that although this money is going to help other believers (8:13-14—presumably the poor believers in Judea), this is not to make them rich as Croesus, but to relieve their poverty.
(7) Paul takes extraordinary pains, even by his choice of the emissaries he sends to transport the money, not only to do what is right in financial matters, but to be seen to be doing what is right (8:16-24).