Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
After praising the Corinthians in the midst of his second letter to them, Paul challenges their growth in a specific area of their Christianity. It is an area where several need to be challenged. Jesus urges us to have proper hearts by laying up treasure in heaven (Mat. 6:19-21) and Paul spends time showing what a proper heart looks like. Notice what he says on this subject in 2 Corinthians 8.
GENEROUS GIVING REFLECTS THE GRACE OF THE LORD (1-2,9)
Paul holds up the impoverished churches of Macedonia and the Lord Jesus Christ as examples of grace for the Corinthians. The poor saints of Macedonia, in a great ordeal of affliction, had abundant joy and a wealth of liberality to give generously despite that poverty. Who does that look like? The Lord Jesus Christ, who, though rich, for our sakes became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. Do you want to look like Jesus? Give generously and abundantly.
GENEROUS GIVING REVEALS AN EAGER, SACRIFICIAL HEART (3-6)
What kind of hearts did the Macedonians have? They had willing hearts, which caused them to give “beyond their ability” (3). They had begging hearts, which considered being allowed to give a favor (4). They had giving hearts, which prompted a financial generosity out of their first giving themselves to God (5). How is my giving? Let me first ask how my heart is, when it comes to “my” money. Paul uses Macedonia’s example to spur on Corinth.
GENEROUS GIVING REINFORCES OTHER OTHER SPIRITUAL QUALITIES (7-8,24)
Paul credits Corinth for their faith, utterance, knowledge, earnestness, love, and sincerity. The first three seem to be alluding to their spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12-14), necessary to grow the church. The last three are attitudes Christians must possess. Yet, Paul tosses generosity right onto that figurative pile. He calls for them to abound in this gracious work, too. It proved the sincerity of their love. Later, Paul urges them to “show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you” (24). It’s not generous giving or these other qualities, or vice versa. God wants all of us.
GENEROUS GIVING READIES ONE FOR COMPLETION (10-15)
Paul calls for them to finish what they intended to do in this matter. Intentions, as great as they may be, cannot be spent or used to meet the various needs Paul is concerned about. The completion of it was as vital as the readiness to do it. God sees giving as the great equalizer between those with abundance and those with need. He’s not talking about redistribution of wealth. He’s talking about a healthy attitude toward one’s wealth that leads to God supplying all that’s needed through our generosity. Don’t just intend or desire to give. Do it!
GENEROUS GIVING RESULTS IN ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S WORK (16-24)
This is a matter of practicality. Real needs in spreading the gospel existed, requiring monetary aid to accomplish. Titus brought it to their attention. Paul is reminding them of it. As they participated in this gracious work, they were helping the church.
Do you find it interesting that for the inspired Paul, the subject of giving was not off-limits whether he was talking about the rich or the poor or the weak or the strong? Giving is a fundamental aspect and expression of our faith. It is not a substitute for good works. It is a specific example, one of many good works. We need to excel in this gracious work also!