2 Cor 8:1-2
- In the eighth and ninth chapters of Second Corinthians, Paul writes about “giving”, partly because he is trying to raise money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).
- In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul writes that he wants the churches to take up a collection “on the first day of the week”, i.e. on the Sunday when the Christians gathered for worship.
- Generally speaking, in Paul’s time, northern Greece was called “Macedonia” and southern Greece was called “Achaia”. In the north were cities such as Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea, while in the south were Corinth and Athens.
- In this letter to the church in Corinth, Paul wants the Christians of Achaia to learn from the example of generous giving of their northern neighbours.
- The Macedonians themselves lived in “deep poverty”, but gave relatively much because of “sincere devotion”.
2 Cor 8:3-4
- Since the Macedonians were poor, they did not give much overall, but they did give “according to their ability”.
- It is impossible not to recall how the poor widow in Luke 21:1-4, according to Jesus, gave more than everyone else, even though she gave only 2 measly copper coins. Everyone else gave of their abundance while the widow “gave of her poverty all that she had to live on”.
- A poor person can therefore sacrifice relatively more of his money than a rich person can, even if the rich person actually gives more.
- Paul did not have to give a long collection speech to convince the Macedonians to share their money with the Christians in Jerusalem; on the contrary, it was the Macedonians themselves who “earnestly” asked to “share in the help of the saints”.
- Perhaps it was even the case that Paul, because of the poverty of the Macedonians, was initially unwilling to accept the Macedonians’ money.
- Christian giving is not measured by how much money we give, but by how much money we sacrifice.
2 Cor 8:5
- The Macedonians were able to give so much money because they had first given themselves “to the Lord”. This is the key to learning how to share generously.
- The Macedonians had already given themselves and everything they owned to God, so it was not difficult to share their money with the poor in Jerusalem.
- For those who have not given themselves completely to the Lord, every penny they sacrifice must be carefully considered. Thus, anyone who wants to learn the blessings of generous giving must first give himself completely to the Lord.
- It’s also important to remember that God doesn’t really want our money, he wants US. What good does it do you if you give away all your money, but keep your heart to yourself? Make sure to give your whole life to the Lord first and foremost and generous giving will eventually most likely follow.
- One who has given his whole life to the Lord does not go around thinking about what percentage of his salary he should sacrifice, but sees all his assets as tools in the hands of the Lord.
2 Cor 8:6
- Titus was one of Paul’s most faithful co-workers and probably the one who brought this letter to the church in Corinth and also the one who would later bring the money collected to Paul.
- It seems that after Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the Christians in Corinth began a collection that he now wants them to “complete” (2 Corinthians 9:2).
- It’s easy to get inspired and dedicated to doing something good, but then when you get back to everyday life, it just doesn’t happen. It’s important to finish what you’ve started.
- It is possible that some of the “false apostles” in Corinth were able to persuade the Corinthians to give their collected money to them instead of to the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor 2:17, 2 Cor 11:20).
- It is not impossible that it is because of this situation that Paul wants to distance himself from the false apostles by not accepting money from the church in Corinth himself (2 Corinthians 11:7-12, 2 Corinthians 12:13-18).
- Fortunately, the Corinthians eventually completed their collection (Romans 15:25-26, Acts 24:17).
2 Cor 8:7
- Where in the Swedish Bible it says “act of love”, in the Greek basic text it says “charis”, which is normally translated as “grace”. Being able to give generously is part of the grace that God gives us. That God has given us grace means that he has lovingly saved us from sin and given us the promise of a new eternal life, a life that he has already begun to transform with his Holy Spirit. There are no “good works” we can do to merit God’s grace, we can only gratefully receive grace by believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Grace then manifests itself in our lives as the Holy Spirit transforms us in various ways. If we freely and genuinely want to share our resources, then it means that we are seeing signs of this transformation.
- If God had not blessed you with wealth, you would not have been able to give money at all.
- If God had not saved and transformed your heart, you would never have wanted to give your money to someone else. You would have remained in your former sinful and selfish life.
- The fact that the Macedonians “earnestly asked” to participate in this collection means that God’s grace had worked in their hearts and made them generous.
2 Cor 8:8
- You can’t force someone to be loving, it kind of falls on its own reasonableness. Paul is careful to point out that this generous giving is not a “command”. One who is compelled to give, does not “give”, but instead “pays”, something that is and always will be alien to the Christian Church. Giving and offering of one’s money to church activities is and always will be voluntary.
- If you are in a Christian context where tithing is “forced” or something similar, I recommend you ask your leaders to read Second Corinthians at least once more.
- Paul believed that the Corinthians’ giving was a test to see if their “love is genuine”. The Apostle John makes a similar point in his first letter:
- “17 If a man has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need, but closes his heart to him, how can the love of God abide in him? 18Dear children, let us love, not in words or phrases, but in deeds and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
- The Christian faith constantly returns to this “love”, it is something extremely central throughout the Bible. You can’t claim to be living a loving life if you keep your money all to yourself, even though you see all the needs that exist.
2 Cor 8:9
- Paul began by giving the example of generous giving from Macedonia, now Paul continues with the second example; Jesus.
- Again Paul returns to this with “grace”. God gives us “grace” in that Jesus willingly and lovingly “gave” himself to die for our sins so that we might receive forgiveness and atonement.
- It is no coincidence that Paul so frequently uses the word “grace” when he teaches about “giving”; the two are undeniably linked. God’s grace means that God has given us forgiveness of sins even though we do not deserve it. God’s grace also means that he has begun a work in our hearts, a work of slowly but surely transforming us from the sinners we were before we were saved, to becoming more and more like Jesus, the image of God.
- Paul writes that Jesus was “rich but became poor”. Jesus was born into a simple family who fled to Egypt in his early years, surely Jesus could not have been described as “rich” during his earthly life? No, what Paul is referring to is Jesus’ “preexistence”.
- Since Jesus is the Son of God, he has always existed as part of the Trinity. When Jesus was born human, he gave up his existence in heaven with all its riches, glory and majesty to share fully in our human condition. After Jesus rose from the dead, he returned to heaven and now sits on his rightful throne.
- Some Bible passages about Jesus’ pre-existence: Phil 2:6-11, John 8:58, John 17:5.