2 Cor 9:1-2
- In Paul’s time, Macedonia was the northern part of Greece, while Achaia was the southern. Corinth was the capital of Achaia, while Macedonia contained cities such as Philippi, Berea and Thessalonica.
- The “help” Paul writes about is the collection of money that he has previously wanted the Corinthians to collect for the Christians in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).
- Paul writes that he doesn’t really need to write to the Corinthians about this Christian giving, so why does he?
- Actually, the Corinthians knew that they should collect money for the poor, but they had gotten out of the way.
- In the same way, one might wonder why one should preach a sermon on giving, when everyone knows that one should give? Well, because most of us sometimes don’t live up to what we set out to do, and need to be reminded to continue what we started.
- In the last chapter, Paul wrote about how eager the northern neighbors of the Corinthians, the Macedonians, were to participate in the collection, and now he writes that he knows “how willing” the Corinthians are to collect the money. But in fact, unlike the exemplary devotion of the Macedonians, the Corinthians’ fundraising had come off. After all, if the Corinthians had been so willing to give money, Paul would not reasonably have needed to write this letter to urge them to start collecting again!
- Paul is trying to make the Corinthians realize that if they do not complete the collection well, both Paul and the Corinthians will be ashamed of their failure. And surely the Corinthians don’t want to be financially outdone by their poor neighbours to the north, the Macedonians?
- Fortunately, the Corinthians eventually completed their collection (Romans 15:25-26, Acts 24:17).
- For a Christian, it is easy to decide in a moment of devotion to “give it all” for Jesus Christ, but when everyday life returns, it is more difficult to live up to what was previously promised.
- To avoid this, it is important to make “well thought-out decisions” and to “discipline oneself”.
2 Cor 9:5
- The fact that Paul wants the collection to be finished before he gets to Corinth shows how far removed manipulative collect speech was from Paul’s reality. Paul wants the Corinthians to fulfill what they have pledged, but he does not want to coerce them or manipulate them into giving more in the heat of the moment than they really want.
2 Cor 9:6
- Paul compares the giving of money to farmers sowing seed. A farmer is not frugal with his seed, but sows as much as he can because he knows that he will also reap more than if he had sown little. The farmer will have less grain but a bigger harvest.
- In the same way, he who does not sow his money will keep his money, but will miss out on the bountiful harvest.
- If you sow “money” by giving generously to the poor who need help, do you also reap money? No, not necessarily. In the New Testament we see repeatedly that God promises that the sower will not lose his wages, he will reap, but it rarely says exactly what you will reap, rather “you will get what you need” (Phil 4:19, Matt 10:42).
- Thanks to this collection, the Christians in Jerusalem received what they needed at that particular moment, namely money. But the great need of the Corinthians was not money, and therefore it is not at all certain that God blesses them financially just because they “sowed” money.
- Those who give of their money only to reap money for themselves are not really “giving”, but trying to “buy” God’s blessings, which God sees through because he sees our hearts. We should give because we want to give, not because we want to receive. You give of your money because you love your fellow man, not because you love yourself.
2 Cor 9:7
- Here we see that giving is for “everyone”. Whether rich or poor, everyone can give something. The important thing is not necessarily how much you give, but that you give according to your ability (2 Corinthians 8:3).
- It is important to make a considered “decision” to give so that you are not manipulated into giving more than you want or into giving for selfish reasons so that you can reap the rewards.
- How much should a Christian decide to give?
- In the Old Testament, the Law of Moses states that the people of Israel are to give tithes of their “grain, fruit and livestock” (Leviticus 27:30-32) to the Levites, the priests, “as a reward for their service at the Tent of Meeting” (Numbers 18:21-28) and to “the stranger, the orphan and the widow” (Deuteronomy 26:12).
- Since we Christians are not under the Law of Moses (Rom 6:14-15, 1 Cor 9:20, Gal 5:18), there is no requirement to tithe. On the other hand, “10%” may well be seen as a good biblical principle to “decide” to give, but not because we have to, but because we want to. The very principle of 10% is found both before and after the Law of Moses (Gen 14:18-20, Heb 7:2-9).
- It is not wrong for a congregation to think and talk together from time to time about how much money they want to give in order to have a common church building and an employed pastor. What is then agreed upon and “decided” should then be done as much as possible to live up to, but not out of compulsion but because you have decided to do so and because you want to.
- For God, it is not the size of the gift that matters, but the attitude of the heart. What matters is not how much you give, but that you give generously to those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).
- Although Paul strongly emphasizes “voluntariness” and “joy”, there is also a serious side to this giving. For example, if you live in a society with many poor people, but turn a blind eye to this and keep all your money for yourself even though you could afford to give, then you are committing a serious sin (Matthew 5:42, 1 John 3:17).
- So if anyone wonders how much a Christian should give, I think the best biblical answer is just verse 7 of this chapter: “Let each one give what he has decided in his heart.”
- Whether you give your money or not indirectly reveals what you have “in your heart”. If you say you love God more than anything but spend all your money on technology gadgets, then confession and practice don’t match, or as Jesus himself said: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21).
- Under no circumstances should you give your money out of “compulsion”, for example by someone giving a long manipulative collective speech. Instead of giving out of “desire or compulsion”, Christian giving is about giving in “joy and voluntariness”.
- God wants us to give in joy because that’s how He gives us everything we need! God doesn’t grumble when he gives us of his riches, no he is happy to give us all we need. God doesn’t withhold his blessings or give us as little as possible, no he gives us everything we need in abundance!
2 Cor 9:8
- 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 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.
- Hopefully, God’s grace has overflowed in our lives so that we have been “sanctified” and become more like Jesus in every possible area of our lives.
- When we were sinners, we may have looked for a life partner in the pub, but when God’s grace transforms us on the inside, we find other more holy ways to find a life partner.
- When we were sinners, our lives may have been about getting rich at the expense of others, but after God’s grace has been allowed to work in our lives, we suddenly have other motives in our lives.
- God’s grace transforms us from the inside out so that we wholeheartedly want to live a Christian life with Jesus as our model.
- Feeling that you “have enough of everything” means that you have peace and don’t need to chase after worldly goods.
- It is said that when Alexander the Great had conquered the whole world, he wept because there was nothing more to conquer.
- Jesus conveys a similar thought when he says, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
- The author of Ecclesiastes “set his heart on pondering and exploring everything” but realised that everything is only “perishable” and that the only thing that really matters is that: “fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
- God blesses us not to keep it for ourselves but to “give abundantly to every good work”. If God has blessed you with a beautiful singing voice; sing! If God has blessed you with a large wallet; give generously! If God has blessed you with manual dexterity; carve!
2 Cor 9:11
- God’s purpose in making us “rich in everything” is so that we can then be “bountiful in everything”. Again, God does not give us abundance so that we can keep it for ourselves, but so that we can cheerfully give it to others.
- Something that in the kingdom of God is worth much more than worldly money is “thanksgiving”. The money collected by the Corinthians will bring about “thanksgiving to God”, something that is much more valuable than money itself.
2 Cor 9:12-15
- As I mentioned earlier, when you sow “money” it does not necessarily mean that you will reap “money”, but rather what is needed. However, here we see examples of some of the blessings that the money raised will bring.
- Christian giving leads first of all to “meeting the needs of the saints”, but also to “thanksgiving” before God, a gain that is certainly not to be underestimated, and that the Christians in Jerusalem will “pray for” and “long for” the Corinthians. Christian giving thus leads to Christians being fed, thankful to God and praying for other Christians.
- The “saints” are all Christians, not just those who work as pastors or who for some reason are considered more holy than others. All who have been saved have also been made holy, that is, “consecrated” to God.
- Paul concludes his teaching on Christian giving by thanking God for his gift to us: salvation in Jesus Christ. God has given us everything, even himself! Not only that, but he gave himself as a gift, meaning there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, we can only receive the gift by believing in Jesus (John 3:16).
- Thanks to God’s gift to us, our “needs” have been met, which should lead to “thanksgiving” and to “praying for” and “longing” for other Christians.
- It feels like Paul has first taught two chapters on why and how a Christian should give of his money, and then concluded with an argument that really makes all other arguments redundant!
- If you have previously pondered whether or how much to give, Paul’s conclusion should lead you to realize that you want to give your whole life to God! If God has been so generous as to give me salvation and eternal life, shouldn’t I generously share all I can?