BaptistWay Bible Series for Nov. 7
Cheerful givers too often are in short supply
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
By Todd Still
Truett Seminary, Waco
Some modern-day Christians may be likened unto the Dead Sea to the extent that they receive but they do not give. Some believers give financially to their local churches and to other worthwhile causes, but do so out of guilt (“I do not want to give, but I feel obligated”) or out of greed (“I am giving to obligate God to give to me”).
I must confess, there have been periods in my own Christian pilgrimage when I have not given, and there have been other occasions when I have given with inappropriate motivations. This week's lesson from 2 Corinthians informs us, among other things, that God loves a cheerful giver (v. 7).
Incidentally, the Greek term translated “cheerful” is “hilaros.” It is related to the English “hilarious,” a word that connotes joy and merriment. God, the giver of good gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7), prizes a “giddy” giver. When we give cheerfully, we reflect God's character.
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul continues to instruct regarding “the ministry to the saints” (v. 1), that is, a collection the apostle was gathering from primarily gentile churches in Greece for needy Jewish believers living in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; Romans 15:25-28).
Although Paul considers it superfluous to write further to the Corinthians regarding this offering because of their zealous commitment to it (vv. 1-2), he does so anyway, since he is sending coworkers to Corinth in advance of his own arrival. The apostle wants to ensure the fellowship keeps its pledge to give to the collection (vv. 3-5). Should they honor their word, Paul will be able to celebrate and not be forced to “pass the plate” when he arrives in Corinth.
The apostle does not want to coerce the Corinthians into giving–he wants them to give voluntarily (vv. 5, 7). Additionally, Paul calls the congregation to give generously by appealing to a proverbial saying they would have been familiar with–“the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, but the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (v. 6). Instead of belittling or berating the church until it gives, the apostle enables and empowers them to make up their own minds (v. 7).
As their father in the faith, however, he does remind them that God is able to provide for them abundantly (v. 8). Based upon both Scripture and experience, Paul believes God will–in due time and by some means–fully satisfy the believer's every need (Philippians 4:13, 19). Applying Psalm 112:9 to God, the apostle declares God's beneficence and righteousness (v. 9). Moreover, Paul maintains that “he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (v. 10).
God's abundant provision, however, should not devolve into material excess or extravagance on our part. Nor should believers embrace the mistaken notion that they are entitled to “health and wealth.” Indeed, a comparatively wealthy Christian should vigilantly “be on guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Lest we become like the “rich fool” in Jesus' parable, we must recognize that even as we have freely received from God, we are to give freely to others (v. 8), especially to those who are members of the family of faith (Galatians 6:10).
In his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders, Paul reminded them of Jesus' words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Paul also realized, as Francis of Assisi once prayed, that “it is in giving that we receive.” The apostle assures the Corinthians that God will enrich them as a result of their generosity. Not only will their monetary ministry meet the needs of Jerusalem believers, it also will serve as a tangible symbol of thanksgiving to God. In the economy of God, people accrue spiritual capital through liberal giving (9:11-12).
Additionally, Paul contends in verse 13 that by contributing to the collection for Jerusalem Christians the Corinthians will glorify God and demonstrate their obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ. Even though their gift is specifically for believers in Jerusalem, the apostle indicates their ministry also will positively impact others.
What is more, their generosity will forge a spiritual bond that transcends the geographical gulf that lay between Corinth and Jerusalem. While the Jerusalem Christians will benefit fiscally, the Corinthians will receive gifts of affection and intercession. Reciprocity can assume many forms (v. 14).
As Paul concludes his instruction regarding the collection, he pauses to ponder the surpassing grace of God. This in turn seems to have prompted the apostle to contemplate the greatest grace of all–the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. So great is this gift, the apostle appears to fumble for words.
When contemplating that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Paul's expansive vocabulary is reduced to a single word–“charis,” that is, “thanks”–a term often rendered “grace.” Christ crucified served as the ground of his proclamation and shaped his instruction to the Corinthians regarding the collection.
While we are now far removed from this “ministry to the saints,” this one pivotal question remains: Will Christ's nail-scarred hands cause us to open our clenched fists?
What is the biggest obstacle to cheerful giving?