I’ve been reading II Corinthians each morning this summer. Last week, I was studying chapters 8 and 9, where Paul gives instruction on giving and receiving. He has several meaningful things to say to both the giver and the receiver. Since I have been writing the last few weeks on partnership development, I thought I would end this series with two posts on giving and receiving as described in these chapters.
We’ll start with some comments on giving. I will be brief, hoping the scriptures speak for themselves. I will leave the exact references out, in hopes that you may wish to read the two chapters for yourself (hint, hint).
Giving Is Part Of Spiritual Growth
Giving is part of spiritual maturity. If you’re not giving, you’re not growing. So often churches and missionaries fear talking about giving, fearing folks will think they’re all about the money. Paul and Jesus did not share this fear. Paul saw giving as part of discipleship, and Jesus spoke about money more than almost anything else! It’s a major part of discipleship.
But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
Your Gift Is To God
While our giving does bless people and organizations, it is first and foremost a gift to God. Thus, giving is worship. Our attitude in giving should always be worship. We are giving first to God, then to others. Our gifts even result in praise to God! It’s all for His glory.
They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
There is freedom in giving. Paul advocates giving joyfully, not begrudgingly. Throughout these chapters he references the Corinthians desire and eagerness to give, to be a part of something great. He wants them to give joyfully. God cares about the desires of our hearts and our motivations in giving.
…they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.
For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.
Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
It’s Not About The Amount
As mentioned above, God cares about our heart and motivation in giving. Paul knew that not everyone could give the same amount. Some can give more and some can give less, depending on any number of circumstances. In fact, God cares more about what we keep than what we give. He knows our means and wants us to simply give accordingly.
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Keep To Your Commitments
This is actually the main point of these two chapters. Paul is reminding the Corinthians of their commitment to give and asking them to fulfill their commitment. He wants them to have their promised gift ready when the delegation from Macedonia arrives. If we make a pledge, we need to be faithful to keep it.
So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.
So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised.
Jesus Is The Example
Ultimately, giving is Christlike. He is our example, and Paul makes that very clear in this wonderful verse that is one of the best synopses of the gospel in the Bible. We give because Christ first gave to us.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.