THE OFFERING FOR THE JERUSALEM CHURCH:
In the late-40s A.D., a famine swept across Judea, and Christians in Jerusalem were in need. The leaders of the Jerusalem church, James, Cephas, and John requested Paul "to remember the poor-which very thing I (Paul) was also zealous to do" (Galatians 2:9-10; see also Acts 11:19-30). Paul responded by encouraging Christians to contribute to an offering to provide relief for Jerusalem Christians.
The book of Acts mentions a contribution by the Antioch church, which that church sent to the Jerusalem elders "by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:25-30).
At the end of his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul introduced the subject of the offering for the Jerusalem church, saying, "On the first day of the week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, I will send whoever you approve with letters to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem" (1 Corinthians 16:2-3).
Then, in this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentioned the offering again, using the Macedonian church as an example (Macedonia was the Greek province directly north of Achaia, the province where Corinth was located). That church contributed to this offering generously "of their own accord" (8:3) in spite of their poverty. Then Paul raised the challenge to the Corinthian church by talking about Christ, who "for your sakes... became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich" (8:9).
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul continues to emphasize the offering for the Jerusalem church, encouraging the Corinthian Christians to "arrange ahead of time the generous gift that you promised before" (9:5).
Later, in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul will mention this offering again, acknowledging that the churches in Macedonia and Achaia have contributed to the offering (Romans 15:25-29). -therefore acknowledging that his appeal to the Corinthian church was successful. Corinth (the city) is in Achaia (the province), so apparently Paul's appeal to the Corinthian church was successful.
Also in his letter to the Romans, Paul acknowledges that the Jerusalem church is primarily Jewish, while the other churches that he mentions are primarily Gentile. He notes that Gentiles are debtors to the Jerusalem church, having "been made partakers of their spiritual things"-those spiritual things having been, originally, the purview of the Jews in the Jerusalem church. Therefore, Gentile churches, having received spiritual blessings from the Jerusalem Christians, "owe it to (the Jerusalem Christians) also to serve them in fleshly things," such as financial support (Romans 15:27).
If 2 Corinthians 10-13 was originally a separate letter, as some scholars believe, then Paul's emphasis on the Jerusalem offering in the closing chapters of his letter (chapters 8-9) testifies to the importance that he placed on this offering.
2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-7 - SOW BOUNTIFULLY AND REAP BOUNTIFULLY
6 Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.
"Remember this: he who sows sparingly (Greek: pheidomenos) will also reap sparingly" (v. 6a). This verse alludes to Proverbs 11:24-26, which says:
24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. 25 The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. 26 He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
Paul states a principle that would be obvious to any farmer or gardener. The person who measures seed too sparingly will likely go hungry when winter comes. Stingy people, in the end, will pay a penalty for their miserly behavior.
That principle holds in other realms as well. The employee who watches the clock and gives only minimum effort is not likely to be selected for promotion. Parents who have no time for their children when they are young are likely to find that their children have no time for them once they have grown up and left home.
The word "sparingly" is a good translation of the Greek word pheidomenos. Both words speak of holding back-using restraint-being careful-measuring by the teaspoon instead of by the liter or gallon-calculating by inches instead of miles.
Restraint can be good or bad, depending on how it is applied. It is a good idea to apply criticism sparingly-and angry words-and violence. It often helps to exercise restraint with money. When the prodigal son spent wastefully, he soon found himself eating pig slop and humble pie (Luke 15:11-24).
But there are times when, finding an especially wonderful pearl, we should go and sell all that we have so that we might buy it (Matthew 13:45-46). There are times when we should throw caution to the winds-when we should really extend ourselves. In the end, it's a judgment call-a "best guess" decision that could prove right or wrong-but we need to keep in mind that we are not likely to reap bountifully if we sow sparingly.
"He who sows bountifully (Greek: eulogia) will also reap bountifully" (v. 6b). Now Paul states the reverse principle-that the person who gives generously is likely to receive generosity in return. In the verses that follow, Paul will speak of God's generosity-and God's inclination to bless those who are generous to others.
The Greek word eulogia combines two words, eu (good) and logos (word). Literally, it means good word, but it came to mean blessing. The idea, then, is that the person who dispenses blessings will receive blessings.
Paul is trying to counter objections from the Corinthian Christians that they can't afford to contribute generously. He says that, if they give generously, they can expect to receive generous blessings in return.
The question, then, is from whence will those blessings come? Who will reward the generous person? The answer is that those blessings will come from several directions:
"Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly (Greek: ek lupe), or under compulsion" (Greek: ek anagke) (v. 7a; see also Philemon 14; Romans 12:8). Paul earlier mentioned that the Macedonian churches gave generously and "of their own accord" (8:3) in spite of their poverty. Now he asks these more prosperous Corinthian Christians to do likewise.
The phrase Greek ek lupe means "out of grief or sorrow." The phrase ek anagke means "out of necessity or compulsion." Paul is telling these Corinthians not to feel sorrowful when they pull out their wallet-not to shed a tear when they part with their money-not to do the right thing only because they feel "under the gun."
As noted in the comments on verse 6b above, generosity has the potential to bring great and long-lasting joy. How sad it would be if these Corinthian Christians were to feel sorrow instead of joy as a result of their contribution.
Earlier, Jesus commanded people to love their enemies and to bless those who cursed them-in other words, to act with extreme generosity-not so that they might reap a reward, but so that they might become more like their Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:43-48).
"for God loves a cheerful (Greek: hilaros) giver" (v. 7b). Paul quotes this phrase from the Septuagint (Greek translation) of Proverbs 22:8-a phrase that is missing from the original Hebrew of that verse, and is also missing from most English-language translations. We would know nothing of "God loves a cheerful giver," then, if Paul had not thought to include it in this verse.
While the word hilaros might sound a bit like hilarious, it means cheerful or joyful. It is easy to be a cheerful giver, because giving that comes from the heart and "not grudgingly, or under compulsion" produces great joy in the heart of the giver.
Stop and consider-don't we all love a cheerful giver! Don't we love cheerful people, even when they aren't giving away money! When we encounter people with a smile on their face and a song in their heart, their joy is contagious. Their joy becomes our joy.
And consider this-the joyful person's gift need not be large to capture our hearts. We are more inclined to love a child who gives his/her last nickel than a wealthy person who gives a larger gift, but one that involves no sacrifice. In 2009, Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, gave a million dollars to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Thirty years earlier, HIAS had assisted the Brin family when they arrived in the United States after fleeing the Soviet Union. By the time Brin made his million dollar gift, he was worth $16 billion. While I would ordinarily think of a million dollar gift as generous, Brin's gift to HIAS seemed trifling because of (1) his great wealth and (2) the significance of the help that HIAS rendered to his family when they were vulnerable. Brin's less-than-generous gift backfired-got him lots of bad press.
2 CORINTHIANS 9:8-9. GOD'S GRACE ABOUND TO YOU
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. 9 As it is written, "He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor. His righteousness remains forever." (Ps. 112:9)
Note the global nature of Paul's language. He speaks of "all grace" and "all sufficiency" and "everything" and "every good work." Paul is a man of faith, and his faith assures him that the God who "gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater" (Isaiah 55:10) will provide abundantly for these Corinthian Christians.
"And God is able to make all grace (Greek: charis) abound to you to every good work" (v. 8a). Grace (charis) is a significant word in the New Testament, especially in Paul's epistles. The use of charis in the New Testament has its roots in the Hebrew word hesed, used in the Old Testament to speak of God's lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness. That is the sense in which Paul uses charis (grace) here. He is encouraging these Corinthian Christians by presenting them with a picture of God's overflowing grace.
"that you, always having all sufficiency (Greek: autarkeia) in everything" (v. 8b). The word autarkeia can mean sufficiency in material things such as food and clothing, but it can also mean the kind of contentment that comes from living a Christ-centered life.
"that you... may abound (Greek: perisseuo) to every good work" (v. 8c). Paul isn't suggesting that these Corinthian Christians should celebrate their autarkeia (sufficiency) by sitting back and saying,"Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry" (Luke 12:19). Quite the opposite is true. He is encouraging them to celebrate their sufficiency by abounding "to every good work. In God's economy, affluence isn't an invitation to live large, but an opportunity to give large.
The Greek word perisseuo has to do with excess-superabundance -what the Psalmist meant when he said, "My cup runs over" (Psalm 23:5)-what Jesus described when he said, "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you" (Luke 6:38). Paul is calling these Corinthian Christians to that kind of superabundant good work.
"As it is written, 'He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor. His righteousness remains forever'" (v. 9). This is an almost exact quotation of Psalm 112:9-the Septuagint (Greek) version. In Psalm 111:3, "His righteousness endures forever" referred to Yahweh, but in Psalm 112:3, that same phrase refers to "the man who fears Yahweh, who delights greatly in his commandments" (Psalm 112:1). In other words, when Paul quotes Psalm 112:9, he is alluding to the generosity and righteousness of a Godly human rather than Yahweh.
In verse 8, Paul established that God has equipped these Corinthian Christians to do abundant good works. In verse 9, he is holding up the image of the Godly person of the Psalm as an example to these Corinthian Christians-and he strongly implies that the good words of the Psalm could apply to them as well as to the earlier Godly person about whom the Psalmist wrote so many years ago. They, too, have the potential to "scatter abroad" and to give generously to the poor.
2 CORINTHIANS 9:10-15: THANKSGIVING TO GOD
10 Now may he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; 11 you being enriched in everything to all liberality, which works through us thanksgiving to God. 12 For this service of giving that you perform not only makes up for lack among the saints, but abounds also through many givings of thanks to God; 13seeing that through the proof given by this service, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the Good News of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all; 14while they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, yearn for you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Now thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!
"Now may he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food" (v. 10a). This is an almost exact quotation of Isaiah 55:10.
God, of course, is the one who supplies seed and bread. This is the same God who feeds the birds of the sky, who don't sow or reap or gather into barns (Matthew 6:26). It is the same God who gives "rains from the sky and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). It is the same God who so loved the world "that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Paul's intent in this verse, of course, is to remind these Corinthian Christians of God's generosity in the past. Why shouldn't they trust God to be generous in the future!
"supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness" (v. 10bWEB). Paul prays that God might bless these Corinthian Christians with seed-not for eating but for sowing. They can be sure that, if they sow the seed generously, God will provide a generous harvest for the needy Christians in Jerusalem.
Paul also prays that God might "increase the fruits of your righteousness." If these Corinthians will act righteously by giving generously, then they can anticipate that God will bless their generosity by multiplying its effect.
"you being enriched in everything to all liberality" (v. 11a). Earlier, Paul spoke of the Macedonian churches, which had given generously in spite of their poverty. Paul spoke of "their joy and their deep poverty (that) abounded to the riches of their liberality" (8:2). Now he holds out the vision of Corinthian Christians receiving the same kind of blessings if they contribute generously.
"which works through us" (v. 11b). Paul is a partner in this offering-he is the one who is encouraging people to contribute. Other partners include Titus and another Christian, sent to Corinth to assist with the offering (8:16-18)-as well as those who will carry the offering to Jerusalem (16:3).
"thanksgiving to God" (v. 11c). The recipients of the offerings-Jerusalem Christians-will give thanks to God for the generosity of those who contributed to the offerings.
"For this service (Greek: diakonia) of giving (Greek: leitourgia) that you perform" (v. 12). Both the word diakonia(service) and leitourgia (giving) have to do with service. The word diakonia is related to the Greek word for deacon-and deacons are Christians who minister or serve. The word leitourgia has to do with public service, such as that rendered by a public officeholder. In this context, both words have to do with Christian ministry.
"not only makes up for lack among the saints, (Greek: hagios) but abounds also through many givings of thanks to God" (v. 12). Paul refers to Jerusalem Christians as saints (hagios)-a word that means holy ones. Hagios has its roots in the Hebrew word qadosh (holy) that is used in the Old Testament. There holiness has to do with being set apart for a Godly purpose. The sabbath was holy, because it is set apart for rest and worship. Israel was holy, because God chose Israel to be God's covenant people. Priests and Levites were holy, because God set them apart for his service. The New Testament uses the word hagios for Christians-the new covenant people of God-set apart to do God's work.
The word "saints" comes from the Latin sanctus, which means "sacred." The concept of canonized saints as a separate category of especially virtuous Christians is not found in the New Testament, but was established nearly a thousand years later when Pope John XV canonized the first Roman Catholic saint in January 993 A.D.
People today usually hear the word "saints" quite differently than Paul intends in this verse. We usually hear the word "saints" used in one of two ways. A saint is either a person who has been canonized by the church or is an exceedingly virtuous person. In either case, we cannot imagine that sainthood has anything to do with us. We aren't likely to be canonized and probably aren't exceedingly virtuous, so we assume that we will never be candidates for sainthood. However, in the New Testament, the word hagios (saints) is a word that applies to ordinary Christians-every Christian-us.
The offering that Paul is encouraging will have two effects. First, it will serve the physical needs of Jerusalem Christians, for whom it is intended. Their situation is dire, because of the Judean famine. The offering will help them to import food.
But second, and perhaps even more important, the recipients will give thanks to God. That means that the Corinthian gift to the Jerusalem Christians is also a gift to God.
"seeing that through the proof given by this service" (v. 13a). Jerusalem Christians will see the generosity of the Corinthian Christians as proof of something. Proof of what? Proof of the faith of the Corinthian Christians! Proof of the agape love of the Corinthian Christians! Proof of the brotherhood that exists between the Corinthian Christians, primarily Gentiles, and the Jerusalem Church, who are primarily Jewish!
"they glorify God for the obedience of your confession (Greek: homologia) to the Good News of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all" (v. 13b). As noted above, one of the results of this offering will be the thanksgiving that the recipients will give to God. The Corinthian Christians should regard this offering as an opportunity to inspire that thanksgiving. Their offering will be a gift, not only to the church at Jerusalem, but also to God.
The word homologia (confession) is a combination of homou (together with) and lego (to say), so it has the sense of a shared belief or profession-in this case, a profession of faith in "the Good News of Christ." These two churches-in Corinth and Jerusalem-share this profession of faith.
"while they themselves also, with supplication (Greek: deesis) on your behalf" (v. 14a). The Greek word deesishas to do with making one's needs or desires known. Supplication is a good translation. Prayers of supplication can ask in behalf of oneself or in behalf of someone else. In this verse, Paul says that the recipients of the offering (Jerusalem Christians) will offer prayers on behalf of the donors (Corinthian
"yearn (Greek: epipotheo) for you" (v. 14b). The Greek word epipotheo means to desire earnestly or to long for. Paul is saying that the recipients of the offering (Jerusalem Christians) will long for a relationship with the donors (Corinthian Christians).
"by reason of the exceeding (Greek: hyperballo) grace of God in you" (v. 14c). The word hyperballo (exceeding or surpassing) is composed of two Greek words: hyper (over or above) and ballo (to throw)-and is therefore an "over the top" kind of word. When Paul talks about "the exceeding grace of God in you," he intends for us to imagine grace beyond our imagining.
Interestingly, Paul says that the yearning of Jerusalem Christians won't be so much in response to the financial assistance that they have received, but will rather be in response to "the exceeding grace of God" among the donor Christians. That shouldn't surprise us. We occasionally find someone who manifests "the exceeding grace of God" in character and behavior. Typically, such people are rooted-neither swayed by popular thought nor emotionally volatile. When faced with a difficult situation or decision, they prove to be more thoughtful than most-and often find a good solution. We naturally feel drawn to such people, because we know we can trust their judgment-and that we can depend on them not to hurt us. In situations where we must face difficult problems alone, we yearn for the help of such people.
"Now thanks be to God for his unspeakable (Greek: anekdiegetos) gift!" (v. 15). The word anekdiegetos is found only here in the New Testament-and nowhere in classical Greek literature. Paul apparently coined this word by adding the letter "a" (which means "not") to the word ekdiegomai, which means "to recount or declare." The result is a word that means "that which cannot be expressed in mere words."
What is God's "unspeakable gift"? While the offering for Jerusalem Christians will be a wonderful, perhaps even lifesaving, gift, surely God's "unspeakable gift" must be something far greater.
Study Guide for 2 Corinthians 9 - How God Wants Us To Giv
A. Be ready to give.
1. (2 Cor. 9:1-2) The willingness of the Corinthian Christians to give.
For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them.
a. About the ministry to the saints: The specific ministering Paul has in mind is the financial support of the Jerusalem saints. Paul will be in Corinth to pick up this collection for the Jerusalem saints, which he wrote of in 2 Corinthians 8 and in other previous passages (such as 1 Corinthians 16:1-4).
i. In Acts 11:29, a previous collection for the Jerusalem saints is described: Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. The word translated ministering (diakonia) is the same word translated relief in Acts 11:29.
ii. The same Greek work for ministering is used in a spiritual sense in passages like 2 Corinthians 3:8-9, and is used in a practical sense in passages like 2 Corinthians 9:1.
b. It is superfluous for me to write to you; for I know your willingness: Here, Paul may be using his sarcasm again. The basic idea is, "I don't even need to write this, reminding you about the collection, because you are already ready and willing to give." Of course, if the Corinthian Christians were really as ready and willing as Paul seems to indicate, he really wouldn't need to write this!
i. At the same time, this is a signal that Paul is done trying to persuade the Corinthian Christians regarding giving, as he did in 2 Corinthians 8, showing the example of the Macedonian Christians and the example of Jesus. Now Paul is encouraging them in their manner of giving.
c. About which I boast of you to the Macedonians: In the previous chapter, Paul had spoken of the Macedonians as wonderful examples of giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-8). Now, Paul (sarcastically?) informs the Corinthian Christians that he has been boasting to the Macedonians about their willingness to give!
i. This may be a "playful" way of encouraging the Corinthian Christians to really be ready and willing to give. Paul may be saying, "Come now, you really can be ready to give. After all, I've already bragged about your willingness to others!"
ii. Macedonians ... Achaia: Macedonia and Achaia were regions on the Greek peninsula. Macedonia was to the north, and Achaia was to the south. Corinth was the leading city of the region of Achaia. The region of Macedonia had churches in cities such as Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.
d. Your zeal has stirred up the majority: Again, Paul seems to be sarcastic - or at least playful - here. He is saying that the Corinthian Christians were so zealous in their willingness to give that they were an example to the majority of other Christians. Essentially, the good example of the Macedonians (as related in 2 Corinthians 8:1-8) is just a reflection of the good example the Corinthian Christians presented to the Macedonians first!
2. (2 Cor. 9:3-5) Paul is sending Titus and the others to pick up the collection.
3 But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4 otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we-not to speak of you-will be put to shame by this confidence. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.
a. But I have sent the brethren: Paul again is giving a little sarcastic twist. It is as if he is saying, "You all are so ready and willing to give that I'm sure you would bring the collection to me. But in any regard, I'll send the brethren to come pick it up. After all, I don't want all my boasting about you to have been in vain."
b. otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared: The playful sarcasm continues. "After all, Corinthians, you don't want the Macedonians to see that you were unwilling to give. We don't want a case where we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting."
c. So I thought it necessary ... that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation: Paul wanted the whole business of the collection completed before he arrived, so there would be nothing even remotely manipulative in his receiving the collection.
i. Paul was very concerned that giving be a matter of generosity and not a matter of grudging obligation. God Himself never gives out of an attitude of grudging obligation, and neither should we. To be generous, in the Biblical idea of the word, has more to do with our attitude in giving than with the amount that we give.
ii. "When God gives grace, He does not reluctantly open a little finger and maintain a clenched fist full of gifts. I would tell you today that God's hands are nail-pierced hands and they are wide open. This fountain of grace is always pouring itself out with no limitation on heaven's side at all." (Redpath)
B. The reward of giving, and the right heart in giving.
1. (2 Cor. 9:6) Our giving should be bountiful, if we would be rewarded bountifully.
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
a. He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly: A farmer sowing seed may feel he is losing seed as it falls from his hand to the ground, and we may feel we are losing when we are giving. But just as the sower gives the seed it in anticipation of a future harvest, we should give with the same heart.
i. If a farmer were to sow few seeds because he wanted to "hold on" to as much seed as he could, he would have more seed in his barn after sowing time. But at the harvest, the one who sowed more seed would have much more grain in his barn.
b. Will also reap bountifully: What do we reap when we give? We reap blessings that are both material and spiritual.
i. Materially, we can trust that God will provide for the giving heart. The promise of Philippians 4:19 (Any my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus) is made in the context of the generous hearts of the Philippians (Philippians 4:15-18). If we give to God, He will give to us materially.
ii. Spiritually, we can trust that God will reward the giving heart both now and in eternity. Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 19:29: And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. Jesus obviously did not mean that we would receive a hundred houses if we gave up our house for Him, any more than He meant we would receive a hundred wives if we gave ours up for Him! But He did mean that we are never the losers when we give to God. The Lord can never be in debt to any man, and we should never be afraid of giving God "too much." Spiritually or materially, you can't out-give God.
iii. "This harvest should be understood both in terms of the spiritual reward of eternal life and also referring to the earthly blessings with which God honours the beneficent. Not only in heaven does God reward the well-doing of the godly, but in this world as well." (Calvin)
2. (2 Cor. 9:7) Giving should come from a right heart.
7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
a. So let each one give: Giving is for each one. Every Christian should be a giver. Some, because of small resources, cannot give much. But it is still important that they give, and that they give with the right kind of heart.
b. As he purposes in his own heart: Giving should be motivated by the purposes of our own heart. It should never be coerced or manipulated. We should give because we want to give, because God has put it in our own heart to give.
i. This can also be said in the sense that our giving reveals the purposes in [our] own heart. If we say we love the Lord more than surfing, but spend all our money on surfboards and not giving to the Lord's work, then the way we spend our money shows the purposes of our own heart more accurately than our words do. Jesus said it simply: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
c. Not grudging or of necessity: God does not want our giving to be grudging (reluctantly, regretfully given with plenty of complaining) or of necessity (given because someone has made us or manipulated us into giving). This is more the spirit behind taxation, not Biblical giving!
i. "The Jews had in the temple two chests for alms; the one was of what was necessary, i.e. what the law required, the other was of the free-will offerings. To escape perdition some would grudgingly, give what necessity obliged them; others would give cheerfully, for the love of God, and through pity to the poor. Of the first, nothing is said; they simply did what the law required. Of the second, much is said; God loves them ... To these two sorts of alms in the temple the apostle most evidently alludes." (Clarke)
d. For God loves a cheerful giver: Instead of giving in a grudging way or out of necessity, God wants us to give cheerfully. The Greek word for cheerful (hilaros, used only here in the New Testament) is the root for our English word hilarious. God wants us to give happily, because that is how God Himself gives!
i. True giving comes from a happy heart, and it also gives us a happy heart. The English poet Carlyle said that when he was a boy, a beggar came to the door when his parents were gone. On a youthful impulse, he rushed to his room, broke his piggy bank and gave the beggar all the money. He said that never before or since had he known such sheer happiness as came to him in that moment of giving.
ii. Not all giving is cheerful giving. "Many gifts are thus given sorrowfully, where the giver is induced to give by a regard to public opinion, or by stress of conscience." (Hodge) In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira stand as examples of giving for the wrong reasons, not out of a cheerful heart.
iii. "It must be hilarious giving, giving out of the heart, because you love to give, not because you are bound to give." (Morgan)
iv. God is the ultimate cheerful giver. He delights to give to us. "It is not difficult to suggest why God delights in the cheerful giver. He himself is such a giver and desires to see this characteristic restored among those who were created in his image." (Kruse)
3. (2 Cor. 9:8-9) The right kind of giving is always blessed.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written, "HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER."
a. God is able to make all grace abound toward you: As we give, we must be persuaded that God is able to reward our giving. Just as God is able to make the sowing of seed abound to a great harvest, so God is able to bless our giving.
i. Jesus taught that even the smallest gift, if given with the right heart, would not go unrewarded. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)
ii. In rewarding our giving, God does it with all grace. Our giving is rewarded in many different ways, materially and spiritually. Materially, God may bless our giving by promotions with better pay, unexpected gifts of money, or by making things last so we don't suffer the cost of replacing them. Spiritually, God may bless our giving by freeing our hearts from the tyranny of greed and materialism, or by giving us a sense of blessing and happiness, or by storing up rich reward in heaven. There is no end to the ways we can be blessed when God is able to make all grace abound toward us.
b. Always having all sufficiency in all things: The word for sufficiency (autarkeia) may also be translated contentment. This is how the same word is used in 1 Timothy 6:6: Now godliness with contentment is great gain. God gives a special gift to the giving heart: always ... all contentment in all things. That is a lot of all!
i. Materially speaking, how can someone always have all contentment in all things? By receiving this contentment God blesses the giving heart with.
ii. It's easy for many Christians to say they have this contentment; but whether they have it or not is often more truthfully known by they spending and shopping habits. How much of a place does shopping and buying have in your life? How does material loss affect your happiness? How happy do you get from having some material thing?
iii. When we live and act without contentment, we are trying to fill needs in our lives. It might be the need to be "somebody," the need to feel secure or cared for, or the need to have excitement and newness in our lives. Most people try to fulfill these needs with material things, but they can only really be met by a spiritual relationship with the God who made us.
iv. Barclay says of this word autarkeia: "By it they meant a complete self-sufficiency. They meant a frame of mind which was completely independent of all outward things, and which carried the secret of happiness within itself. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things." "The apostle useth many 'alls' on purpose to cross and confute our covetousness, who are apt to think we have never enough." (Trapp)
v. With this contentment, we can be the richest people in the world. A man might have the wealth of the richest man in the world, yet lack contentment. But if we have this contentment, it really does make us better off than the wealthiest people who don't have it.
c. May have an abundance for every good work: God blesses us, materially and spiritually, so that we will have an abundance for every good work. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. God wants us to be channels of blessing, not reservoirs of blessing.
d. His righteousness remains forever: In the quotation from Psalm 112:9, Paul is not trying to say that generous giving makes us righteous. But it does give evidence of a right standing with God.
4. (2 Cor. 9:10-11) Paul prays for blessing for the giving Corinthian Christians.
10 Now 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; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.
a. May He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food: Paul recognizes God as the great supplier. Whatever we have to give has been first given to us by God.
i. "Our translators render it in the form of a prayer; which yet being the prayer of the apostle, put up in faith, doth virtually contain a promise both of a temporal and a spiritual increase." (Poole)
b. Supply and multiply the seed you have sown: Paul prays that God would supply resources to the Corinthian Christians so they may give, and at the same time multiply what they have given.
c. Increase the fruits of your righteousness: The giving of the Corinthian Christians (represented by the seed you have sown) will give a harvest, the fruits of your righteousness. Paul prays that God would increase these fruits coming from their giving.
d. While you are enriched in everything: Paul prayed that the Corinthian Christians would be enriched by their giving, both materially and spiritually.
e. For all liberality: This is the reason why the Corinthians Christians should be enriched in everything. Not for their own riches or lavish lifestyles, but for all liberality - that is, for all generous giving.
i. "No man ought to live to himself; the two great ends of every Christian's life ought to be, the glory of God, and the good of others, especially such as belong to the household of faith." (Poole)
f. Which causes thanksgiving through us to God: After all the giving is done, and all liberality is shown by the Corinthian Christians, the thanksgiving is directed to God.
i. J. B. Phillips, in his translation, carries the sense of this prayer: "He who gives the seed to the sower and turns that seed into bread to eat, will give you the seed of generosity to sow and, for harvest, the satisfying bread of good deeds done. The more you are enriched by God the more scope there will be for generous giving, and your gifts, administered through us, will mean that many will thank God."
5. (2 Cor. 9:12-14) Four benefits of the giving from the Corinthian Christians.
12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of you contribution to them and to all, 14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.
a. Not only supplies the needs of the saints: First, on the most practical level, the giving of the Corinthian Christians would supply the needs of the saints. This is a good thing in and of itself. But their giving did far more than that.
b. Secondly, their gifts would also cause many thanksgivings to God. They were giving more than money for food; they were giving people a reason to thank God!
c. Third, the giving of the Corinthian Christians was evidence of God's work in them. When those in need received the gift, they would glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing. The thanksgiving that would come from the gift of the Corinthian Christians would be for more than the gift itself. They would also glorify God as they understood the gift meant the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and it meant the Corinthian Christians had hearts of liberal sharing.
i. Paul puts it boldly. Giving among the Corinthian Christians was evidence of their obedience to their confession to the gospel of Christ. If a person does not have a generous heart, there is a sense in which they are not obedient to the confession of the gospel of Christ!
ii. Others would also thank God because the gift from the Corinthian Christians would show that they had hearts of liberal sharing. This meant God was really doing a work in the hearts of the Corinthian Christians, and that was something worth thanking God for.
iii. Liberal sharing: The word translated sharing is koinania. This is the same word used for the idea of fellowship and communion. It means the sharing of things in common. When we share our lives, it is fellowship. When we share remembrance of Jesus' work for us through the Lord's Supper, it is communion. When we share our resources so none would be destitute, it is sharing.
d. And by their prayer for you: The fourth benefit from the gift of the Corinthian Christians was that it would prompt the Jerusalem Christians to pray for them. Paul expected that the Jerusalem Christians would pray for the Corinthian Christians. This is something that we can do when others give to us, and we need their gifts. We can pray for them.
6. (2 Cor. 9:15) Praise to God for the greatest gift.
15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
a. What is His indescribable gift? Some think it is the gift of salvation; others think it is the gift of Jesus Christ. Why not both? Salvation is given to us in Jesus Christ.
i. Paul wants to leave the discussion of giving by reminding us again that God is the greatest giver. He gives the gift beyond description: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
b. This means that Jesus is a gift. Salvation is a gift. We do not earn it. We receive Jesus, we receive salvation exactly as we would receive a gift. If we earn it, it is not a gift.
c. This means that Jesus is an indescribable gift. Salvation is an indescribable gift. The glory of the gift of Jesus, and the greatness of the gift of salvation cannot be adequately described.
i. Paul isn't saying that we shouldn't describe the gift of Jesus or the gift of salvation. He is simply saying that it is impossible to adequately describe the gift. It is beyond full description!
ii. "JESUS CHRIST, the gift of God's love to mankind, is an unspeakable blessing; no man can conceive, much less declare, how great this gift is; for these things the angels desire to look into. Therefore he may be well called the unspeakable gift, as he is the highest God ever gave or can give to man." (Clarke)
iii. "Ah, how many times have I, for one, spoken upon this gift during the last forty years! I have spoken of little else. I heard one who said, 'I suppose Spurgeon is preaching that old story over again.' Yes, that is what he is doing; and if he lives another twenty years, and you come here, it will be 'the old, old story' still, for there is nothing like it." (Spurgeon)
iv. "If you preach Christ, you will never run short. If you have preached ten thousand sermons about Christ, you have not left the shore; you are not out in the deep sea yet. Dive, my brother! With splendour of thought, plunge into the great mystery of free grace and dying love; and when you have dived the farthest, you will perceive that you are as far off the bottom as when you first touched the surface." (Spurgeon)
v. In fact, when Paul writes His indescribable gift, the word he uses for indescribable (anekdiegetos) is not found in any ancient Greek writing before this time. Apparently, Paul made up the word to describe the indescribable!
d. Thanks be to God: This means God's indescribable gift should fill us with gratitude. If we really understand and appreciate the indescribable gift God has given us, our lives will be saturated with gratitude.
i. "Our affliction we scarcely ever forget; our mercies we scarcely ever remember! Our hearts are alive to complaint, but dead to gratitude. We have had ten thousand mercies for one judgment, and yet our complaints to our thanksgivings have been ten thousand to one! How is it that God endures this, and bears with us?" (Clarke)
e. How fitting for Paul to conclude these two chapters about giving with a focus on His indescribable gift! The best motivation for giving is always gratitude for the indescribable gift of God to us. God's indescribable gift is what inspires all true giving.