2 Corinthians 8:1-9
1 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5 and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6 so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
It is sometimes said that the Bible is against money, saying that it is evil. That is not so. The Bible tells us it is the love of money that is the problem. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we should view money as our servant, something to be used for service.
In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul writes of a collection he was taking up in Asia to assist impoverished Christians in Judea. And Paul had talked with the churches in Greece, especially the Corinthians, about this. In chapter 8:10 he tells us the Corinthians had responded well to the idea of an appeal, being not just the first church to contribute, but also one that had pledged further contributions.
Chapters 8 and 9 form a model fund-raising letter, for Paul sets out why God’s people should give.
The Corinthians needed a reminder of the Appeal to which they had given at first. Now, in Paul’s mind, some competition wouldn’t go astray: ‘You don’t want to be outdone by the churches up-state, do you?’ he is asking. Many churches in the western world today deserve to be embarrassed when we hear of the generosity of some churches in the emerging world.
* Sacrificial giving. Macedonia was an exploited impoverished colony. God’s people there had suffered persecution, often losing jobs and property. Yet instead of using lack of resources as an excuse for reducing their contribution, the Macedonians had increased their giving (8:2-3a).
* Enthusiastic giving. The Macedonians were begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints (8:4). They counted such an opportunity a privilege, literally a ‘grace’. They really believed what the Lord Jesus taught: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.
* Faith-driven giving. In 8:5 Paul tells us that the Macedonians were not just giving money to the church in Jerusalem, they were giving themselves to the Lord. Their genuine concern for others sprang from their own relationship with Jesus Christ. It was because their lives were centered on him that they were motivated to extravagance and cheerfulness in their giving.
* Incarnational Giving! 2 Corinthians 8:9 is sometimes said to be the jewel in the crown of Paul’s appeal to give. He speaks of the pre-existence of Christ before his birth – he was rich. From all eternity Christ had been enthroned in the splendor and glory of heaven. He speaks of the birth of Christ – he became poor. He took to himself something that in all eternity he had never known – poverty. We also see Christ’s generosity – so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Christ condescended to such monumental humiliation – his lowly birth in Bethlehem and his ignominious death at Calvary – so that he could enrich us. We give, says Paul, because God gave. Anyone who understands what Christ has done cannot help but be generous themselves.
You may want to consider:
- the context of Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians;
- the example of the giving of the Macedonians;
- the impact of verse 9 – we give because of Christmas!
Let me encourage you to pray
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.