2 Corinthians 8: Five Biblical Lessons About Generosity
May 9, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Now Paul moves on to another matter that is a common cause of friction in church life—and which was a problem in Corinth. Chapter 8 is the first of two chapters that focus on generosity. In the early days, the Corinthians had been at the forefront of giving towards Paul’s “Jerusalem gift” (the special gift he was putting together from the Gentile churches to support the Jerusalem church at their time of poverty). Paul viewed this gift not just an act of Christian charity, but a tangible expression of the gospel—that in Christ we are one, Jew and Gentile. However, more recently the Corinthians had been tardy in their giving. How would Paul address this thorny issue of Christian giving? And what lessons can we learn from his approach today? We find five biblical lessons about generosity.
First, Paul indulges in a spot of gracious competition! He tells the Corinthian church about the Macedonian churches and how they are giving out of their poverty. The point is clear: if the Macedonians can give so generously, then the Corinthian church certainly can too. Sometimes we can feel that we are unable to give because we have various bills or responsibilities. But let us compare ourselves with those who give, not of their abundance but out of their poverty! Jesus did the same thing with his teaching about the “widow’s mite.” If she can give like that, even all she has, how much can and should we Christians who are comparatively well-off give even more generously. We should excel in giving.
Second, he roots generosity, not “giving back” or “paying it forward,” but in the nature of the gospel itself. “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.” We give because Christ gave himself for us. How can we possibly not be a generous people if we are saved people!
Third, he tells them to finish what they started. Sometimes we can get behind in our commitments. It is good to be told to finish what we began. To do what we said. To keep our generosity commitments. To “finish the work.”
Fourth, he teaches them that “the goal is equality.” Paul is not trying to impoverish the Corinthians! He just wants them to give as they are able to give so to make up for the lack that other Christians have.
Fifth, he ensures there is accountability. Money is a trap for many people. And even if someone does not behave wrongly, if there is suspicion that cheating is going on, then of course it undermines any confidence in the cause. Therefore, Paul takes Titus with him to ensure that there is accountability and that everything is above board—and is seen to be above board.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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