2 Corinthians 8
When we consider the 8th chapter of 2 Corinthians it is well to remember that one of the major efforts of Paul’s third missionary journey was to receive a Special Relief Offering for the poor Christians in Judea. He had done that before as we see in Acts 11 and now the Holy Spirit is tugging at his heart to do so again. I find it interesting that Paul would remember the forgotten beatitude, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” (Acts 20:35).
I believe that this extended far beyond materially assisting the poor in Judea and there were at least three additional desires in his heart. He wanted this offering to strengthen the unity of the Church encouraging the Gentile congregations to participate along with the Jewish congregations. He wanted this to provide evidence to the Jewish Christians that neither he nor the Gentile Christians were their enemies. He hoped that the generosity of the Gentile believers would silence the jealousy of the Jewish believers.
That brings us to a problem and not a small one. The Corinthians were not doing their part. They had made promises but had failed to keep them. In verse 10 we realize that an entire year had passed, and the offering was not complete. What caused the delay? It was the spiritual condition of the Church in Corinth. Their spiritual temperature was at a dangerously low level.
I have observed in my fifty plus years of ministry that when a Church is not spiritual it is not generous. I have also observed the same is true with individual believers. But another cause was the Church in Corinth had been invaded by Judaizers, who typically siphoned off as much money as they could.
Paul faced a problem. He knew it was going to be difficult to convince the Corinthian Church to participate because of their spiritual condition. Therefore, he elevates his appeal to the highest possible spiritual level. He teaches a truth that is too frequently forgotten, ignored, or not understood that Giving is an Act of Grace!
A careful examination of the teachings of Paul was that he used nine different words to refer to this offering, but one was used most frequently and that was Grace. I believe that the Bible teaches that Giving is a ministry of grace and fellowship. (v.4). It is a ministry that benefits others. However, the motivation must come from the Grace of God in the heart. I have experienced Grace Giving personally and congregational and it is a wonderful experience. When believers truly embrace the reality that it is better to give than receive something powerful transpires.
That brings me to a question that is germane for our discussion. “How Can We Know When We Are Practicing Grace Giving?” The apostle Paul gives several pieces of evidence that occur when our giving is motivated by Grace. I ask that you join me in considering them.
- Grace Giving Occurs When We Give in Spite of Our Circumstances. (vv.1-2).
The churches that Paul used as examples were in Macedonia and they had experienced incredibly dire and severe difficulties but had given generously.
Consider the situation. Paul says that the plight of those believers was more than facing affliction or difficulty. He says that they had experienced a “great trial of affliction”. They were in deep poverty, which means rock bottom destitution. It is a term used to describe a beggar who has absolutely nothing and no hope of getting anything.
Their situation may have been brought about by their Christian faith. They may have lost their jobs, been excluded from trade guilds, and ostracized because of their faith. The fact that they would have nothing to do with idols and idol-making could have and often was economically as well as socially, politically, and psychologically difficult. Yet, they gave and gave according to their means and above their means. They gave joyfully and liberally. Imagine that, great affliction and deep poverty plus Grace equaled abundant joy and astounding liberality.
There is a level of condition of Grace that enables a believer to fully trust God for everything and embrace His word and promises completely. I want to delve a little deeper into this in the next devotional.
God bless you as you enjoy His wonderful Grace in all you do.