It seems strange that we Christians need encouragements to give, when God has given so much to us. God had enriched the Corinthians in a wonderful way, and yet they were hesitant to share what they had with others. They were not accustomed to grace giving, so Paul had to explain it to them. Having explained grace giving to them, Paul then tried to motivate them to get involved in the special offering.
Giving Spurs Others
While Christians must not compete with each other in their service for Christ, they ought to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).
When we see what God is doing in and through the lives of others, we ought to strive to serve Him better ourselves. There is a fine line between fleshly imitation and spiritual emulation, and we must be careful in this regard. But a zealous Christian can be the means of stirring up a church and motivating people to pray, work, witness, and give.
The interesting thing is this: Paul had used the zeal of the Corinthians to challenge the Macedonians; but now he was using the Macedonians to challenge the Corinthians! A year before, the Corinthians had enthusiastically boasted that they would share in the offering, but then they had done nothing. The Macedonians had followed through on their promise, and Paul was afraid that his boasting would be in vain.
Paul sent Titus and the other brothers to Corinth to stir them up to share in the offering. Far more important than the money was the spiritual benefit that would come to the church as they shared in response to God’s grace in their lives.
Paul had written to the church before to tell them how to take up the contributions (1 Cor. 16:1-4), so there was no excuse for their delay. Paul wanted the entire contribution to be ready when he and his “finance committee” arrived, so there would be no last-minute collections that might appear to be forced on the church.
Paul wanted to avoid embarrassment to himself and to the church if the offering was not ready. After all, there were several representatives from the Macedonian churches on the special committee (see Acts 20:4).
Apparently, Paul did not see anything wrong or unspiritual about asking people to promise to give. He did not tell them how much they had to promise, but he did expect them to keep their promise. When a person signs up for a telephone, he promises to pay a certain amount each month. If it is acceptable to make financial commitments for things like telephones, cars, and credit cards, certainly it ought to be acceptable to make commitments for the work of the Lord.
Notice the words that Paul used as he wrote about the collection. It was a “ministering to the saints,” a service to fellow believers. It was also a “bounty” (2 Cor. 9:5), which means “a generous gift” Was Paul perhaps hinting that the Corinthians give more than they had planned?
However, Paul was careful not to put on any pressure. He wanted their gift to be “a matter of bounty [generosity], and not as of covetousness [something squeezed out of them].” High-pressure offering appeals do not belong to grace giving.
Giving Will Bless You
Giving is not something we do, but something we are. Giving is a way of life for the Christian who understands the grace of God. The world simply does not understand a statement like Proverbs 11:24: “One man gives freely, yet gains even more: another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”
In grace giving, our motive is not “to get something” – but receiving God’s blessing is one of the fringe benefits.
If our giving is to bless us and build us up, we must be careful to follow the principles that Paul explained:
1. The principle of increase: we reap in measure as we sow (2 Cor. 9:6). The farmer who sows much seed will have a better chance for a bigger harvest The more we invest in the work of the Lord, the more “fruit” will abound to our account (Phil. 4:10-20).
2. The principle of intent: we reap as we sow with right motives (2 Cor. 9:7). Motive makes no difference to the farmer! If he sows good seed and has good weather, he will reap a harvest whether he is working for profit, pleasure, or pride.
But not so with the Christian: motive is vitally important. Giving must come from the heart. We must not be “sad givers” who give grudgingly, or “mad givers” who give because we have to. We should be “glad givers” who cheerfully share what we have because we have experienced the grace of God.
3. The principle of immediacy: we reap even while we are sowing (2 Cor. 9:8-11). The farmer has to wait for his harvest, but the believer who practices grace giving begins to reap the harvest immediately. To be sure, there are long-range benefits from our giving, but there are also immediate blessings.
To begin with, we start to share God’s abundant grace (2 Cor. 9:8). The “universals” in this verse are staggering: all grace; all things; all times; every good work.
This does not mean that God makes every Christian wealthy in material things but it does mean that the Christian who practices grace giving will always have what he needs when he needs it. Furthermore, the grace of God enriches him morally and spiritually so that he grows in Christian character. In his walk and his work, he depends wholly on the sufficiency of God.
Giving Meets Needs
The emphasis in 2 Corinthians 9:12 is on the fact that their offering would meet the needs of poor saints in Judea. It might be good for our churches to take inventory to see if anybody is giving thanks to God for our generosity.
It is sad when our giving becomes a substitute for our living. A church officer once said to me, “I’ll give any amount of money you want for missions, just don’t make me listen to a missionary speak!”
When a Christian practices grace giving, his money is not a substitute for either his concern or his service. He first gives himself to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5), then he gives what he has. His gift is a symbol of the surrender of his heart.
Warren W. Wiersbe, Faith