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2Corinthians 8 (web)

Encouraging Generosity

Comparing our Generosity with Others

8:1 Moreover, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God
which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia;
8:2 how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy
and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality.
8:3 For according to their power, I testify, yes and beyond their power,
they gave of their own accord,
8:4 begging us with much entreaty to receive this grace
and the fellowship in the service to the saints.
8:5 This was not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord,
and to us through the will of God.
8:6 So we urged Titus, that as he made a beginning before,
so he would also complete in you this grace.
8:7 But as you abound in everything, in faith, utterance, knowledge,
all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that you also abound in this grace.

8:8 I speak not by way of commandment,
but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love.

Comparing our Generosity with Christ

8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.

Fulfilling Our Vows of Generosity

8:10 I give a judgment in this: for this is expedient for you,
who were the first to start a year ago, not only to do, but also to be willing.
8:11 But now complete the doing also, that as there was the readiness to be willing,
so there may be the completion also out of your ability.
8:12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what you have,
not according to what you don't have.

Equality as a Motivation in Giving

8:13 For this is not that others may be eased and you distressed,
8:14 but for equality. Your abundance at this present time supplies their lack,
that their abundance also may become a supply for your lack; that there may be equality.
8:15 As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over,
and he who gathered little had no lack." (Ex 16:18)

Cooperating in the 
Administration of the Gift

The Enthusiastic Attitude of the Administrators

8:16 But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.
8:17 For he indeed accepted our exhortation,
but being himself very earnest, he went out to you of his own accord.
8:18 We have sent together with him the brother
whose praise in the gospel is known through all the assemblies.
8:19 Not only so, but who was also appointed by the assemblies to travel with us in this grace,
which is served by us to the glory of the Lord himself, and to show our readiness.

Avoiding Criticism in Generosity

8:20 We are avoiding this, that any man should blame us
concerning this abundance which is administered by us.
8:21 Having regard for honorable things,
not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
8:22 We have sent with them our brother,
whom we have many times proved earnest in many things,
but now much more earnest, by reason of the great confidence which he has in you.
8:23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for you.
As for our brothers, they are the apostles of the assemblies, the glory of Christ.
8:24 Therefore show the proof of your love to them in front of the assemblies,
and of our boasting on your behalf.

Discussion Questions

vs 1-8 In what ways is it appropriate to compare ourselves or our church to other Christians and other Churches?
How might a healthy sense of competition edify the church?
How might it divide?
What particular characteristics of the Macedonian churches impressed Paul?
vs 9 How has Christ enriched you?
In what ways did he become poor?
How have we or might we make ourselves poor for the sake of others?
vs 10-12 What hinderances do you find you face between your desire to give and your actual giving?
vs 13-15 What political-economic ideas might be inferred from these verses?
What attitudes does it promote?
vs 16-19 What dangers did the administrators of the gift face in delivering the gift?
What words in this chapter most characterize givers like Titus? (You might also consider the next chapter)
Have you ever thought of taking your own initiative in doing some ministry?
vs 20-24 What did Paul do to assure the Corinthians that their money would be handled properly?


Joy Drives Generosity

2Cor 8:1,2 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

If God's grace to you were measure by your degree of generosity, how would you do? Severe poverty makes one appreciate and value that which the affluent may take for granted and consequently makes one sensitive to the practical needs of others. And such circumstances may also invoke a sense of empathy for the afflicted.

Furthermore while the affluent have money to spare and consequently their generosity may not entail much personal sacrifice, the generosity of the poor is reflected in the poor widow of Luke 21. As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Luke 21:1-4 If your generosity were measured by the degree of personal sacrifice you made, how would you do?

But what motivates such generosity? As Paul notes  later in chapter 9, it's not out of reluctance or compulsion that they gave, but rather out of joy, taking their own initiative. They needed no fleece-the-flock type of sermon so common today to motivate them to give. But what was their overflowing joy that led to their generosity inspite of the circumstances? It was the joy of knowing that they were saved, guaranteed an inheritance to come. Such joy cannot be shared by those who are trying to work to be saved. Overflowing joy led to their rich generosity.

Enthusiastic Generosity

2Cor 8:3,4  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

Giving should be proportional to one's ability. When the church at Antioch heard of the poverty of the brethren in Judea, "the disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea." Acts 11:29  But the churches in Macedonia went beyond this, though being poor themselves they gave beyond their ability. That is, like the poor widow who gave all she had to live on, they gave more than they were able to live on, and trusted God to provide their necessities.

Many of the poor living in welfare states today which take other people's generosity for granted,  rather than thinking about practicing generosity have a sense of entitlement, a sense of justified envy of other people's stuff. But this should not be so of Christians though they be poor. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man‘s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15 "For this world in its present form is passing away." 1Cor 7:31

But not only were the Macedonians overlooking their own poverty, they took initiative in sharing with others. Now much as most of what the Bible says with regards to generosity is directed to the poor in particular, "this service to the saints" probably referred to Paul's ministry in particular. The primary Macedonian church Paul likely had in mind was Phillipi, "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Php 4:15-19

Give Yourself First to the Lord

2Cor 8:5  And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.

One wonders what Paul expected. No doubt by this he means that his expectations for them were lower than how they ended up performing, which is interesting of itself. For when one comes to Christ one can hardly expect perfection. And having lower expectations one is less likely to be disappointed and likely to be encouraged when they outperform that standard.

But what is that "giving oneself first to the Lord", how did he measure it and how might we do this? It is a common phenomenon that when one decides to follow a leader, they make perhaps too much of that leader over and above the one whom that leader may be representing, the Lord in this case. And this was the case for the Corinthian church as noted in 1Corinthians. "For when one says, '`I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe— as the Lord has assigned to each his task." 1Cor 3:4,5 But in contrast to Corinth, the Macedonian churches recognize the proper order of things - the Lord first and secondly ministers of the Lord.

Note that putting the Lord first unites the Christian community, while putting his ministers first creates denomination divisions, and the former enhances generosity in overlooking geographic and administrative boundaries.

Help Others to Implement their Generosity

2Cor 8:6  So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.

So he had sent Titus to them as he had been with them at the beginning of Paul's ministry in Corinth. Of course what this implies is that we need help in coming to completion. A Christian is not to isolate themselves. For we are all one body and it is in the context of a body one must grow and minister. Titus was assigned to water them much as Paul said, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." 1Cor 3:6 But what of Apollos? It appears he was not available. Note that Paul used the past tense "Apollos watered". And at the end of 1Cor it says, "Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity." 1Cor 16:12 So it was likely Apollos was simply not available and so Titus was sent. In fact Apollos may have made himself unavailable at the time so as to not play on this tendency of the Corinthians to align themself between him and Paul, but rather it would be wiser to send a third party - Titus.

As to the particular act of grace he was referring notice from verse 1 he says, "we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches." and he was alluding to their generosity, so to this was the subject of concern with regards to the Corinthian church. In both cases he speaks as God grace imparting this attribute of generosity, if not invoking it. Yet given that he's sending Titus this implies that God's grace needs assistance, or more likely the use of his minister and cooperation with them is part of what consitutes God grace or the application and implementation of God's grace. For the word "completion" here often refers to one's performance.

What applications has the grace of God invoked in you? For example Paul says that "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" Titus 2:11,12 In this case Paul was concerning for their generosity.

Be Excellent in Generosity

2Cor 8:7 But just as you excel in everything— in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Though we may have strengths we must not overlook our weaknesses. But given the diversity of their strengths, how could they have this weakness of charity? However notice the flow of his first letter to them. For Paul speaks of the diversity of their giftedness in 1Corinthians, but he speaks also of their weakness which brought imbalance to the application of their gifts and the overinflating of one over another. And so he wrote 1Corinthians 13, which is often read during marriage ceremonies, but which is really about the fact that they were making much of speech and knowledge in their gifts of tongues and prophecy, but were deficient with respect to love. Interesting also that the KJV translated "love" as "charity" in that chapter.

Indeed there is a correspondance between love and generosity. But such generosity must not be out of a legalistic motive. For he also writes, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1Cor 13:3 Many who practice generosity are under the false impression that by doing so they will save themselves. Such a person believes a false gospel of salvation by works. But on the other hand, the lack of generosity reveals a lack of love for others. And this is what Paul saw in the Corinthians. Yes they were devoted to him, but such love had yet to extend to the larger Christian community.

Apart from false motives, love is reflected by one's generosity. John wrote, "God so loved the world that he gave ..." John 3:16 If your love was measure by your generosity how would you do?

Christ's Intentional Poverty

2Cor 8:8,9 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Notice as I said previously, the sincerity of one's love is test by one's practice of generosity. Much as the Corinthians were full of words - tongues and prophecy - John writes, "let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1John 3:18 How fleeting to think that love can be expressed by mere words. How vain! And how many have been deceived and become disillusioned by the words, "I love you", spoken in vain. Rather love is reflected in the personal sacrifices one makes on behalf of another.

How does God demonstrate his love for us? "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 Likewise in demonstrating love "your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Php 2:5-7

Plan Your Generosity

2Cor 8:10-12  And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

While not yet exceeding in the grace of generosity, the Corinthians were certainly active in it. The last chapter of 1Corinthians says, "Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem." 1Cor 16:1-3 Notice also both passages refer to giving in proportion to one's ability.

But as for "willingness", remember the parable of the two sons where the father told the one to go and work in the vineyard today, and he said he would, but didn't. Beward of making pledges and not carrying them out. "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin." Deut 23:21 And mere good intentions may be of little value in meeting practical needs. People will often express sympathy and make false promises not for the benefit of the needy but for their own benefit, so that they may imagine themselves good.

Financial Equality

2Cor 8:13-15 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." (Ex 16:18)

Agur son of Jaketh prayed, "Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Prov 30:7-9 Though in any circumstance we should be content. Paul writes, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Php 4:11b-12

Paul isn't preaching communism here in which money is stolen from the rich and given to the poor, which in the end as history has proven, makes everyone equally poor, there being no incentive to work. In contrast generosity presumes personal property rights, just as Peter said to Ananias concerning his donation of a piece of his property, "Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?" Acts 5:4a And if it is an obligation, then it is not an act of generosity. Likewise those who receive other people's generosity with an attitude of entitlement do not receive it as generosity. The rich need to beware of greed and the poor need to beware of envy.

But if each out of generosity does the reasonable thing , equality will result, as in the early church where "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." Acts 4:32 Such is often the case in families and so ideally in the family of God.

There are many practical issues to consider as well. What constitutes too much? Isn't it generally true that when people have too much they simply increase their standard of living so that they no longer feel they have too much? And conversely may it not be unhealthy to give too much to individuals and spoil them as one may spoil children in giving them too much? I have seen it happen. Beware of overgiving to particular individuals or organizations. For money is a root of all kinds of evil. Beware of anyone having too much of it.

Take Intiative and be Reliable

2Cor 8:16-19  I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.  For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.  What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help.

It's interesting the Paul speaks of God taking initiative to put this concern in the heart of Titus and yet also speaks of Titus taking his own initiative. We've seen this before at the beginning of this chapter when Paul speaks of God giving the grace of generosity to the Macedonian churches and yet speaks of them giving "entirely on their own". (2Cor 8:3)

The balance between God's sovereignty and human responsibility is debatable, but I do not think Paul views it as a sort of puppet model as some theologians are inclined to think. Rather just as the sinful nature causes temptations, but it is left to the individual whether or not to act upon such tempatations, so also God puts things on our hearts and minds, but it is up to us to act. In this case Titus acted in cooperation with what God had put on his heart, and that not reluctantly but with much enthusiasm, as had the Macedonian churches with their generosity. What has God put on your heart, and what initiative may you enthusiastically take carrying out that desire? I pray that "by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith." 2Th 1:11c

We don't know who the brother is mentioned, but Jesus sent out his disciples by twos. Best not to minister alone, but chose companions wisely and among the faithful. This man had a good reputation, and proven faithful in his service.  Paul mentions of his own placement into service saying, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service." 1Tim 1:12 And "it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" 1Cor 4:2 And having been proven faithful they are given more responsibilities. Have you proven faithful with regards to the responsibilities you have taken on?

Be Above Reproach with Regards to Money

2Cor 8:20-22  We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.

We must be careful to avoid unnecessary criticism with regards to money. Most ministers don't go to the extent Paul goes in this regards. For while being entitled to being paid for ministry, as "the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel." 1Cor 9:14 he choses to earn his own living to "that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it." 1Cor 9:18 and to the Ephesian elders he writes, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:33-35 And to the Thessalonians, "nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you." 2Th 3:8

"Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." Rom 12:17

Prove Your Love

2Cor 8:23-24  As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

Though Paul was an apostle chosen personally by Jesus Christ himself, yet he is not inflated by such a position. Rather he views himself as a fellow worker along with the rest of those who minister.

But what are proofs of love that Paul alludes to? There are many such proofs, but in general a proven love is one which meets people's needs. In contrast many will declare their love. "Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" Pr 20:6 

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 27,2022