Many years ago, former president Richard Nixon attended church with a friend who happened to be a clergyman. When the offering plate was passed, the president whispered to his friend, “I’ve forgotten my wallet; could you loan me a bill?” Telling the story years later, his friend said, “You can be sure I gave him the largest bill I had in my wallet!” He knew the president would never tell a minister, “I don’t want to give that much!”
While this incident was perhaps innocent enough, over the centuries religious leaders have employed many less scrupulous tricks to get people to part with large amounts of their money. Such unprincipled ruses are dishonoring to the God that these ministers claim to represent. By contrast, our purpose in this article will be to simply set forth what God Himself has to say on the subject of giving in II Corinthians 8 and 9, the principle passage on this subject in Paul’s epistles.
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” (II Cor. 8:1).
Paul begins by saying, Let me tell you about the effect God’s grace has had on the Macedonian churches. But how could Paul measure the effect of God’s grace in the lives of the Macedonian saints? Did he have a “grace-meter”? Today we have meters that can measure just about everything, including the amount of microwaves that may be escaping from your oven! But there is also a grace-meter, and Paul speaks about it in Verse 2:
“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (II Cor. 8:2).
According to Paul, a believer’s “liberality” to the Lord’s work is an accurate measure of the effect of God’s grace in his or her life. And when we notice that the Macedonians gave out of “deep poverty,” the result of “a great trial of affliction” they had endured, we realize that it is not our giving alone that reveals our appreciation for God’s grace, but our giving despite our circumstances. Many Christians plan to help the Lord’s work financially, just as soon as they are released from the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves at the present time. However, life for most of us is little more than a continuous series of difficult circumstances! And it is financial faithfulness to the Lord in spite of our circumstances that makes us worthy heirs of the majestic legacy found in the example of these noble Macedonians.
“For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
“Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (II Cor. 8:3,4).
It is touching to read of how these saints begged Paul to allow them to give “beyond their power.” Usually it is the pastor who must beg the people to give, and how uncomfortable it is to hear such appeals! Mark Twain once remarked that after enduring a long offering call, he was not only unmoved to give, when the plate came around he actually removed some coins! How much more pleasant it was for Paul to hear the Macedonians beseech him to receive their gift! The difference is well illustrated in the following example.
Few among us enjoy the haggling that must be endured when we purchase an automobile. We are determined to get the price down, while the salesman is equally determined to drive the price up! How exhausting this process can be, and how taxing on the nerves! But compare this to what occurred when once we hired a friend to wallpaper a room in our home. After he finished, we tried to pay him more than what he asked, while he insisted on taking less. The haggling in which we engaged was similar to that involved in buying a car, but was so much more pleasant! Just so, how much more pleasant is the process when God’s people beg His servants to receive their offering, instead of the other way around.
It should be noted here that “the saints” (II Cor. 8:4) the Macedonians longed to help with their offering were the “the poor saints” at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-27). These were the Pentecostal saints who lacked for nothing as long as the Spirit supernaturally empowered them to pool their resources and live as one (Acts 4:31,32). However, after Israel showed that they had rejected the ministry of the Spirit when they stoned God’s Spirit-filled prophet, the kingdom program broke down in Jerusalem, and those who knew no lack soon stood in need of “relief” (Acts 11:27-30).
While it was right for the early Gentile believers to minister material things to the Jews who had benefited them spiritually (Rom. 15:27), this obligation is no longer binding on us. That temporary situation created by that transitional dispensational change is long gone, along with any financial obligation on our part to meet it. Today, Paul says that when we financially support pastors and teachers we are ministering materially to those who minister to us spiritually (I Cor. 9:11).
Since Paul uses the Macedonians to exemplify sacrificial giving, perhaps the reader is wondering whether God would have believers today give “beyond their power”? We feel that the apostle goes on to address this question in the next verse of our text:
“And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (II Cor. 8:5).
When the Macedonians gave beyond their power to give, this was not as Paul had hoped, it was far beyond what he had hoped. Paul never hoped anyone would give beyond his or her power to give. He knew that to the world about them, this would appear irresponsible. Even today when we hear of people giving so irresponsibly, we wonder what kind of cult has deluded them to act so irrationally.
So were the Macedonians acting irresponsibly? No, it was not improvident for them to give beyond their power at that time. You see they, like Paul, believed the Rapture would come in their lifetime. Notice Paul refers twice to “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (I Thes. 4:15,17). This was a conviction on Paul’s part that he no doubt passed on to his hearers, which would include these Macedonians.
Thus, far from being irresponsible, it was noble for the Macedonians to give beyond their means. Such giving expressed their faith in the truth of the imminent return of Christ. This is similar to how the Pentecostal saints sold their possessions in view of the Second Coming of Christ to establish the kingdom, a coming that was also at hand, but was interrupted by the dispensation of grace. Such giving also reminds us of how, as the conclusion of World War II drew near, many under-aged men lied about their age in order to enlist, afraid that the conflict would end before they had the opportunity to serve their country. Similarly, the Macedonians were afraid the Lord would come before they had the opportunity to give their all for Him.
However, today it is irresponsible to give beyond our means. Through progressive revelation, the Apostle Paul eventually learned that he would not live to see the Rapture. This is why he commanded Timothy that he should keep the charge that Paul gave him “until the appearing of our Lord.” By this time Paul knew that he himself might not live to guard the message of Grace to the coming of the Lord. And it is in light of this further revelation that we too must live. It has well been said that we should live our lives as if the Lord were coming today, but plan our lives as if He were not coming in our lifetime, and these plans would include how we give to God’s work.
How much then should we give? It is clear that in the dispensation of grace, we should give generously but sensibly, “every man according to his ability” (Acts 11:29), and “as God hath prospered him” (I Cor. 16:2). Some hold that God is not prospering men today, and it is true that the word “God” does not appear in the Greek text in I Corinthians 16:2. However we feel that this ellipsis was legitimately supplied by our King James translators, and that it is God who prospers us, and that we should give accordingly, as unto Him.
That being said, the power that enabled the Macedonians to give so generously is still available to us today. We read that they “first gave their own selves to the Lord,” which empowered them to give so generously. Our money will always follow our heart, and in the measure we give ourselves to the Lord, in that measure we will find ourselves giving as did the Macedonians.
Finally, don’t overlook the fact that the Macedonians also gave themselves to Paul and his helpers, and that it was “the will of God” that they do so. It is our personal conviction that the contributions of Grace believers should go exclusively to Paul’s helpers today, ministries that recognize his unique apostleship. There are millions of Christians who will support non-Grace ministries, but if Grace believers do not support Grace ministries, who will? Surely in the measure that we give ourselves to Paul, in that measure our giving will reflect our heart’s commitment to Pauline truth.
“Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also” (II Cor. 8:6).
In light of the sacrificial giving of the Macedonians, Paul encouraged Titus to coax the Corinthians to fulfill the pledge of support that they had vowed. But notice that Paul calls our giving a “grace.” The grace of God is what He freely did for us when He didn’t have to. Similarly, our giving is what we freely give to God when we don’t have to! There is no command to give under grace.
“Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (II Cor. 8:7).
Before the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were withdrawn, the Corinthians abounded in them. But while each one of them had a different spiritual gift (I Cor. 12:8-11), they were all expected to abound in the grace of giving. This is significant, for some today claim that “giving is not my gift.” But as we see, even when the spiritual gifts were in order, all of God’s people were expected to abound “in this grace also.”
“I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love” (II Cor. 8:8).
Even though we are not under Law but under Grace, God gave us many commandments through Paul (I Thes. 4:2; II Thes. 3:4,6,12). However, giving is not one of them! God wanted the Corinthians to care naturally for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and He wants us today to care naturally for the lost and confused multitudes all about us, and to support the ministries that minister to them. And so while Paul had received no commandment from the Lord about giving, the eagerness of the Macedonians prompted him to spur the Corinthians on to help also.
When we give to the Lord’s work, we “prove the sincerity” of our love for Him. How different this is from Malachi 3:10, where we read,
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse…and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing….”
Under the Law, God commanded Israel to bring their “tithes and offerings” (v. 8) to “prove” or test Him to see if He wouldn’t bless them in return. Under Grace, Paul uses this word “prove” in a dramatically different fashion. Paul teaches that God has already blessed us “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). In so doing, He is testing us to see if we will bless Him financially in return. Hence when we abound in the grace of giving, we prove the sincerity of the love we profess for God.
But once again, it is not our love for God in general that is being tested, but our love to God through His apostle. In context here, the love that was being tested was their love to Paul (v. 7). And so it is that we who say that we love Pauline truth have the opportunity to prove the sincerity of our love every time the offering plate is passed.
Now we must remove our shoes, as it were, for the ground upon which we are about to tread is surely holy ground, as the apostle gives us the example of One who said He loved us, and proved the sincerity of His love beyond any and all doubt:
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (II Cor. 8:9).
The Lord’s giving of Himself is called a “grace” because He freely gave up His riches in glory when He didn’t have to! How “rich” was He? Before His incarnation, He could point to any star in the heavens, to any mountain or ocean on earth, indeed to “the cattle on a thousand hills” and say: “Mine!” (Psa. 50:10). And yet for our sakes He “became poor.”
How poor did He become? He “took upon Him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7), and a servant can point to nothing and say “mine.” Everything a servant has is owned by his master. And so the One who created the great lakes and rivers of the earth had to ask for a drink of water (John 4:7). Even the foxes and birds had homes they could call “mine,” but when “every man went unto his own house,” we read that “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives” (John 7:53: 8:1). How touching it is to learn that the “swaddling clothes” with which His mother wrapped Him were little more than strips of rags. How moved we should be to see Joseph and Mary humbly offering the poor man’s sacrifice at His birth (Luke 2:24 cf. Lev. 12:8). He had to borrow a stable in which to be born, a few loaves and fishes to feed the masses, a penny to illustrate our obligation to Caesar, a donkey on which to ride to Jerusalem, a room in which to hold His last supper, and a tomb in which to be laid. All of this that we through His poverty might be rich.
How rich are we? We are “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Let others envy the inheritance of the children of Bill Gates or Donald Trump. We are heirs of God Himself, and joint-heirs with Christ. Since the phrase “joint-heirs” means we are equal heirs with Christ, this means that everything He inherits we will inherit also, something almost too precious to imagine.
“And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago” (II Cor. 8:10).
What had caused the Corinthians to renege on their year-old promise of financial help? The Corinthians were known for their carnality, and carnality will always interfere with the best-intentioned plans of giving.
The word “expedient” means to promote one’s interest. The Greek word for “expedient” is elsewhere translated “profitable.” Thus Paul here is reminding the Corinthians that fulfilling their financial pledge would profit them, both in this life and in the life to come. Surely rich rewards await the faithful giver at the Bema Seat of Christ, but even in this life it is a blessing to give. We have the Lord’s word on it (Acts 20:35). As Pastor Stam used to say, we wish that all believers could know the joy and fulfillment that sacrificial giving brings to the soul.
“Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have” (II Cor. 8:11).
The Greek word for “perform” here is in the imperative mood, making it a command. While there are no commands for us to give under Grace, Paul did command the Corinthians to fulfill the promise that they had made of a financial contribution, lest the testimony of the Lord suffer harm.
The church building where this writer pastors was built many years ago with a bank loan based on pledges of monthly support from its members, some of whom later left the church without fulfilling their commitment. This of course laid a severe hardship on those who remained, and were it not for the faithfulness of these dear ones who took up the slack, the testimony of the Lord might have been damaged in the community. And so while there are no commands to give under Grace, or to make pledges, when we offer our word to give a gift, we subject ourselves to the Apostle Paul’s command to “perform the doing of it.”
“For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (II Cor. 8:12).
It is possible for the humblest believer to give more than a billionaire, for if our hearts are willing to give, our gift is accepted by God in accord with what we have, and not according to what we don’t have. “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48), but of those to whom little has been given, He does not ask us to give beyond our means. We have heard horror stories of believers who have been browbeaten into taking out loans just to keep up with paying their tithes. Surely God is not honored when people fall behind in their rent in order to pay their tithes, something of which we have also heard tell.
“For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
“But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
“As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack” (II Cor. 8:13-15).
Here Paul assures the Corinthians that he was not attempting to gouge them just because they were a large, wealthy assembly. He rather asks them to consider that while presently their wealth could make up for the want of other men, the day could come when this situation was reversed.
Paul then concludes this passage by quoting Exodus 16:18, where we read that some in Israel gathered “much” manna, while others gathered “little,” and yet the needs of all of God’s people were met. In the same way, the needs of God’s people today can always be met, if those who can give much give much, and if those who can give little will give little. As it’s been said, “Little is much when God is in it!”
While Paul picks up the subject of giving again in Chapter 9, the remainder of Chapter 8 deals with the care that must always be taken by spiritual leaders to ensure the Lord’s money is handled by honest men, in a manner so open that the ministry cannot possibly be blamed for misuse of such funds. At first it seems strange that this section on fiscal integrity should be sandwiched in between two passages on giving. However, the assurance of such integrity is an integral part of the giving process. God’s people are understandably hesitant to give unless they are confident their hard-earned money will not be misused, and rightly so. While this section is important, it is a separate subject from that which we are currently considering, and so we will pick up our study in Chapter 9.
“For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you” (II Cor. 9:1).
It was unnecessary for Paul to write the Corinthians about the financial need of “the saints.” These were the Pentecostal saints who lacked for nothing, as long as the Spirit supernaturally empowered them to pool their resources and live in harmony (Acts 4:34). But when Israel rejected the Spirit by stoning a Spirit-filled man, these sincere saints in Jerusalem became “the poor saints” at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26). At the Jerusalem Council, Paul was asked to remember these poor saints, something he was eager to do (Gal. 2:10), encouraging the Gentiles to whom he ministered to contribute to this cause.
It was more than appropriate for the Gentiles to help these kingdom saints. After all, they had been made partaker of Israel’s spiritual things, and so it was only right that they minister to them in material things (Rom. 15:27). Of course, today God’s people should minister material things to the spiritual leaders who currently minister to them in spiritual matters (I Cor. 9:11). This enables these men of God to minister to the spiritually “poor saints” who are unaware of “the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles” (Col. 1:27). Today, if anything is “superfluous,” it is for Grace leaders to have to remind us of this need, for a glance at the professing church shows the great need of our message.
“For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many” (II Cor. 9:2).
The reason it was superfluous for Paul to write them further of this need is because they had been convinced of it a year earlier, and had pledged a considerable amount of money in response.
But therein lay the rub. Paul had boasted about the Corinthians’ promise to the Macedonians, many of whom had been provoked to give beyond their power when they heard of the Corinthian zeal. Now that the Corinthians had failed to deliver on their promise, it looked like Paul was guilty of fraud, having bilked the poor Macedonians into giving beyond their means by telling them of Corinthian liberality that never came to pass!
“Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:
“Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting” (II Cor. 9:3,4).
Here Paul warns the Corinthians that he might just “happen” to bring some Macedonians along on his trip to Corinth! Imagine how embarrassed these wealthy Corinthians would be in the presence of such sacrificial givers! Poor citizens don’t mind paying their taxes when they are assured the rich are paying their share, but when they learn the rich are evading their responsibility, they rightfully feel betrayed. Paul here offers the Corinthians the opportunity to make good on their vow and avoid a similarly embarrassing situation.
How generous for Paul to offer to share in the shame that would be theirs if they did not deliver what they had promised! I’m sure this happens to the reader all the time; you know how your boss jumps at the chance to share the blame for your failures at work! Such is rarely the case, of course, but such was the heart of Paul!
“Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness” (II Cor. 9:5).
Paul was thoughtfully sending men to Corinth ahead of his own visit, graciously allowing the Corinthians to save face by delivering on their promise before the weight of his apostolic visit fell on their assembly. If they failed to avail themselves of this opportunity, delaying their contribution until Paul himself arrived, it would make them look “covetous.” It would appear that they refused to part with their pledge until Paul himself came and pried it out of their hands!
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (II Cor. 9:6).
Comparing the believer’s giving to farming is an excellent comparison. As the sower sows his seed, it appears he is taking perfectly good seed and throwing it away. When we give to the Lord’s work, we sometimes hear unbelievers say, “You’re just throwing your money away!” But Paul says when we give of our finances to the ministry we are sowing, not throwing! Far from being a waste of money, such contributions are investments in eternity.
Every farmer knows if you sow sparingly, you reap sparingly. Of course, the only thing this suburban-grown writer has ever sown was the seed for our lawn. We frankly didn’t know what we were doing, but we knew enough from this verse to sow heavily, crisscrossing the seed and fertilizer with our broadcast spreader beyond what was recommended. The result was a lawn that was the envy of the neighborhood—at least until the ever-increasing demands of the ministry in ensuing years led to a criminal neglect of weed-killer that resulted in the finest crop of dandelions in the tri-county area. We know it’s wrong to so blame the ministry, but that’s our story, and we’re sticking to it!
But what could the Corinthians hope to “reap” by sowing bountifully to the poor saints at Jerusalem? Ah, the acceptance of these kingdom saints as brethren. You’ll remember at the Jerusalem Council, the kingdom saints agreed to accept the salvation of the Gentiles without circumcision as legitimate. But they insisted that these new brethren at least remember to “abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:20). Obviously they accepted the Gentiles as brethren with some reservation! But with Paul’s collection among the Gentiles for the kingdom saints, there arose an opportunity to cement the relationship between these Hebrew believers and the Body of Christ. If the Gentiles sowed bountifully, they would reap a bountiful acceptance among their Jewish brethren.
But what do God’s people today hope to reap by bountiful sowing to the Lord’s work? First, all true believers support the ministry in the hope of seeing souls come to know Christ. Then all Grace believers sow of their finances also hoping to “make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery” (Eph. 3:9). While these things are reward enough in and of themselves when they happen, surely those who sow bountifully to the Lord’s work will also reap a bountiful reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:7).
Notice that God expects “every man” to give. While some cannot give as much as others, all can give something.
The Greek word for “purpose” is a compound word that means “to choose before,” and so speaks of how we should plan our giving. Just as we must budget our finances to allot for our monthly bills, God expects us to purpose beforehand what we plan to give to His work. Too often we set money aside for everything else, and then give God what’s left, instead of what’s right.
How much is right? Under Grace, that is up to the giver. But Paul says whatever the giver determines to give, it must come from “his heart,” and must not be given “grudgingly, or of necessity.” While attending a baseball game in Milwaukee with our son, a home run hit by the visiting team was caught by a man sitting near us. The boisterous crowd began to goad the man into throwing the ball back on to the field, to show contempt for the prized souvenir because it originated with the opposing team, ala the Cub fans in Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The man was reluctant to do so; after all, a souvenir is a souvenir! Had he complied, the crowd would have been pleased, but the man would have felt coerced. Just so, while God is pleased with our giving, He is anxious that we never feel coerced, but that we rather give out of a heart of gratitude for all He has done for us.
It is interesting that the Greek word for “grudgingly” is translated “sorrow” in John 16:21, and refers to the sorrow of the labor pains a woman experiences when giving birth. Quite frankly, if parting with your riches causes you the same amount of pain and suffering a woman endures when parting with a baby, God doesn’t want your money. If you give with such a poor spirit, God will bless and use your money, and even reward you for giving it, but your reward will not be what it could have been. Allow us to illustrate this principle of grace from the Book of Philemon, the epistle that doesn’t teach the great doctrines of Grace, it illustrates them.
Philemon’s slave Onesimus ran away, only to meet up with Paul and get saved. Paul returned Onesimus to his master, but in light of Philemon’s debt to Paul for leading him to Christ, Paul considered keeping Onesimus that he might minister to Paul in Philemon’s place. “But without thy mind would I do nothing,” Paul told him, “that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly” (Phile. 1:14). Had Paul kept Philemon’s servant as his own, Philemon would have benefited from this by being rewarded at the Bema Seat. But if Philemon were to extend his servant to Paul willingly, and not merely because of the “necessity” of the circumstances, Philemon would benefit much more in that great day of reward. In the same way, all financial support of God’s work will earn a reward, but willingness in such giving will extend our benefit beyond imagination when someday we stand before the throne.
The Greek word for “cheerful” here is hilaros, from which we get our word hilarious, suggesting God loves a hilarious giver! These words are being penned in mid-December, when it is hard to turn on the television without witnessing a newly “converted” Ebenezer Scrooge blissfully parting with his wealth. If the “conversion” of this miserable miser to “the Christmas spirit” produced such gleeful benevolence, how much more should the genuine conversion of our lost soul lead to even more cheerful generosity.
Perhaps the reader has heard about the pastor who said to his parishioner, “I cried when I saw how large a check you wrote to the church.” His parishioner asked, “How long did you cry?” “About a minute,” replied the pastor. “That’s nothing, I cried for an hour when I wrote it!” Nothing cheerful about that!
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (II Cor. 9:8).
There is a tendency to believe our finances are accumulated solely by our own hard work and wise decisions. While this may be solely true for the unbeliever, we have God’s word on it that for the believer it is He who prospers us (I Cor. 16:2), and makes “all grace” abound toward us, as He says here. In this context, “grace” cannot refer to our spiritual blessings, for these had already abounded toward the Corinthians as believers (Eph. 1:3), and Paul speaks here of grace that God “is able” to give, present tense. No, in this context “grace” has already been defined as the grace of giving (8:1,6,7,19). And so Paul is reminding us that God gives to us financially—not just so that we can have all sufficiency in all things in life, meeting our financial needs if not our wants (Phil. 4:19), but also that we might “abound to every good work.” And in this context, the “good work” of which Paul speaks is unquestionably the “good work” of giving to the Lord (I Tim. 6:18 cf. Matt. 26:10). Earlier in this epistle, Paul tells us that God comforts us not to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters of others (II Cor. 1:4). Just so, God prospers us not to make us prosperous, as the “health and wealth” prosperity preachers would have us believe, but that we might in turn prosper His ministry.
“As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever” (II Cor. 9:9).
Paul could hardly have selected a more appropriate verse to reinforce his words! The quote is from Psalm 112:9, a passage that begins by blessing the man that fears the Lord (v. 1). His blessing included “wealth and riches” (v. 3), blessings which enabled him to lend to the poor (v. 5), which was tantamount to lending to the Lord (Prov. 19:17). He was encouraged to conduct his financial affairs “with discretion” (Psa. 112:5), so that he could afford to give to the Lord, as should we. Because he was promised everlasting reward (v. 6), he didn’t let evil tidings of downward turns in the economy discourage his giving (v. 7), and nor should we. His heart was “fixed” and determined to be faithful in his giving, “trusting in the Lord” that He would provide his needs tomorrow if he gave to the Lord today, as should we. He was not “afraid” to continue giving until he saw his enemies defeated (v. 8), just as we need not fear to give until all our enemies are vanquished at the Rapture. Finally, his rewards will be eternal (v. 9), as will ours.
“Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness” (II Cor. 9:10).
If you give grain to your wife, she can make you a meal. However, if you give grain to a farmer, he can plant your seed and grow a crop that can feed you and many others! Similarly, all money that you give to the Lord’s work ministers seed to the sower, enabling your pastor to not only teach God’s Word to you, but to others as well, thereby increasing the fruits of your righteousness.
“Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God” (II Cor. 9:11,12).
Paul stated earlier, as he states here, that God enriches us materially so that we can be bountiful givers. However here he enlarges upon that thought, and shows how our bountiful giving then comes full circle. God gave to the Corinthians, who gave to the poor saints (eventually!), who in turn gave thanks back to God! Today, God blesses us financially that we might give, that God’s people might be blessed and others might be reached, who in turn give thanks back to God! While some speak of “the circle of life,” Paul speaks here of the circle of eternal life, a circle in which givers are blessed to be a part.
“Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;
“And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you” (II Cor. 9:13,14).
Here Paul assures the Corinthians that their contribution would indeed convince the poor saints that the Corinthian “professed subjection unto the gospel” was legit, and would cause them to not just pray for them, but to actually “long” for them! What a rich harvest of prayerful support and good will they had the opportunity to reap among the kingdom saints!
It is interesting that Paul calls the collection for the poor saints an “experiment.” He wasn’t at all sure that the kingdom saints would accept charity from these new Gentile brethren, and so asked the Romans if they would pray to that end (15:31).
But in a larger sense, the entire concept of giving under Grace was an experiment on God’s part. In Old Testament times, the ministry of the priesthood was supported by mandatory giving called tithing. To expect that the ministry under Grace would be maintained entirely by voluntary giving was a bold experiment indeed! Imagine telling the citizens of the United States that from now on their financial support of the government would be completely voluntary!
Not that God had any doubt that this experiment of grace giving would work. While scientists often perform experiments not knowing what the outcome will be, science teachers often conduct experiments in the classroom to prove to the students what they already know to be true. And so it is that while God Himself knew His ministry could operate solely on the basis of voluntary giving, we wonder if perhaps the angels had their doubts. But when God’s people give as they should and God’s work is thus enabled to function for Him, the principalities and powers in heavenly places are convinced of the manifold wisdom of God in this area, as in all others (Eph. 3:10).
“Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (II Cor. 9:15).
Paul closes this passage on giving by reminding us once again of the One who gave Himself for us on Calvary. While the Macedonian gift was nearly unspeakable when one considers their deep poverty, no one would have ever dared to speak and ask God the Father to give His Son for our sins, making it a truly unspeakable gift!
We close by encouraging the reader to seriously consider becoming a regular supporter of ministries that preach the gospel of the grace of God and teach God’s Word, rightly divided. The sand is swiftly passing through the hourglass of time, and the moments remaining in the dispensation of the grace of God are quickly running out. The moment we hear the trump, it will be eternally too late to give sacrificially to the Lord’s work. And so we would encourage you now to give what you cannot keep (I Tim. 6:7) in order that you might gain that which you cannot lose, eternal rewards with Him.