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2 Corinthians 8:1-15 – Encouragement to Give

Summary

Paul encourages the predominately Gentile Christians in Corinth to give generously to an offering being collected for the predominately Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem.

Analysis

In Galatians, Paul describes what happened when he, Barnabas, and Titus met with the Jewish Christian church leaders to discuss Paul's mission to Gentiles. He says, "They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do" (Galatians 2:10). Part of the way in which Paul demonstrated unity between his mission to Gentiles in Asia Minor and the mostly Jewish Christian church in and around Jerusalem was by collecting funds to take to the poorer Jerusalem church. Second Corinthians 8 is concerned with that collection and the Corinthians' participation in it.

Paul first reports the sacrificial giving of churches in Macedonia. Macedonia includes such cities as Philippi and Thessalonica. His rhetoric of comparison may inspire an eagerness on the part of the Corinthians not to be outdone by the Macedonian churches. Paul then reviews the Corinthians' recent history with respect to the collection recalling that the year before, under the direction of Titus, the Corinthian churches had begun their own collection of funds for the Jerusalem churches. We do not know when the super-apostles, as Paul refers to them, arrived in Corinth. It may be that Paul hearkens back to the previous year as a way of reminding the Corinthians how they were behaving before they came to have doubts about Paul's ministry and character.

For two reasons, we know that Paul is not talking about an offering from the Corinthians that will be used to offset his own expenses or to pay him for services as an apostle. First, in 2 Corinthians 8:19, Paul talks about Titus as a traveling companion who will help him deliver the generous gift from the churches Paul has planted. Secondly, in 2 Corinthians 11:7-9, Paul makes it clear that he refused to take money from the Corinthians for his work among them. In this way, he differentiates himself from the apostles who came after him, saying "And what I do I will also continue to do, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals in what they boast about" (2 Corinthians 11:12).

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Encouragement to Be Generous

8We want you to know, brothers and sisters,* about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege* of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking* among you. 7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you*—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.*

8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act* of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written,
‘The one who had much did not have too much,
   and the one who had little did not have too little.’

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10 February 2011

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