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2 Corinthians 9:1-15 – On Cheerful Giving

Summary

Paul urges the Corinthians to participate generously in the collection.

Analysis

Chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians are entirely concerned with the collection for the churches in Jerusalem. The repetition within the chapters, as well as some occasions of near-contradiction, lead some readers to believe that multiple letters have been combined at this point. Whether or not this is the case, 2 Corinthians 9 is an encouragement toward generous giving. "The ministry to the saints" (2 Corinthians 9:1) refers to the collection itself.

In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul had used the Macedonian churches' generosity as a way to stir the Corinthians to greater generosity. In 2 Corinthians 9:2-3, Paul says that it is his boastful report of Corinthian generosity that has stirred the zeal of the Macedonians, and now the Corinthians need to be true to that report. The rhetoric here is based in the honor/shame culture of Greco-Roman antiquity. Paul says that he does not want the Corinthians or himself to suffer humiliation. People expect generosity from them. If they do not deliver, they may be seen as selfish or unfeeling in the face of others' need.

In the midst of this cajoling section of the letter, Paul returns twice to the theme that the Corinthians' participation in the collection should be voluntary and not feel to them like extortion. "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7), Paul observes. No one-not even Paul himself-should coerce someone into generosity. Finally, as Paul reflects theologically on the request he is making, he tells the Corinthians that God will provide the means for the Corinthians' generosity. Echoing Isaiah 55:10, Paul reminds his readers, "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (2 Corinthians 9:10).

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

The Collection for Christians at Jerusalem

9Now it is not necessary for me to write to you about the ministry to the saints, 2for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you may not prove to have been empty in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; 4otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—in this undertaking.* 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion.

6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9As it is written,
‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
   his righteousness* endures for ever.’
10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.* 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

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10 February 2011

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