2 Corinthians 9:1-15 – On Cheerful Giving
SummaryPaul urges the Corinthians to participate generously in the collection.
AnalysisChapters 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).