“For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 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 many. 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. 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. But this I say, He which roweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 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: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth forever. 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;) being enriched in everything 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; 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. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 9).
In this chapter the Spirit of God brings before us in a very impressive manner our responsibility, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, to give of our means both for the support of the Lord’s work and in order to meet the necessities of Christians who are in distressing circumstances.
It was given to our Lord Jesus to enjoy in a way peculiarly rich and full the happiness of giving. He through whom all things came into being, and for whom they all exist, came into this lower part of His creation, not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. The apostle Paul, in addressing the Ephesian elders, calls upon them to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This naturally raises the question, When, and under what circumstances did He so speak? And at first perhaps one is surprised to find that the four Gospels will be searched in vain to locate any such expression. In other words, the inspired records of the life and sayings of our blessed Lord do not tell us that He used these words on any occasion. And yet the apostle quotes them as though they were well known, as undoubtedly they were, and had frequently been used by the Saviour in the days of His flesh. In fact the tense of the original suggests frequent repetition, and we might render the passage as follows: “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He was wont to say, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That is, it was customary with Him to so speak. He used the words so frequently that His inspired biographers did not even find it necessary to quote them, but wherever His disciples went—those who had known Him on earth—they carried with them this little bit of personal recollection; and so the story went everywhere in the early Church, that it was a frequent thing for the Lord to use the words Paul referred to.
What light this throws upon His character, and how it emphasizes the deep-toned joy He found in imparting good to others. “More blessed” is really “happier;” so that we are justified in reading, “It is happier to give than to receive.” He never gave grudgingly. To Him it was a joy to share with those in need. He delighted in communicating the riches of His grace to poverty- stricken, bankrupt souls. Doubtless, often as He fed the multitudes, healed the sick, or ministered in some other way to human need, He would turn to the disciples nearest Him and say quietly and with a sense of deep satisfaction, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The Holy Spirit would have us take His example and His words to heart. We are naturally so self-centered that we are inclined to believe the greatest happiness is found in receiving rather than in giving. We all enjoy receiving gifts. We delight in receiving praise, love and adulation. We sometimes imagine that if everything that our hearts crave could be poured out upon us, we would be supremely happy. But this is a total mistake. The happiest people in the world are those who give most unselfishly; and herein lies the challenge to Christians everywhere to whom God has entrusted the means of furthering Hi» interests in the world by financial gifts. Those who go forth for the name’s sake of the Lord Jesus, leaving home and loved ones, leaving too all opportunity of earning a livelihood and accumulating wealth, should be in a very special way objects of interest to those who would enjoy the blessedness of which the Lord Jesus speaks. In the Third Epistle of John, we note the commendation of the aged apostle to the Elder Gaius. He writes, “Beloved, thou doest faithfully what- soever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: because that for His name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth” (3 John 5-8). “Undoubtedly the reference was primarily to travelling preachers of the gospel, those whom we call missionaries. Unable to provide for themselves, they were cast entirely upon the Lord, and He on His part met their needs through the gracious gifts of faithful Christians in the home churches, who found real joy in this delightful fellowship. Shall we not ask ourselves to what extent we have entered into the mind of Christ in regard to this gracious ministry? Are we too experiencing the joy that comes through giving as enabled by God, in order that His servants may be maintained in the path of usefulness in lands far away where they know little of Christian fellowship, but often experience much in the way of testing and hardship? We need never fear that as we open our hearts and purses to them, we ourselves will be permitted to suffer, for we can be certain that God will be no man’s debtor.
“It never was loving that emptied a heart,
Or giving that emptied a purse.”
And we may recall John Bunyan’s lines in the immortal allegory:
“A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had.”
For after all, this is but to say in another manner what God Himself has already told us in His own Holy Word, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.”
With these thoughts in mind, let us notice how earnestly the apostle Paul stresses the importance of this ministry of giving. He says in verses 1, 2: “For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 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.” You see, a year before they had pledged themselves to give for this fund that Paul was raising, and now he is asking them to fulfil the pledges. “Yet I have 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.” You get the point; do you not? He had gone through the churches of Macedonia urging them to have part in this bounty they were raising for the poor saints in Palestine, and he told them that those in Corinth had already pledged themselves to do something generous, but there had been no cash money, and so he was coming through their district on his way to Jerusalem and he did not want them to make him ashamed. He did not wish to urge and beg them to fulfil their promise, but he desired to show the Macedonian brethren how prompt they were to pay. “Therefore,” he says, “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.” That last expression appears to be a little difficult. The word for “covetousness” might just as truly be translated “extortion.” He would have the visiting brethren gather up this sum when they reached Corinth, so that it might not seem as if he had to come to them as a tax-collector, trying to force them to give what they had already promised. He wanted it to be glad, joyous giving, the kind that would glorify the Lord.
“He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” And so he uses a common truism to illustrate a great spiritual reality. Think of a farmer so foolish, as he goes forth to sow his wheat, as to say, “It is too bad to sow so much to an acre; I think I can get a fair crop by sowing less.” Such conduct would be absurd. So it is with us. If we want God’s blessing on our work, if we want Him to visit us with power and to be generous with us, we must care for the needs of others. There is an old proverb that has been used so long that it is shiny at the knees and frayed at the edges. It is this: “Charity begins at home.” People say you must think of home first, and then if you have anything left, give to others or to foreign missions. Giving to missions is not charity. It is not almsgiving when I contribute of my means in order to carry the gospel to a dying world. It is for this purpose God has left us here in this scene. We make a great mistake in talking about home missions and foreign missions. This world is a foreign land to which our blessed Lord came, and from over yonder He sends us forth to go to all nations to carry this gospel to the very ends of the earth. We want to multiply our efforts a thousand-fold by backing up those who go into the regions beyond. Paul, of course, was referring specially to caring for the poor, but the same principle applies to both.
Now notice the state of the heart that God takes into account when it comes to giving. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart.” Someone says he does not believe in making a pledge. What is a pledge? It is the expression of the purpose of your heart. The apostle says, writing by the Spirit of God, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give.” Purpose in your heart, then give; “not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.” You say, “Well, I presume they will think it strange if I do not give anything. So I suppose I had better give a little.” Do not give so—“Not grudgingly.” He does not want one penny from you if you had rather keep it yourself. God does not want your money if you give it grudgingly or of necessity. “Well,” you say, “I think I ought to give. I suppose God holds me responsible and I will have to give.” No, no; “not of necessity.” God gave freely, gladly. And He does not want anything from you unless you also give willingly and gladly; unless you are thankful to be able to give. “For God loveth a cheerful giver.” The word in the Greek is hilaron, and may be translated “hilarious.” God loves a hilarious giver. Not a giver who says, “Dear me, they are always needing money.” but one who says, “What is that? Another opportunity to give to missions! Another chance to help the needy! Well, bless the Lord! What can I give? Yes, I think I can double that.” That is a hilarious giver, a cheerful giver.
And the Lord will never be your debtor if you give like 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.” You see, you take the right attitude toward God and His Word, and He will take a wonderfully benevolent attitude toward you. Then Paul quotes from Psalm 112, “He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth forever.” In that psalm God is depicting the typically righteous man. One characteristic is, he is»interested in other people. He disperses abroad. He gives to the poor. Righteousness, you know, means consistency with the relationship in which we stand. Now, how can we act consistently if we are neglectful of our attitude toward those in distress and toward the servants of Christ?
“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.” God knows you need these things and He will look after you. Righteousness and liberality go together. “Being enriched in everything 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.” It begins with God and ends with God. God is able to make all grace abound toward you as you give of your substance to Him. You give to sustain His servants in distant fields. They are blessed and return thanks to God, and that blessing comes back to you. All the rivers run into the sea; the moisture is caught up from the sea into the clouds; the water comes down on the land from the clouds, and the rivers carry it to the sea again, and so there is a never-failing circle of blessing.
“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.” Notice, it is “your professed subjection unto the gospel.” It is one thing to say we believe the gospel, but if we say we believe it is the only way for sinful men to come to God, surely we will try to get the gospel out to men.
“And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift.” This Gift is Christ Himself, and He is absolutely beyond all our powers to properly appreciate.