God’s Guide For Christian Giving
2 Corinthians 9
There are two lines in John Bunyan’s immortal allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which you may readily recall:
A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had.
We are naturally so self-centered that even as professing Christians we can be deluded into thinking that the greatest happiness in life is getting rather than giving. Such an erroneous idea, however, is immediately dashed to pieces by the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 20:35. In Acts 20 Dr. Luke recorded the Apostle Paul’s parting and final words to the Ephesian elders—one of the most touching scenes of Scripture—exhorting them “to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The verb for “said” is in the present tense, indicating that this was something continually, or customarily, spoken by Christ. What a revelation to us of His blessed character!
The happiest people in the world are those Christians who give joyously and generously to the Lord. If you do not believe this, then the challenge is set before you in God’s Word to try it and see for yourself.
Let’s proceed now to a careful and practical study of our sometimes touchy yet important subject as unfolded in 2 Corinthians 9, noting first of all
The Prudence Of Paul’s Approach (9:1-4)
When the saints were in need the Apostle Paul was the best beggar imaginable, and the tactful, courteous, prudent manner of his approach serves as a classic pattern for us all. He had already appealed to the example of Christ. (8:9); now he presses on them other points of persuasion.
He begins by telling the Corinthians that they did not need to be reminded of their responsibility to give of their material means, but just the same he did remind them (9:1)! In this instance, of course, the various offerings, including the one from the Corinthian believers, were to be used to help the poverty-stricken saints of Jerusalem and Judea. As A.C. Gaebelein has said: “Gentile believers were to show their appreciation for the blessing which they had received through the Jews, for salvation is of the Jews. We also see in this an illustration of the oneness of the body of Christ, how the members are to minister to earth other” (The Annotated Bible, III, p.181). Surely, Scripture passages like this should prick the social conscience of Christians in wealthy, luxury-laden America, for it appears evident in many ways that we as members of the evangelical community have not ministered as generously as we might to the needs of other believers whose standard of living would appall us if we really entered into their circumstances. Granted, much has been done, but probably very few would argue the point that much more could and should be done (cf. Galatians 6:10). It’s like the old saying, which may be applied to virtually every area of life, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.”
At any rate, Paul had praised the Macedonians to the Corinthians (8:15), and this, in regard to the former’s generous giving, for the Macedonians had given out of their own deep poverty and affliction. Now he tells the Corinthian saints that he had boasted of them to the Macedonians regarding their generous giving, and that those of Achaia had been ready with their collection a year before. In turn, the zeal of the Corinthian believers had inspired many others to give generously (9:2). Having, then, pledged themselves to help, Paul was afraid lest, after boasting of them, he should find them unprepared, and thus be ashamed of having spoken so confidently of them (9:3-4).
Some Christians may object to pledges, but do we not make a pledge to the landlord, the mortgager, the department store—anywhere that we buy on the installment plan? Is God’s work of so little importance that we cannot risk a pledge in support of it and His workers?
It was necessary, therefore, that the Corinthians be stirred to their responsibility in this matter, so the apostle pressed upon them
Some Principles Of Christian Giving (9:5-14)
A. It must be “a matter of bounty” and not of extortion (9:5, R.V.). Paul wanted to avoid any appearance of acting like a tax-collector to obtain what they had pledged. “…I should like it to be a spontaneous gift, and not money squeezed out of you by what I have said” (9:5, J.B.P.).
B. He that sows sparingly shall reap sparingly, and he that sows bountifully shall reap bountifully (9:6). This is a well-established principle which speaks for itself (see Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24-25).
C. God loves a “cheerful” (Gk. “hilarious”) giver (9:7).
Once upon a time a chicken and a pig were walking down a road. Coming to a church building they saw a sign on it which read: “Ham and Egg Breakfast Here - 8:00 to 10:00 A.M. - Proceeds to Missions.” Said the chicken to the pig, “Look! You and I are now in missions.” The pig complained, “Yes, we are both in missions, but with this difference—you only have to give a contribution, but I have to make a sacrifice!”
The Christian should give:
1. Cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7).
2. Secretly (Matthew 6:2-4).
3. Sacrificially (2 Samuel 24:24).
4. Freely (Matthew 10:8).
A church bulletin had an interesting article entitled, “Cirrhosis of the Giver,” which declared: “This disease was discovered in 34 A.D. by a husband and wife team, Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5). It is an acute nervous condition which renders the patient’s hands immobile when he is called upon to move them in the direction of the billfold or the purse, and thence to the offering plate. Remedy: The patient may be removed from the environs of the house of God on Sunday, since it is clinically observable that the condition does not occur on such surroundings as the golf club, supermarket, or restaurant. A more constructive remedy is to point out to the patient how many income tax deductions may be claimed by overcoming the malady. Of course, the best therapy and that which leads to a sure and lasting cure, is to get right with God, as this affliction is a symptom of a heart need.”
What a wonderful promise is found in verse 8 (note the occurrences of “all”)! God is the One who multiplies the seed and gives the blessing (9:9-10).
D. Giving is an evidence of righteousness (9:9). This verse is a quotation from Psalm 112:9. It must not be taken to mean that we are justified by our giving, nor by any other good work or works. It is here simply a reiteration from the Old Testament that one who truly “feareth the Lord” (Psalm 112:1) manifests the genuineness of his faith in God by such good works as his giving generously to the poor.
E. Their liberality caused thanksgiving to God (9:11-13). The generosity of the Lord’s people caused the recipients of their gifts to truly thank and praise God, and as a result God was glorified and the needs of fellow believers met. Also, such giving is a proof of genuine Christian profession (9:13).
F. It led the recipients to pray for the donors (9:14). J.B. Phillips translates this verse as follows: “And yet further, men will pray for you and feel drawn to you because you have obviously received a generous measure of the grace of God.” In other words, believers who are helped by the gifts of other believers are caused to pray for their benefactors. It is the one recompence—and generally the only one—that the beneficiaries can make on behalf of the donors, being a very precious and meaningful recompence at that. All who live off the gospel can attest to the truth of the principle set forth here.
As fitting now to capstone to the subject, we come now to
The Praise For God’s Unspeakable Gift (9:15)
Here, Paul concludes his exhortations on giving by thanking God for “His unspeakable Gift” (the word for “unspeakable” is similar to the Gk. words used in Romans 11:33 and Ephesians 3:8). In the King James translation the word “unspeakable” occurs three times in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 9:15; 12:4; 1 Peter 1:8), but the Greek word is different in each instance.
Bishop H.C.G. Moule has said that the words of this glorious text are both a challenge and a charge. They are a challenge to never forget God’s love (John 3:16), and a charge to give as He gave.
A Methodist labourer in John Wesley’s time by the name of Captain Webb, when informed of the salvation of someone, would ask, “Was his purse converted, too?”
By the sacrifice of his Person (Romans 12:1), Praise (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5), and Purse (Hebrews 13:16), the believer in Christ genuinely and acceptably worships God.