2 Corinthians 8
Time to give, and give generously
Poor Christians with generous hearts1We want you to know something, dear family. We want to tell you about the kindness God has shown to the churches of Macedonia. 2These are incredibly poor people, suffering through some intense persecution. Yet they’re bursting with joy, which shows because they’re rich in generosity. 3These people gave what they could afford, and then some. I can personally vouch for that. It was their idea. 4They wanted to support this ministry of helping God’s devoted people. They wanted it so much that they begged us to let them help.
5They caught us off guard in the way they did this. First, they gave themselves to the Lord in complete devotion. Then they gave themselves to us. God wanted them to do this.
Titus is coming to collect your offering6Titus is the one who started collecting money for this act of kindness. I’m sending him to you to help him finish this work. 7You folks are triple-A excellent in everything. It shows in your faith, words, insight, and enthusiasm. It shows, too, in the love we instilled in you.
8Listen, I’m not ordering you to do this. But I want you to know this is an opportunity for you to show that your love is real, and to compare it with the love other churches are eagerly showing. 9You know the story of the great kindness of our leader, Jesus, the Messiah. He was rich. But he gave it all up and became poor. He did that for you. It was his poverty that allows you to become rich. 10Okay, I’m going to give you my opinion. I think it would be a good idea for you to help with this offering. Last year, you were the first ones who said you wanted to do this—and you were the first ones to actually start doing it.
11So go ahead and do it. You said you wanted to. Here’s your chance to prove it by giving whatever you’re able to give. 12If you still want to help with this offering, give what you can. Pick an amount based on what you have, not on what you wish you had. Whatever you give will be acceptable. 13We want you to help others. But we don’t want you to go so far that you hurt yourself in the process. We’re just trying to level the scales by asking you to share. 14For now, you have more than you need and you should use that extra to help these people. Later, they can return the favor, when they have extra and you need help. Sharing is a good thing. 15Our Bible puts it this way,
The person who got a lot
didn’t have anything extra.
The person who didn’t get much
didn’t need any more than he got.
Titus is on his way to you16I thank God he gave Titus the same excitement about you folks that I have. 17Titus not only accepted our request to visit you. He was so eager to go that he’s already gone. He’s on his way. 18We’re sending a colleague with Titus. That colleague is a dear brother who’s respected in all of the churches because of the work he does in spreading the good news. 19The churches have appointed him as our traveling companion as we eagerly carry out this mission of kindness, in honor of the Lord.
20We’re being careful not to give anyone reason to criticize how we’re handling this generous gift. 21We want to do this in a way that the Lord would consider honorable. We want everyone else to consider it honorable, too. 22We’re sending with them another dear brother. He has proven himself many times over to be an enthusiastic servant. I’d like you to know that he is more excited than ever because of the confidence he has in you folks.
Show these men a warm welcome23Titus is my colleague and partner in ministry, devoted to you. As for the brothers, they are apostles appointed by the churches. Their job is to honor the Messiah. 24So here’s what I want you to do. In front of the entire church, show these men that you love them and that we had good reason to brag about you.
Macedonia was a Roman province in what is now northern Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia, was about 300 miles (480 km) north of Corinth, by land, and about 400 miles (645 km) mainly by sea. The trip by land, at 20 miles a day, may have taken around 15 days. By sea, sailing at about 4-5 knots, it could have taken about four days.
Paul was collecting an offering to take back to church leaders in Jerusalem, so they could distribute the money among the poor. A drought may have prompted this because on at least one occasion Christians decided to “collect a drought-relief offering for their fellow believers in Judea. Everyone sent whatever they could” (Acts 11:29).
A more literal translation, “in proportion to what you have, not in proportion to what you don’t have.” Some Bible experts say Paul was trying to tell the Corinthians that they didn’t have to hit an over-the-top number like the churches in Macedonia did. Instead, they should give what they could afford.
Paul was referring to Exodus 16:18, and the famous story of God providing manna for Moses and the Jews as they traveled out of slavery in Egypt, heading back to what became the Jewish homeland of Israel. The people who picked up extra manna to hoard it found out that it quickly filled up with maggots and started to stink.
Paul doesn’t identify who the person was. Acts reports the names of three men from the Macedonian city of Thessalonica who traveled back to Jerusalem with Paul. They took with them the regional church’s donation for the poor: “Sopater, the son of Pyrrhus from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus, both from Thessalonica” (Acts 20:4).
Paul does not identify this person.
Apostle means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples hand-picked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus and to Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while Paul was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5). Later, the role expanded to include men and women appointed by the churches as their top leaders.
Paul has just spent much of this letter defending himself as a legit apostle, in part, apparently trying to put down the criticism that he’s in the ministry to make a shekel. “Folks, we’re not like other ministers who are selling the words of God. We’re the opposite. We give you the Messiah’s message” (2:17). So what does he do now? He takes an offering. And he begins his pitch by bragging about what a great offering people in the poor northland region of Macedonia gave (8:1). What do you think this says about Paul?
What do you think about Paul using the generous donation from churches in the poor region of Macedonia, in what is now northern Greece, to put pressure on Christians in Corinth to give more than they might otherwise have given? “These are incredibly poor people…Yet they’re bursting with joy, which shows because they’re rich in generosity” (8:2). How is that style of “hard sell” not manipulation?
What do you think Paul was trying to say when he quoted the short lines from the story of God providing manna to Jews during the Exodus out of Egypt (8:15)?
LIFE APPLICATION. One of the main complaints people outside the church have about going to church is that there is always a plea for money. It certainly takes donations to keep the church running. What are some of the best approaches you have seen to raising money in the church?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said he was surprised by the way in which the people of Macedonia approached their contribution to the offering he was collecting. “They caught us off guard in the way they did this. First, they gave themselves to the Lord in complete devotion. Then they gave themselves to us” (8:5). Is that approach relevant today? Or do you think that was more relevant to Paul’s day, since he was an apostle who was just getting the church started—and since it’s tough for people today to devote themselves to a local church minister?
LIFE APPLICATION. If you have given money to support the ministry of the church in some way, whether it’s a local church or the church in general, when did your contribution give you the greatest sense of accomplishment, or perhaps of approval from God?
LIFE APPLICATION. Instead of asking the Christians in Corinth to give 10 percent of their income, Paul offered another formula. “Pick an amount based on what you have, not on what you wish you had. Whatever you give will be acceptable” (8:12). Would a pitch like that raise enough money for the building project in any church today?