2 Corinthians 9
Paul’s fundraising letter—big push
Paul: Don’t embarrass me and yourselves1 I know I don’t need to bother writing you about this mission work of helping our fellow believers. 2 I know you’re ready to help. I’ve been bragging about it to churches in Macedonia. I’ve told them that the believers in Achaia have been ready for this since last year. Your enthusiasm is contagious; they caught it. 3 It’s time now for me to send these brothers to you. That will give you a chance to show everyone the bragging we’ve done about you isn’t just hot air. I know you’ll be ready, just as I said you would be. 4 If you’re not ready, and some Macedonians happen to join us when we visit you, we’ll be pretty doggone embarrassed. So will you.
Give like you want to do it5 That’s why I’m sending these dear colleagues ahead of me. It’s just a precaution, but I think it’s necessary. I want them to help you collect the generous contribution you promised to make. This way, your generous gift will be ready and waiting for me when I get there—and it won’t be something you’ll grudgingly collect afterward.
Give a lot and you’ll get a lot6 Listen, skimp on the seeds at planting time, and you’ll feel the skimp at harvest time. Throw the seeds generously, and you’ll get a generous harvest. 7 Each one of you needs to follow your heart and give what it tells you. Don’t hesitate. Don’t feel pressured. God loves it when you give happily. 8 God is kind, and absolutely able to give you everything you need—all the time and in every situation. He can help you take care of yourself and others who are depending on you. 9 Remember what the Bible says,
“God’s people generously give to the poor.
Their goodness will live on as a never-ending legacy.”
Your gift will spark a celebration of God11 Because of your generosity, your lives are going to be enriched in every way you can imagine. Once we deliver your gift, people will thank God for what you have done. 12 So, you’re doing more than helping the believers who’ll get your gift. You’re sparking a celebration—crowded with people thanking God. 13 These people are going to love what you’ve done. Not just that. They’re going to sing the praises of God. They’ll do this because you did what the good news of the Messiah says we should do. You proved your generosity to them and everyone. 14 Believe me, they’re going to pray for you. And when they do, those prayers will express the deep appreciation they have for you. This affection is because of the incredible kindness of God that they see in you. 15 As for me, all I can say is “Thank you, God.” I have run out of words to describe this gift of yours.
Paul is probably talking about the offering he’s collecting, apparently for Christians in Jerusalem, an offering he introduced in 2 Corinthians 8.
Macedonia was a region in what is now northern Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, which is just north of Greece.
Achaia was a Roman province in what is now southern Greece. Corinth and Athens were both in that province.
Paul often quoted the ancient Greek edition of the Jewish Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. He did that partly because Greek was the international language of the day. The Greek edition added to Proverbs 22:8 a piece of advice that apparently didn’t show up in the original manuscripts, written in Hebrew: “God blesses those who give cheerfully.”
Most of us have received fundraising letters from different charitable ministries. As you read this short chapter of 2 Corinthians 9, what do you see in here that looks like other fundraising letters you’ve read?
When Paul threatened the Corinthians by saying if they didn’t have a generous offering they might be embarrassed if Christians from Macedonia came with Paul to collect the money (9:4), Paul may have been tapping into some natural rivalry. It’s the kind of rivalry we see when regional sports teams meet. Michigan and Ohio, for example. How you react to Paul using this approach?
Paul tells the Christians in Corinth they should follow their hearts and “give what it tells you. Don’t hesitate. Don’t feel pressured. God loves it when you give happily” (9:7). If he tells them not to feel pressured why do you think he pressures them with the threat of being embarrassed if they don’t donate to the cause (9:4)?
LIFE APPLICATION. Let’s say a denominational church leader came up with a good cause for taking an offering among many churches throughout a region. And let’s say the leader used the approach Paul describes in this letter. How do you think the churches would react?
LIFE APPLICATION. Do you think Paul’s fund-raising letter to Christians in Corinth is a good model to follow, since it’s in the Bible? In other words, if God hadn’t approved of Paul’s approach, do you think he would have kept it out of the Bible?
LIFE APPLICATION. One criticism that students of the Bible might have about Paul’s fund-raising letter is that essentially, he told people to give cheerfully, whether they want to or not (9:7). As in, “God loves a cheerful giver, so be a cheerful giver.” It’s as though Paul thinks it works to command someone to be cheerful. But sometimes it’s tough to part with money. What do you think we should do if someone pressures us to donate money to a good cause, and we don’t feel happy about it?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul finishes up the fund-raising section of 2 Corinthians by saying there are no words to express the gratitude he feels to the people of Corinth for the donation he expects them to make: “I have run out of words to describe this gift of yours” (9:15). When have you received the gift like that, or when have you seen someone this happy to receive help?