2 Corinthians 8:1–9 comment (0)
March 13, 2014
By Catherine Lawrence
Related Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1–9
Bible Studies for Life
Department of Religion, Samford University
What We Work For
2 Corinthians 8:1–9
The last two weeks’ lessons suggest to Christians that every aspect of our work belongs to God. Work itself is a gift from God, and Christians should seek to please God in the way we perform that work. This week we consider our income. What should Christians do with the money we earn from our work? Of course we have a responsibility to provide for the needs of our families. But what happens with the “extra”? Saving money is wise, but do we also prioritize giving? In his second letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul encourages believers to participate in the grace of giving generously to meet the needs of others. Through such generous giving, Christians support the work of God’s kingdom.
Mid-first-century Christians in Judea suffered under the effects of a severe famine that occurred during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius (A.D. 41–54) (Acts 11:28). Among the first to respond to this crisis were the believers at Antioch, who sent relief to their brothers and sisters in Judea by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11:29–30). Paul later recounts that James, Peter and John, the leaders of the Jerusalem church, further asked him to remember the poor as he carried out his mission to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:9–10). In response, Paul organized a collection among the churches he founded on his missionary journeys, which included the church at Corinth. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian believers he instructed them to set aside their extra earnings each week for the collection. This money later would be sent to Jerusalem for the benefit of the poverty-stricken believers there (1 Cor. 16:1–4). In 2 Corinthians 8:1–9:15, Paul again addressed the matter of the collection, only now he sought to encourage the Corinthians to finish the giving they so eagerly had begun the year before (2 Cor. 8:10–11). To spur on the Corinthian believers, the apostle noted the churches in the province of Macedonia had set a worthy example of generously giving to meet others’ needs.
Paul spoke of the Macedonian churches as having been the recipients of God’s grace. Evidence of this grace lay in these churches’ giving generously to the collection despite being in difficult circumstances of their own. The passage references “a severe ordeal of affliction,” which may refer to the churches having to weather hostility from those opposed to the gospel. The same verse also mentions the Macedonian churches’ “extreme poverty.” Yet out of their extreme poverty flowed a wealth of generosity. Such generous giving in such trying circumstances surely arose from hearts filled with abundant joy at having received the grace of God.
God’s grace granted to the Macedonian churches overflowed in their generous giving to the needs of others. They gave voluntarily, and they gave above and beyond any reasonable expectation of what they could afford to give. The overwhelming generosity of the Macedonian churches stemmed from their earnest desire to participate in this collective ministry to the believers in Jerusalem. Indeed they considered the opportunity to be a privilege. The generosity of the Macedonian churches apparently prompted Paul to urge Titus to help the Corinthian church finish the collection it had started. Paul also expressed his desire that the Corinthians excel in giving generously to meet others’ needs.
Were the Corinthians to excel in their giving, their generosity would demonstrate the genuineness of the Corinthians’ love, just as the Macedonians’ generosity had demonstrated theirs. Paul thus reminded the Corinthian believers that love is generous. There is no greater example of generosity than Christ Himself, who, “though He was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” In this, God demonstrated His love. The Lord’s generous love calls forth a response from His followers. Out of the rich and abundant grace we have received, we give.