God Loves a Cheerful Giver
2 Corinthians 8:16–9:15 – 2 Corinthians: A Testimony to Suffering in the Power of God
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – August 4, 2019 (am)
This morning I want to tell you in advance what is the desired outcome from our time in the Word today. Our call: enter into joyful giving—for Kingdom work, for the spread of the gospel, for the well-being of the church—recognizing that there is no downside and an incalculable upside. Enter into joyful giving…. It’s a no-lose investment!
In 2Co.8-9 Paul is speaking to the repentant majority in Corinth about an offering he’s receiving from Gentile churches to assist the… Jewish believers (in) Judea who had been hit hard by… famine (Kruse NBC 1199) or some other like hardship. The churches of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea [Hafemann 331]) had already given sacrificially: beyond their means, of their own accord (8:3), begging… earnestly for the favor of taking part (8:4). And they didn’t do this just to please Paul. They did it in response to God’s grace in their lives. They were enabled by Him. They gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us, Paul wrote (8:5). 89 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And the Macedonians had surely been made rich—not financially, but rich in grace (cf. 9:8), 8:2 for even in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy [eclipsed] their extreme poverty [and] overflowed in a wealth of generosity…. 3 For they still gave…, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging… for the favor of [doing so]…! That was last week.
But in this week’s text Paul turns his attention to the mechanics and motivation for the collection in Corinth. Essentially, he wants them to know that the money itself will be meticulously cared for (8:16-24). Then he assures them that the collection won’t catch them by surprise. No one likes that. He’ll send an advance team so that they’re fully ready to give (9:1-5). Then he stirs their hearts with some encouraging words about the motivation and reward of gospel giving, of Holy Spirit-empowered generosity (9:6-15). Let’s explore this text under three headings.
Ensuring Financial Accountability – 8:16-24
Titus has already had an effective ministry in Corinth, though it appears he may have only been introduced to them recently (cf. 7:13-14). And here (16-17), Paul gives thanks to God that Titus, his partner and fellow worker (23), was not only willing to return to Corinth at Paul’s request to facilitate the offering, but Titus himself actually wanted to go there again (17).
A certain brother who [was] famous for his preaching of the gospel (18) was sent along with him. We don’t know who he was, but the Corinthians surely did! And this same man will also travel with Paul and his entourage all the way to Jerusalem to deliver the offering (19). Paul says: 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, so that no one can accuse of us mishandling it for our own good in any way. And that’s an important safeguard, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.
And along with them Paul is sending another brother (22) who is well-established in trusting relationship with the Corinthians.
So, the integrity and security of the collection are both well-guarded. But also, twice Paul has referred to this offering as being (ad)ministered by us (19, 20). This is the same wording he used to describe his new covenant ministry of the Spirit (3:3) (Hafemann 361); the Corinthians were a letter from Christ delivered by us. So, this act of grace (18) is an expression of Paul’s apostolic ministry comparable to his delivery of the gospel itself! This offering is being pursued for the glory of the Lord himself, and to show our good will (18). So, do us proud, Paul is saying! 24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.
Establishing a Clear Process – 9:1-5
This group was actually an advance team (5). They were being sent to Corinth ahead of Paul’s arrival to button things down, to finish final preparations. And the whole aim was for this offering to be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction (5). Paul knew they’d been ready for at least a year (2; cf. 8:10), but they’d been interrupted by the trouble now addressed. So, they should be ready to go with a minimal amount of help.
But what’s interesting here is that, just as he’s used the people of Macedonia to encourage the Corinthians to give (8:1), evidently he also used the Corinthians’ story to encourage the Macedonians: 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. Paul is serious about this collection! And shepherding!
Encouraging Generous Participation – 9:6-15
Now we want to spend the bulk of our time on this final section. Paul completed his description of the process by assuring them that he wanted their gift to be characterized by generosity and joy (Hafemann 365) because those are the unmistakable marks of giving that is responsive to and enabled by the grace of God. Then he told them how to do it.
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion. There’s the secret! Let God move in each heart. Yes, there is a community aspect to this; we’ve seen that in how Paul encouraged each church with the corporate experience of the other.
But then Paul tells each one individually to engage with God personally to decide whether and how much to give. Each then gives freely (7), not [unhappily, with regret or sadness (L-N)], not [out of a sense of obligation (L-N)], but joyfully, happily (L-N), for God loves a cheerful giver. He loves it when His people give as freely and [generously] as He does. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work, including giving.
It is the righteous man and [woman] who are enabled to give in the way that pleases God. They distribute their wealth freely, even to the poor, as one clear manifestation that their righteousness endures forever (9), just like the righteousness of the God Who grants it. Paul is quoting from Psa.112 here (9), a psalm that praises God for the blessedness of [those] who [fear] the Lord (1), right on the heels of Psa.111 that praises God for His many mighty works. These are companion, acrostic psalms. So, one of the mighty works of the Lord is to provide for those who fear and serve Him. And as part of that, He enables their generosity, their joyful giving.
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing—the sowing that, when done bountifully, will produce a (bountiful) harvest (cf. 6), but not the sort we may expect. It’s not the harvest that prosperity preachers often twist this passage suggest—he… will… increase the harvest of your righteousness. He’ll strengthen your sanctification. He’ll make you more like Himself, more generous. He may even give you more to give! 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us, as they deliver this offering, will produce thanksgiving to God. In fact, 12 (their gift will) not only (supply) the needs of the (church) in Judea, but (will) also (overflow) in many thanksgivings to God.
What Paul is saying here over the next few verses is, first, that this generous and joyful gift from the Corinthians will produce thanksgiving in their Judean churches because it meets their needs (12), but they’ll also glorify God because of the gospel confession and submission to God in the Corinthians and Macedonians that shine forth in their generosity (13). Their contribution to this offering and others gives such undeniable evidence of the surpassing grace of God upon them (14) that the Judeans will be left just piling one expression of thanksgiving on top of another! (12) And all of it is really saying just one thing: 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! Only God’s gift in Christ applied to human hearts can bring about the quality of generosity we’re seeing here! The Corinthians’ thankful giving left the Judeans giving thanks, thus generating thanksgiving upon thanksgiving!
So, where does this leave us? It leaves us right where we started today. It leaves us at the threshold of the charge we mentioned at the start. Enter into joyful giving, recognizing that there is no downside and an incalculable upside. It leaves us pondering the point of this text (9:6). 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
It leaves us reflecting the numerous implicit and explicit statements throughout Scripture that tell us or show us or remind us or challenge us to note how pleased God is with cheerful giving, with a gracious and generous response to the grace we receive in Him, and the trust of which He has proven Himself worthy in our lives time and time again!
Psa.112 (quoted here ) presents several ways in which righteous people—whose righteousness is displayed in no small part by their heart to [give] freely… to the poor (9)—are blessed and strengthened by God and enjoy His favor. Just one of those ways: 7 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
Jesus tells us that our giving will ignite our affections. He said (Mat.6:21): where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Think about that: our affections follow our giving, not vice versa. Where we invest, our hearts will engage. Why else would parents enjoy watching preschoolers chase a soccer ball all over the field in a tightly packed group way more than they enjoy watching our women’s national team win the World Cup again?
So, think about it: are you dissatisfied with the fervor of your love for the Lord, His church, the spread of His Kingdom? Do you wish you could share the gospel more naturally, freely, consistently? If so, perhaps you should consider that giving more to such ministries through the local church might actually strengthen your love, deepen your devotion.
Another: Paul reported Jesus as saying: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Act.20:35). When we see in 2Co.9 how many thanksgivings to God (12) are generated by generosity, we begin to understand how this is so, how it works.
As I mentioned last week, we seek to hold giving with a very open hand here at GCD. We know it’s an act of corporate worship. It’s uniquely indicative of a heart transformed by gospel grace. Yet, we don’t pass offering plates during our service, for the needs of the Church or the needs of the poor, though we actively address both of these. Our founders made this choice as a conspicuous expression of trust in God to meet our needs. And He has done so throughout our thirty-five years as a body.
Our present Elders honor that choice because we don’t believe God has led us to change it. But we recognize that our decision risks allowing giving to slip off the spiritual radar of otherwise faithful believers. And we can also see from this passage that if we fail to press ourselves toward faithful giving as Paul presses the Corinthians here, we’re forfeiting a golden opportunity to cultivate strengthened faith among us. That is why our charge today is so direct, so straight-forward. We need to hear it! The strength of our faith and trust in God is tied to it. Any absence of blessing we may discern among us as a church could well be related to it. We need to enter into joyful giving with our whole heart, recognizing that there is no downside and an incalculable upside. On what other topic do we hear such a direct challenge from God as a precondition for his blessing than we hear through the OT prophet Malachi? 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. This is the same sort of reasoning we see is 2Co.8-9, Psa.111-112, and more, all enabled by God’s generous grace and displayed His inexpressible gift!
Let’s now come together to the Table of the Lord to give thanks to God once again for his inexpressible gift.