Dear church,

Paul seemed to have been doing a little pre-emptive work to save face – both for him and the Corinthian church. He had been bragging to the Macedonian Christians about the church in Corinth.

He had told the Macedonians that the Corinthians had pledged to make a contribution – perhaps a sizable one – to the collection for the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. His bragging, in fact, had gotten the Macedonians “stirred up” to make their own contribution. In Chapter 8, he said the Macedonians gave even beyond their means.

Paul wanted to make sure the Corinthians lived up to his boasting about them. So he was sending Titus and some of the other leaders to get things ready. Paul didn’t want to be “humiliated” if some Macedonian Christians were to show up in Corinth and find the church there unprepared to make its contribution. It would be even more humiliating for the Corinthian Christians.

So Paul told them this. He was a very straight-forward apostle, as I’m sure you have noticed. Everything was in the open with him. There were no secrets. “Get ready,” he said. “It won’t look good for either of us if you don’t give as you have promised to give.”

But even more, Paul wanted the church to give willingly. He was putting plenty of pressure on the church, for sure. He was using every bit of rhetorical means he could to convince the Corinthian church to do its part for the global church. But at the same time, he wanted them to give because they wanted to give.

“God loves a cheerful giver.” And then Paul talked about God’s grace “abounding” to the Corinthians. Again, God’s grace is not just a thing that we receive. It is something that also moves believers to live out God’s ways in this fallen world.

God’s grace would abound, and the Corinthian church would have everything that it needed – everything it needed to keep on being generous.

Paul quoted Psalm 112, which is about what it’s like to be a person “who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments” (Psalm 112:1). That person, the psalmist wrote, has an abundance. And that person shares abundantly. “He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:9).

Paul seemed to be saying God blesses his children in order that they may turn and bless others. The “seed” we’re given is for sowing.

Health-and-wealth teachers will falsely say God will make us rich if we give to the church. No, God will give us an abundance so that we can continue to give beyond our means, so that we can continue to shed what we have so that others can have what they need. I don’t think Paul’s idea of being “enriched in every way” went so far as having our own mansions and yachts and fancy cars. God may indeed do that. But that’s not the point. The point is that we give cheerfully out of what he’s given us. We recognize it all is a gift, and we don’t grasp the gift for ourselves. We give it out.

How generous are we willing to be?

The result of all of this is people giving thanks to God. God gives grace to the giver, and the receiver understands it all comes from God. At the end of the day, this generosity results in worship.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” That gift is Christ.

Chris

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