Joyful Thanks Living - Bible study
part 7 of 10
Giving from the Heart
2 Corinthians 8
“Corinth was one of Paul’s major mission posts. He spent one and a half years there on his second missionary journey.”
“Because Corinth was a center of commerce, many people from many different cultures and countries passed through it. Those who had the opportunity to hear the gospel while in Corinth could then take it with them to their homes. This was a key factor in the spread of the message of Christianity.”
“At the time of Paul, historians tell us that it was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire, with a population of 200,000 to 250,000.”
“It was to this prosperous, but idolatrous and immoral, city that Paul came with the gospel at the end of his second missionary journey (see Acts 18:1–18).” (People’s Bible pages 1-2)
A Special Offering
“Paul wrote chapters 8 and 9 in direct response to a specific situation in the congregation at Corinth: The offering to provide assistance to the poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem had begun well but then had started to flounder.”
“He wrote these chapters both to encourage the Corinthians to finish the offering (8:1–15) and to offer them assistance in bringing it to completion (8:16–9:5). To encourage them, Paul pointed to the example of the Macedonian believers as well as to the past performance of the Corinthians themselves.”
(People’s Bible page 159)
Jesus Became Poor for Us
“Above all, he directed their thoughts to Jesus, who became poor so they could become rich with the gifts of forgiveness, new spiritual life, and the assurance of an eternal salvation.”
(People’s Bible page 159)
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV 1984)
1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
Giving Beyond One’s Ability
“Paul had done mission work in three cities in Macedonia: Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (see Acts 16:11–17:14).”
“First, the believers in the churches in Macedonia had given not just as much as they could but even more than that. The poor widow and her mite come to mind. With the widow, the Macedonians too had been what some might term reckless in their giving. They had given more than some people might have considered to be wise and prudent.”
(People’s Bible pages 131, 133)
Desire to Give
“Second, no one had pressured them into giving. They had decided “entirely on their own” to be so overwhelmingly generous in their offering. They had, in fact, begged, “urgently pleaded,” Paul says, to be included in the offering. How many churches today, how many individual Christians, fit into the category of those whose longing to give an offering is so great that they won’t take no for an answer?” (People’s Bible page 133)
“The Macedonians considered it a privilege, a gift of God’s grace, that they could be part of this offering. Paul calls the offering a ‘sharing in … service to the saints.’ The word translated ‘sharing’ is the same word that elsewhere is translated ‘fellowship.’ It has in it the idea of a oneness, a unity, a having things in common. The Christians in Macedonia were expressing their fellowship, their unity in Christ, with the Christians in Jerusalem through this offering.” (People’s Bible page 134)
“In a few months, Paul would be writing a letter to the church at Rome. In that letter, after reviewing for the Christians at Rome God’s marvelous plan of salvation, Paul says by way of application, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God’ (12:1). That is precisely what the Christians in Macedonia had done. They had offered back their whole selves to the Lord who had offered his Son into death for them. Along with this offering of self had come the offering of their treasures.”
(People’s Bible page 134)
2 Corinthians 8:10–12 (NIV 1984)
10And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
“Paul adds a significant phrase to this encouragement to get on with the work. Your giving, he says, should be ‘according to your means,’ literally, ‘from what you have.’ That, one might think, should go without saying. How can one give from what one doesn’t have? Isn’t all giving from what one has?”
“Paul obviously has more in mind than that. He is talking about what we today often call proportionate giving, giving to the Lord in accordance with what he has given us. The Corinthians should not be measuring their offerings by what others gave. They should notthink that God is more pleased with the large offerings of others than he is with their relatively small offerings, as long as they are truly giving from what they have been given and are giving with a proper attitude.” (People’s Bible page 139-140)
Gifts from the Heart
“Paul says just that when he tells the Corinthians, ‘If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.’ If the heart is right, one does not have to worry about what he doesn’t have. He doesn’t have to be ashamed that he can give only a small offering. The poor widow gave from what she had, and Jesus praised her small, but large, offering (Mark 12:41–44). The larger offerings of the more wealthy are also pleasing to the Lord if they, with willing hearts, give from what they have. Think, for example, of the costly offering of love Mary poured on Jesus’ feet. For that Jesus commended her (see John 12:1–8).” (People’s Bible page 140)
Let Us Pray:
Grant us hearts, dear Lord, to give you
Gladly, freely, of your own.
With the sunshine of your goodness
Melt our thankless hearts of stone
Till our cold and selfish natures,
Warmed by you, at length believe
That more happy and more blessed
‘Tis to give than to receive. Amen.
(Christian Worship hymnal, 486 v.2, public domain)
For additional study read:
“The People’s Bible – 2 Corinthians” pages 1-7 and 127-140.
(introduction and 2 Corinthians 8:1-12)
Valleskey, D. J. (1992). 2 Corinthians
. The People's Bible. Northwestern Publishing House.
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