For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. — 2 Corinthians 8:3-4
Lem was handicapped by cerebral palsy from birth and never had much income. He received a small check from Social Security and a small disability check from the government. When I became his pastor, I found out what he was doing with his money. For one thing, he was paying tithes — and not just tithes, but double tithes. Then he would come to me and say, “Have you sent the check for Korea yet?” or, “Have you sent my offering for Africa?” An annual youth conference was started in our church in Brooklyn, New York, and Lem would ask, “Have you sent my contribution to the youth conference yet?” How did he do it? I do not know. Many of us have a hard time giving from our abundance, but Lem had a spirit of giving.
Some children in our church wanted to play instruments, but their family could not afford music lessons. Lem asked, “Could I pay for them?” He did not want the family to know who was providing the funds, but when one of those young people stood up in Sunday school and played “Jesus Loves Me,” Lem had the biggest smile you ever saw. Why? Because he had a heart of giving, and the by-product was joy.
In today’s text, Paul was encouraging the believers in the Corinthian church to give from their hearts to help the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. In our focus verse, he pointed to the example of the churches in Macedonia, which had given money even though they were poor. In fact, they gave so generously and sacrificially that it was more than Paul had expected.
Giving is a natural response from a heart full of love. The point of giving is not so much the amount, but the spirit of how and why we give. God wants us to give freely, out of love for Him, caring for the family of God, and the joy of helping those in need.
Today, let’s consider how well our giving measures up to the excellent examples set by Lem and the Macedonian church.
Chapter 8 is an extensive teaching on Christian stewardship. Paul was on his third missionary journey and knew that Jerusalem was a major religious center where a number of impoverished people lived. Many Christians there were almost penniless because of persecution. Adding to this hard situation, a famine had hit the area. To help with these difficulties, Paul encouraged the churches he visited in his missionary journey to give an offering for their needy brethren in Jerusalem.
Paul saw the Gentile congregations as debtors to the Jews for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. A special collection was a way to help repay that debt and bring unity among the churches.
In verses 1 through 7, Paul pointed to the example of liberality set by the churches in Macedonia. They, too, had suffered persecution for their faith, and this had affected them financially. Yet, they still gave sacrificially, as unto the Lord. Paul did not want the Corinthians to feel they were forced to give. Instead, he wanted them to be motivated by the example of other Christians as well as their godly love for the Jewish congregation.
Verses 8 through 15 are Paul’s exhortation to benevolence. The Corinthian church had pledged to help with the needs, and this had inspired the Galatians, Macedonians, and Romans (2 Corinthians 8:10; 9:2). However, special actions and instructions seemed to be necessary in order to make sure the pledge was fulfilled.
In verses 16 through 24, Paul stated the safeguards surrounding the collection, and gave a commendation of Titus and others who had been sent to collect the offering in Corinth. Those in Christian ministry who handle God’s money must have certain qualifications. Verses 16 through 19 establish that Titus and his fellow workers had a God-given desire to serve others and the church. Paul stressed that these servants of God had honest reputations and cooperative spirits. They had been chosen by the church and could be trusted to do this job. An additional reason for sending more than one person was precautionary in nature: Paul did not want people to suspect any wrongdoing in the handling of the money collected. By having several people working together, they could each be accountable to the others as well as to God.
Throughout this chapter, Paul never referred to the offering as “money.” Instead, he called it “the gift,” “generosity,” a “blessing,” and a “partnership.” This reflects the spiritual nature of the offering, and also indicates that Paul regarded willing and sacrificial giving as a vital Christian virtue.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The arrangement of a contribution for the saints
A. The examples to consider (8:1-15)
1. The Macedonians’ gift (8:1-8)
2. Christ’s gift (8:9-15)
B. The mission of Titus (8:16-24)
As we remember God’s great Gift to us, let us challenge ourselves to give freely and sacrificially to meet the needs of others!