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Generosity Encouraged January 26, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,

Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 8:1-15.

Summary: Paul begins by informing the Corinthians of God’s favor to the Macedonian believers. While the Macedonians’ sincerity and devotion to God was being tested, they displayed abundant generosity – highlighting their abundant joy and their abject poverty. He asserts that the Macedonians voluntarily gave beyond their means, as they begged him to let them participate in the relief effort for their brothers in Jerusalem; instead of giving a moderate amount, they gave all of themselves to the Lord (and to him) according to God’s will. Paul has urged Titus – as Titus has already helped the Corinthians to begin taking the collection for the relief effort – to perfect the inner grace of giving that they possess. Since the Corinthians possess the following in greater measure than other churches:

  • the gift of a strong faith
  • the gift of Christian truth
  • the gift of understanding Christian truth
  • a vigorous spiritual life
  • a great love for Paul

he exhorts them to also possess the gift of generosity in abundance.

Now Paul is not commanding the Corinthians to take part in the relief effort; instead, he wants to see if they possess the inherent desire to give – by showing them the zeal of the Macedonians. Moreover, the Corinthians know the spontaneous love of Christ – although He shared the glory of His Father before the creation of the world, He laid aside His glory out of love for them so they can receive God’s blessings.

Paul then advises the Corinthians to take the following profitable action (since they had already decided last spring – before the Macedonians took action – to participate in the relief effort and had begun to take up the collection): they should complete the collection in order to be consistent, and he wants them to give freely. If they have the right disposition when giving, God will accept their gifts regardless of their means.

Paul does not want the poor believers in Jerusalem to be freed from poverty while the Corinthians become destitute; instead, he wants to address material deficiencies. At this time, the Corinthians’ giving will meet the needs of their brothers in Jerusalem; when they are in need, their brothers in Jerusalem will meet their needs, and so poverty among Christians will always be relieved. Paul concludes by quoting from Exodus 16:18 to drive home the point that if any believer has more than they need, they should help their brothers who are in need.

Thoughts: In this passage, we see that the Macedonian believers were destitute, rendering their eagerness to contribute to the relief effort in Jerusalem all the more astounding. In his commentary on verse 2, Hodge quotes from Roman Commonwealth by Thomas Arnold, where it is noted that Macedonia had been ravaged by several Roman civil wars, including the famous struggle between Augustus and Mark Antony; its possession was also the source of a conflict between Sulla and Mithridates. In an interesting nugget, Arnold notes that during the reign of Tiberius, Macedonia was viewed as being in such dire financial straits that it was placed under his jurisdiction – and not that of the Roman Senate. Indeed, history has furnished numerous examples of the devastation of war, including the condition of the South after the Civil War, the sad state that Germany found itself in after World War II, and the protracted recovery of Vietnam after its conflict with the United States. In general, postwar recovery entails the rebuilding of critical infrastructure, the replacement of a lost generation of able-bodied men and women, and the restoration of the “national psyche.” Macedonia evidently suffered greatly through the time of the writing of this letter; if most of my life had been scarred by war, I doubt that I would have been as enthusiastic as the Macedonians were about meeting the needs of destitute brothers in Christ.

In verse 9, we see that Christ became poor so that all believers might become rich. Hodge offers some insightful thoughts on this point:

That is, he so far laid aside the glory of his divine majesty that he was to all appearance a man, and even a servant, so that people refused to recognize him as God, but rather despised, persecuted, and at last crucified him as a man…Believers are made rich in the possession of that glory that Christ laid aside or concealed. They are made partakers of `the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) – that is, of the divine holiness, exaltation, and blessedness.

It is evident that an integral aspect of Christ’s poverty on this earth lay in how His contemporaries viewed Him. The fact that they did not acknowledge His divine nature – in spite of His claims to divinity – and focused on His human nature caused Him to suffer greatly, both externally and internally – highlighting His poverty. Also, the fact that believers possess the glory that Christ had with His Father before the creation of the world is mind-boggling. I wrestle with the realization that I have such an awesome glory, especially when life feels rather mundane. Indeed, I look forward to the time when I will be able to understand and appreciate this glory.

In this passage, Paul stresses the importance of generosity and notes that it is a gift. Hodge offers some helpful thoughts on giving in his commentary on verse 14:

1. All giving is voluntary. A person’s property is his own…2. The purpose of giving is relief of poverty. The equality aimed at, therefore, is not an equality as to the amount of property, but equal relief from the burden of want…3. While all men are brothers, and the poor are proper objects of charity whether they are Christians or not, there is a special obligation resting on the members of Christ to relieve the needs of their fellow believers…4. A fourth rule is designed to prevent any abuse of the brotherhood of Christians. The poor have no right to depend on the gifts of the rich because they are brothers.

Balancing these four principles that govern Christian giving can be a rather tricky endeavor. We know that “money talks,” and we know that money is the source of many painful conflicts, even among Christians. My understanding of Hodge’s point is that the second, third and fourth principles should serve as a starting point for any believer when they are considering meeting the needs of a fellow believer. They may need to pray diligently and seek the counsel of others in making this decision. When all is said and done, the first principle should determine the exact amount that they give.


1. Paul and the False Apostles « Ringing In - February 11, 2012

[…] several believers from Macedonia came to Corinth to supply what he was lacking. We know from 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 that the Macedonian believers were impoverished, as they had suffered from the ravages of war for […]

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