My outward love language is the giving of gifts. I absolutely love to give gifts – from wrapped gifts or sending care packages in the mail to taking food to neighbors to just giving my time to others. I don’t say this to boast, but more to share a little of who I am. Anyone who knows me would confirm this trait. I do firmly believe everything I have is the Lord’s and thus love giving away as much as possible. Thank goodness for a husband who has helped me to be more responsible with the giving of my time, treasures, and talents in light of the bigger goals we have as individuals and as a family. I admit a huge struggle with giving is my desire for appreciation of some kind. I am a work in progress – moving toward freely giving to others.
As we continue reading this week in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 & 9, the focus is on the theme of giving and generosity. Paul highlights many aspects of this theme including:
- The Purpose of giving: To prove our dedication to Christ & love for others – especially other believers (8:1-8)
- The Perspective of giving: The act of abundant grace (8:9)
- The Point of giving: The why, the how, and the way we should give (9:6-15)
The Purpose of Giving
Paul highlighted the generosity of the people of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) who had given money to help the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. Paul was overwhelmed at the generous gift this church gave for fellow believers even though they were poor. He wanted to share this example of generosity with Corinth and encourage them to remember the gift they had promised for kingdom work. The Corinthians gifts were ultimately a reflection of their love of Christ and His church.
“…their (the Macedonian church) abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” ~2 Corinthians 8:2-5
Please take note of this phrase: Abundance of joy and extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity. What an amazing juxtaposition of words – abundance and extreme poverty! It is incredible to think this particular combination of heart attitude and finances could result in a wealth of generosity. Paul wanted to highlight the Macedonian’s devotion to Jesus and their sincere desire to see His church grow. Our devotion to Christ can be evidenced by our generosity or the lack of it.
Not only is there purpose in giving to display our devotion to the Lord but generosity also tangibly meets the needs of others, whether financial, spiritual, physical, or emotional. It is a means to do kingdom work here on earth. The Macedonians “begged for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” – see v. 4. They were helping to ease the burdens of others without ever leaving their community. Thus, the purpose of generosity highlighted in our passages this week reflects one of the main commands in scripture from both the Old and New Testaments.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” ~Mark 12:30-31 ESV
The purpose of generosity boiled down is this – love God and love others. This is the heart of the gospel and the life of a Christian. If you get nothing else out of your readings this week, do not miss that generosity reflects your love of God and love for others.
The Perspective of Giving
Paul interjects a perspective of generous giving to bring our focus back to the best example of lavish love and abundant grace.
“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.” ~2 Corinthians 8:9
The words Paul uses do not necessarily reflect the financial status Jesus lived in but rather that He gave up His rights as God to become a human man for awhile so that those who believe(d) in Him would be rich—receiving salvation and eternal life. We have been given eternity, the most amazing and abundant gift one can receive. Through the lens of Christ’s gift to us, our minds and hearts are able and should be willing to freely and lavishly extend grace, love, and care to those around us.
The Point of Giving
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 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.” ~2 Corinthians 9:6-8
As believers, we are to first give our time, talent, and treasure, to the Lord. Once we begin to realize nothing we have is truly “ours,” it is much easier to be generous. God is more concerned with our attitude in giving than the actual amount we can give. He is not interested in guilting His people to give. He longs for cheerful hearts. I believe Paul highlights God’s desire for us to give our resources both responsibly and sacrificially. He longs for abundant giving, not just the bare minimum. There is always a cost to generosity, but Paul tries to encourage the Corinthians to trust that God can provide for all of their needs.
Chapters 8 & 9 in 2nd Corinthians offer much more than what I have presented. I would be remiss to fail to mention Paul’s letter does not support the prosperity gospel. Many have interpreted the verses in chapter 9 as an indication of expected financial blessing or physical healing based on how much they give to the poor or to the church. However, God does not specifically promise financial wealth or health in exchange for our giving. The rewards one receives or “reaps bountifully” for earthly sacrifices may never be realized this side of heaven. We are to give without expectation of anything in return. However, giving almost always changes the giver. Paul wants to highlight the main point of generosity as giving abundantly and sacrificially with the confidence that God will provide and care for you.
“We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19) and He sacrificed everything on our behalf. How can we not be generous givers if we truly claim to be Christians? May you reflect on the purpose, perspective, and point of giving in your own life.
I encourage you to pray and examine your heart and your hands. Are you fully devoted to the Lord? Do you completely trust Him to provide for all of your needs? How can you give abundantly and sacrificially this week? Is there a particular need in your home, your neighborhood, your school, or your church that you can fill? It may or may not be monetary.
Remember that your time, attention to, and sincere prayers for others are also gifts. May I challenge you to do one thing today? Start small – read a book with your child or take time to talk with your parent; take cookies to the neighbor or suite-mate you have never met before, or considering buying coffee for the person behind you or giving financially to something supporting God’s work.
God has you and will care for you. It is our job to reflect His gift back to Him by loving Him and loving others through the generous giving of our time, talent, and treasure—one small step at a time. “No act of kindness however small is ever wasted.” Aesop