2 Corinthians 8
1Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,
2that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
3For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,
4begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,
5and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
6So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.
Paul desired that Titus would be able to go to the Corinthians and receive up their free will gifts which would be used to support other churches which were in need. Giving is a way that Christians can make God’s grace manifest to other believers and to those in need. The grace of God had been going forth through the gifts of the churches in Macedonia, and Paul wanted the Corinthians to do their share as well. Although many of the churches had to give during a time of affliction and poverty, they still overflowed in generosity toward those in need. Their giving was clearly a sacrifice and an act of trust in the Lord. They gave not merely according to their ability but beyond it, meaning that they were casting themselves upon the Lord in faith. This they did freely, which was above and beyond what God asks of us (v. 12). God’s desire is that we give cheerfully from what we have, and a good baseline is ten percent, given that that is what Abraham gave Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20), a priest of God who served before the giving of the Law and the Old Testament civil laws. Thus, Abraham’s giving was not a mere tax paid to a government, but it was a model of God’s intention for us. Right from the top of what God gives us, we should give our first and best, amounting to ten percent or more, based on the ability we have. Giving should not be coerced or manipulated, but it is to be done of our own free will so that we can have an eternal reward for our earthly sacrifice (1 Corinthians 9:17). These churches begged to have the privilege of taking part in giving to the needs of the saints, even though they had next to nothing. They surrendered their finances to the will and purposes of the Lord, which they trusted Paul and the apostles to be carrying out. Thus, they understood that financial stewardship involves yielding one’s finances and material well-being to the care of the Lord Who is Lord over all. To put our trust in money rather than in the Lord is dangerous and idolatrous (Luke 16:13). Paul’s hope was that the Corinthians would do their part, not in pressure or competition, but freely before the Lord because they wanted to and could.
7But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.
8I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.
9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
10I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.
11But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.
12For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
Paul sees faith, the willingness to declare the truth, a growing knowledge, and a passion and love for Christ and His church in the lives of the Corinthians. Thus, he believes that the only reasonable thing for these to do because of their love for the Lord is to give to the needs of the churches. Since they have repented to be faithful in other ways, they should be faithful in this way as well. Paul is not commanding the Corinthians to give because giving is to be of one’s own free will (v. 3), but he believes it will serve as evidence to the other churches of their own sincerity which will greatly encourage them in the Lord. Knowing that other churches care about one’s own church and needs is greatly edifying. Christ had all privilege in heaven (Philippians 2:5-11), but He was willing to lay aside some of His rights and riches so that He could become poor and make us spiritually rich. Christ modeled sacrifice for eternal gain for others, and this is what Paul wanted the Corinthians to do. In fact, it wouldn’t be just for the gain of others, but it would be to their own advantage because of the spiritual rewards. They had started a year ago to want to give and to give, and Paul wanted them to now finish doing what they had started. He had earlier instructed them to put money aside regularly each Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:2), and now it was time to complete the work which they had been doing for awhile. Readiness to do good is one thing, but completion is another. We should be ready and eager for good works, and we should then obey and do them.
13For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality--
14at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality;
15as it is written, "HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK."
God’s plan is that those in the church who have an abundance will give to those who lack. There are always going to be those who are poor among us (Matthew 26:11), and it is God’s design as a means of showing His grace and mercy that those who are materially blessed will give to those in need. Thus, the church distributes as needed to those who have needs (Acts 2:44, 4:32). The point is not to give so as to destroy ourselves or so that the rich can get richer, but God’s design is that the churches that have much would supply the needs of the churches that don’t. Thus, in areas where wars or famines strike, for example, other churches can send relief. Giving is not to bring self-affliction, though it should be sacrificial. We should give according to our means, but the understanding is that we can expect gifts in return because those who have will take care of us in our any need that might arise. Thus, all have their needs met (Philippians 4:19) by the grace of God working through the giving of the saints (v. 1). The goal is equality across the church such that none live in wasteful extravagance and none live in poverty. If the church does things God’s way when it comes to giving, then each person will have exactly what he or she needs. Some need more than others, but the point is that we all get what we need while being mindful of the needs of others. This creates a healthy dependence upon God, it allows us to store up eternal rewards, and it allows us to have our needs met through the service of other believers, creating unity and community.
16But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus.
17For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord.
18We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches;
19and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness,
20taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift;
21for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
22We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you.
23As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.
24Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
Titus of his own free will obeyed Paul’s appeal so that the Corinthians could have a chance to give to the other churches. He went to them because he was burdened in his own heart that this was something God wanted him to do. A “want-to” mentality is always God’s desire for His people, and such an attitude enables us to better discern His leading and will. Titus was sent along with a well-known brother in the early church, whose name is not given. Possibly, God did this so that we would remember that no matter how well-known we might think we are fame is vain. We in modern times don’t even know who this person was, demonstrating the temporal and finite nature of fame. But what is clear is that this person was trustworthy because he was appointed as a messenger by the churches in Macedonia to travel with Paul to do the gracious work of God for His glory as they demonstrated to Him their willing and eager hearts which God loves. They wanted to be careful, however, that there was no reason for the churches to worry as to whether their gifts were in safe hands. There was evidently a lot of money to be sent, and Paul emphasized that he wanted those who carried it to the churches in need to be trustworthy. Thus, he took precaution with the generous gift so that they could prove themselves to be honorable in its delivery. In addition to Titus and the well-known brother, a brother who was well trusted and proven faithful to the Corinthians was sent. Titus was Paul’s fellow worker and could be trusted, and all of these messengers were servants of God, serving for His glory and not selfish gain. The gift would be safe in the company of these three faithful brothers. Therefore, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to freely and openly give their offering which would prove their love and demonstrate why Paul was so proud of them to begin with.