For an introduction to this series, click here.
It's good to be back. I basically have a new computer now, and I don't like breaking in a new computer, but I'm sure it will be fine eventually.
This chapter continues Paul's message about the collection for the church in Jerusalem. It begins with a very peculiar statement by Paul:
"Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction." (9:1-5) Remember that Corinth was in the Roman province of Achaia, which is most of modern Greece today.
Paul is saying he doesn't want himself or the Corinthians to be embarrassed by their lack of giving. This just kind of struck me as an odd way to say it. Obviously lots of people would find out how much the Corinthians gave, so that was an incentive. I realize this has to be balanced with Jesus’ teaching about giving to others in secret, so I’m not advocating for public giving. But God knows. And one day we might be embarrassed by how little we gave. Notice that the last thing Paul wants is for the gift of the people to be an "exaction." True Christian giving is never the result of force or manipulation. It is the result of a joyful heart in the Lord.
Paul continues that thought here:
"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." (9:6-8)
I've heard some people say, "God loves a cheerful giver, but He will take it from a grouch." I used to think that was true in the sense that the church will take it, but the Lord will not honor it. But the Lord is showing me a lot of things about giving lately. The Lord will reward a person who may not be exciting about giving but recognizes that the Lord will bless us when we obey. This is about the point where I am right now. The more we give, the more the Lord blesses and the more cheerful we will become.
Paul talks about the benefits of Christian giving, which benefits both the giver and the receiver immensely:
"You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" (9:11-15, ESV)
The main reason we give is because of the inexpressible gift God gave us: salvation through Jesus Christ. The giver is blessed by the Lord for his gift, and the receiver thanks God for the gift and at the same time prays for the giver. How many times have I and all of us left this chain of benefit broken because we do not give? It is a crying shame how many blessings we forgo because we don't give. This chapter just goes along with what the Lord has been dealing with me about lately.
You all have a great holiday weekend. I'm pretty sure I will, Lord willing.
(Boy did I ever! I met the love of my life, Beth Anne!)