Second Corinthians 8:16–9:5 . . .
The New Testament reveals that Apostle Paul was actively collecting money for "the poor among the saints in Jerusalem" (Romans 15:26) for about five years (52–57 AD). He solicited funds from the Christians in Galatia (Acts 18:23; 1 Cor. 16:1), Macedonia (Acts 19:22; 2 Cor. 8:1–5; 9:2, 4), Achaia (Romans 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8–9, and Asia Minor (Romans 15:26; Acts 20:35). Delegates from most of these regions accompanied Paul when he took the gifts to Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8–9) and Asia Minor (Acts 20:4).
The recipients were Hebrew Christians, who were poor for several reasons: (a) Conversion to Christianity, and particularly baptism, resulted in social and economic ostracism in Jerusalem society where Judaism was dominant; (b) The communal sharing of goods, that the early Christians in Jerusalem practiced, didn't resolve their economic situation; (c) All Palestinian residents suffered from lack of food, due to a famine during the reign of Emperor Claudius (A.D. 46, Acts 11:27–30); (d) Being the mother church of Christianity, the Jerusalem church probably had a larger number of teachers, missionaries, and visitors to support than its daughter churches did; and (e) Jews, including Jewish Christians, who lived in Palestine, had to pay double taxes to Rome and to the Jewish authorities.
Last week we saw in chapter 8 some great examples of true and generous giving. There was the giving of those poverty-stricken Macedonians who gave beyond their means, out of their deep, desperate poverty. There was also the incredibly rich giving of Jesus, who gave up everything and became poor that we might become incredibly rich. What wonderful examples of giving from two ends of the scale: from the poor who had nothing to give and yet gave and from the very richest of all who gave everything that He had so we might be rich. Next, we began to look and hopefully be guided by a few principles of giving.
1. We saw, first, that our motive is more important than our amount. God isn't so interested in how much we give, but why we give. He reads our heart. 2. A vital principle is that our opportunities to give are arranged by God, who gives more to some and less to others in order that those who have more might give to those who have less. 3. Today, in v. 16, we find the third principle concerning the responsibility of our giving. Paul illustrated that principle of giving by the provision of manna in the wilderness, all of which came from God. Those who gathered much were expected to give to those who had less.
Having motivated his Corinthian brothers to finish their collection, Paul proceeded to explain the practical steps he'd taken to pick up their gift. He wanted them to know what to do and what to expect.
Let's see what else Paul says about the band of men who were coming to Corinth (vv. 22–24). Do you see in those three verses a very important principle of giving? Giving requires that the control of a certain amount of money be vested in several individuals, not in merely one. Paul makes very clear that he's urged the churches to appoint other men to go with Titus to Corinth to take up this collection for the relief of the saints in famine-stricken Jerusalem. He's very careful to see that the control of this fund not be placed in any single hand. And it wasn't just anyone who was appointed; these men were tested and proven.
Three delegates could be trusted with funds. Titus we know already; he's been very prominent in this letter; he's the one who went down to Corinth and brought word back to Paul. He travels back and forth as Paul's courier and associate; now he's been asked to return and take up this collection before Paul arrives. "In addition," Paul says, "we are sending our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous." Most scholars have deduced that this is probably our old friend, Dr. Luke, the beloved physician, a traveling companion of Apostle Paul who was the one sent along with Titus. The third trusted courier's name isn't given to us. Nevertheless, the Corinthians knew him well, and he'd won their respect; they'll of course recognize him when he arrives.
Titus, Luke, and the third man went down to Corinth. They were to be welcomed there because they were trustworthy and responsible men. Paul's very careful to see that this responsibility is shared among several. Paul says something noteworthy in vv. 20–21), something that's quite different from what we often hear today. These days, if a person who's responsible for funds is asked for an accounting, he or she says, "What's the matter? Don't you trust me?" But Paul would never allow himself to get into that situation. He says in effect, "We know in our own hearts that we're doing right, but that's not enough. It's got to be obvious to everybody that we're doing right. It must also be open in the sight of men."
As wise and worthy stewards, we Christian believers need to be very careful about our giving. The money and other resources we have are a trust from God. We're responsible to see that it's all handled rightly; we're not not to simply commit it to people or organizations who fail to account for how it's to be used.
Starting with v. 9:1, Paul reveals his plan to visit Corinth, soon after Titus and his two companions arrived, to further motivate the Corinthians to complete their collection and have it ready to be delivered to Judea. Now, the apostle goes on to point out another reason for sending these brothers, revealed in the five opening verses of chapter 9, where we find another very important principle in giving: Giving must not be done under pressure! Paul's saying, I sent these brothers to you so you wouldn't be embarrassed at the last minute if you hadn't had time to get everything together; hopefully, this matter can be taken care of before I arrive. This is in keeping with what he'd already said in 1 Cor. 16:2: "I want it done so that when I come, no collections will have to be made."
Next week, we'll find Apostle Paul turning his attention to the possibilities of giving, documenting, by using a farming analogy, how our return or reaping is proportionate to our sowing. Consequently, please bring your checkbook and credit card next week.
- Q. 1 Whom do you trust most with your money? Yourself? Your bank? Broker? Spouse? Children? Government? God?
- Q. 2 Why does Paul expect the Corinthians to be generous (vv. 9:1–5)?
- Q. 3 If Macedonians came to visit you, would they find your generosity level lacking or overflowing?
2 Corinthians 8:16–9:5
Titus Sent to Receive the Collection
16Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
22In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.
9 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord's people. 2For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we — not to say anything about you — would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.