Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 7 2013 - 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 – Giving that defies description

Paul has previously spoken highly of the way in which the Christians in Macedonia had contributed to the collection for the saints in Jerusalem and had encouraged the Corinthians to imitate them in excelling in the grace of giving (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-7). Now he admits that he has also boasted to the Macedonians concerning the readiness of the Christians in Corinth to do just that. And, he says, he may be bringing some from Macedonia with him when he comes to receive what the Corinthians have managed to set aside for him. He urges the Corinthians not to embarrass him by failing to live up to their promise and his boast (9:1-4). Paul, it seems to me, is quite an adept fundraiser – encouraging each to outdo the other in the grace of giving.

Paul is keen to encourage willing, generous and cheerful giving, “God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7). God has been generous to them and has supplied all their needs. Paul assures them that they can give in the confidence that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (9:8,11). Giving will not lead to their impoverishment; God will continue to bless them so that they will be able to respond with continued giving to others.

Such texts as these have been misused by some to suggest that giving to others will ensure your own material prosperity. The “Prosperity Gospel” makes its appeal to human covetousness and often finds its origin in covetous preachers. It is a disgrace when some preachers and tele-evangelists appeal for money with the promise that the more you give, the richer God will make you. The promise by some, that if you send them large amounts of money, they will pray for you and you will then receive spiritual blessing is a return to the obscene mediaeval practice of pedalling indulgences. Such behaviour makes a mockery of the gospel and brings the name of God into disrepute.

Paul’s requests for money were very different. Firstly, none of the money was for himself; the collection was entirely to relieve the needs of impoverished Christians in Judea. Secondly, such giving was to be a cheerful response to God’s indescribable gift of the Lord Jesus. Our giving is not a means of wringing something out of God, but a glad response to the riches of God’s grace lavished upon us in Christ. Such giving is of the essence of the gospel – it reflects the giving heart of God.

In addition, such giving brings praise to God. The recipients of the gifts recognise the goodness of God in supplying their needs through the generosity of those whose hearts God has touched. They will praise God and pray with thanksgiving for those who have shown such concern for them. And such sacrificial giving, bringing relief to unknown people in another part of the world, will not go unnoticed by a watching world. It will act as a powerful advert for the gospel, making the grace of God visible, tangible and incontrovertible.

Heavenly Father, you have been generous to us beyond description; you have given us your Son, and with him will you not graciously give us all things. May your heart of grace find a reflection in our hearts. May we also be generous and joyful givers. May the generosity of your people be a visible expression of the gospel, bringing much praise to your name. May it provide opportunities for us to tell a watching world of the wonders of your grace. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Peter Misselbrook