Bible Study: 2 Corinthians 8:1-14
A homeless man knocked on my study door. He had walked from Waco to Troy along I-35. He asked if I knew of any work. "Yes, they are shorthanded down at Maedgen's Feed Store." I gave him directions.
Just before lunch he returned to the church and handed me a $1 bill. He had worked two hours at $5 per hour. "Please place this dollar in the offering plate on Sunday. While I was in jail in San Angelo, the chaplain led me to the Lord and told me about the importance of tithing."
• Macedonian example (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
Like this interstate transient and the widow who gave her mites (Luke 21:1-4), the Macedonians gave out of "their deep poverty" (v. 2). The joy of a liberal spirit can overflow even when faced with "a great ordeal of affliction" and "deep poverty" (v. 2). The Macedonians were self-motivated in their giving (v. 3), even begged for the opportunity to support the cause of Christ (v. 4). They gave to please God and be a part of God's kingdom work (v. 5). Uncalculating generosity and joy were wed in the Macedonians--good examples for the Corinthians and us.
• Christ's example (2 Corinthians 8:6-9)
Paul wanted the Corinthians to grow voluntarily in the grace of giving (v. 7). He did not want to "command" (v. 8) them to do it. So he placed before the Corinthians "the earnestness of others" (v. 8), demonstrated supremely in Christ's sacrificial example (v. 9 and Philippians 2:5-11). Christ's generous example challenged the Corinthians as it does us.
• Fulfill good intentions (2 Corinthians 8:10-11)
The Corinthians had the same problem that many Christians have: failure to fulfill good intentions. One year previous (v. 10), they had responded to Paul's plan of weekly giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), but waning concern, other financial matters or the influence of false teachers had created a shortfall in their giving to the Jerusalem relief effort. Paul wanted them to fulfill their commitment--"now" (v. 11)! (Is this a timely lesson for summer stewardship?) It wasn't that they couldn't do it, they just hadn't done it. They had the means (v. 11) --far more than the poor Macedonians.
Though no representative from Corinth is named (Acts 20:4), Paul and a delegation from the churches of Galatia, Asia, Macedonia and Achaia, where Corinth is located, carry the relief offering to Jerusalem (Romans 15:26).
• Spiritual reciprocity (2 Corinthians 8:12-14)
Paul appealed to the Corinthians, who had more than they needed, to help the poor Jerusalem mother church, which had less than it needed (v. 14). By providing material assistance, the Corinthians would benefit by spiritual growth. Generosity creates fatness in the soul. The bond of fellowship with the mother church would be further cemented.
Two things happen when we "put our money where our mouth is": (1) spiritual credibility is established--it verifies the sincerity of our love (v. 8); and (2) it is spiritually refreshing--it is good for us ("to your advantage," v. 10).
Mark Bumpus is pastor of First Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas.