Read 2 Corinthians 8:1–13
But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:7
Famine has come to Jerusalem. Christians are starving.
Meanwhile, Paul is traveling and decides to encourage the churches he’s visiting (in what is now Turkey and Greece) to take up an offering for the suffering people back in Jerusalem, partly because he sees this as a great chance to show that they are all one in Christ! Remember, the Greek and Roman Christians had been viewed with suspicion by many of the Jewish Christians, so he’s thinking this act of charity could go a long way toward mending bridges. The Christians in the wealthy city of Corinth get excited and pledge their support!
Problem: They then sort of… forget. So in today’s verses Paul has the awkward duty of reminding them that they need to give that money since he already told the Jerusalem Christians that it was on its way!
It’s fascinating to see: How does Paul motivate them to do this?
He doesn’t nag, or beg, or scold, or guilt-trip them into anything. He motivates them to give through grace.
He talks about how much grace God lavished upon them. He talks about the gracious giving and the resulting joy that he has seen in others. And then he makes very clear that they are to give because it is an act of grace, in response to grace.
It’s intriguing to me that Paul says the Macedonian churches had followed through on their pledges already, although they were in extreme poverty themselves, while the rich Corinthians had lagged behind in their giving even though they were wealthy.
I read some statistics showing that, in the United States, those below the poverty line give about 5% of their income, those in the middle class give about 7% of their income, while those who are in the highest income brackets give less than 2% away. Of course there are extremely generous wealthy people (I am privileged to know many who are a great example to me), but if these stats are to be believed, generally the very poor apparently give a higher percentage than the very rich.
Maybe that’s because the very poor have a more immediate personal understanding of the need for grace — and the blessing of grace — while the wealthier are often better able to maintain an air of self-sufficiency.
That’s why Paul encourages these wealthy Corinthians to excel in the grace of giving, just as the poor Macedonians had been doing.
In other words, the grace of giving is something we’re to practice, something we’re to grow in, to expand on. It’s one habit we are told to indulge!
How can you do this? I think it’s a good idea to have regular “grace projects” through which you stretch your own generosity muscles. Check out our list of ideas on page 155.
This way you “grow in grace” practically, not just theologically!
Sometimes the grace of giving means working to set the oppressed free from a giant evil in society, as we’ll see tomorrow.
How could you “excel” in the grace of giving?
Ask God to help you overcome any latent stinginess and excel on the grace of giving, just as He has been gracious to you!