Paul now gets down to the business portion of his letter. My bible helps tell me he is responding to a question in the Corinthian’s letter to him. This question involves giving.
Looking at the wording Paul uses, it sounds like this group is asking if they could contribute like their sister church. It appears that they wanted direction on how they should orchestrate this process of giving to help the Jerusalem church. This was where Paul’s collections from the different churches ended up.
Paul instructs each person “to put something asked” each week, and for the church to store it all together until he comes. He is wise enough to know that a little every week will result in much more than a one-time gift. The need in Jerusalem is great and he needs as much help from the churches as possible.
But Paul doesn’t tell them how much to give. In the Old Testament the Jews were required to give 10% of everything as a tithe. This was a requirement under the law and was given in expectation of a blessing from God. “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:10-11). This isn’t a command any more bur it is a good point of reference.
Paul’s words “as he may prosper” could be taken a couple of ways in this instance. We are not under a covenant of works but of faith, so we are free from the quid pro quo mentality associated with keeping the old covenant. But we are to show our faith by our works. Paul’s words could be interpreted to mean that when the person complies with these instructions they may prosper. It could also mean that as the Lord blesses/prospers the believer that their giving should reflect that.
However, because of our familiarity with some of Paul’s other writings I have a different possibility to pose. “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. 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” (2 Corinthians 9:5-7). These words were actually penned to this same group because of their earlier instructions.
Jesus said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). I propose that out of the abundance of the heart the hand gives too. If your heart is stingy your giving is stingy. If your heart is full of the abundance of God’s love, your giving is abundant.
A stingy man cannot give abundantly. He will even hold onto the strings of what he does give. Have you ever known someone who gives you something then demands input on how it is used? This is because it is not truly a gift. It is an obligation. An obligating “gift” has strings attached for the giver and the receiver.
An abundant heart can’t give stingily. The overflow of love naturally pours out into their giving. This person sees a need and meets it without even being asked. This person offers more than just their money, they offer themselves in their gifts. There are no strings attached. They sincerely desire nothing back.
Wisdom is required in giving too. This is especially true for the abundant giver. Their generosity could easily be used against them. A person who is constantly “in need” because of their own mismanagement of their resources sees this kind of giver as a never ending source. The continuous giver in this situation is doing more harm than good. This kind of person needs a different kind of gift; the gift of encouragement and instructions.
Another area where wisdom is needed in giving is in where to give. When you give to an organization you are supporting their works. If the works are evil, you are promoting evil. If the works are of God, you are building His Kingdom. Be wise where you plant because you will receive a harvest, like it or not.
One final note on giving. Giving to God doesn’t have to only be monetary gifts. Giving of our talents, time, and our hearts is just as valuable as giving of our finances. God uses everything we give to Him with joy! He loves it when we willingly give.
Father God, I don’t have a local church where I assemble weekly that I can give to. I have also struggled with compulsory giving. I like to give where I see a need instead. I have also had times where I didn’t give at all monetarily because I didn’t feel I could and be submissive to my husband. I know that’s just an excuse and I ask for Your forgiveness for using it so often. I have found ways to give now that I believe You are pleased with. Thank You for opening up those opportunities for me and for helping bring my husband into agreement on them.
Thank You for teaching me about giving by placing me into a family that is so giving. My parents taught me a LOT about loving someone practically. Thank You for their examples. Continue to grow me in this area too Lord for I am FAR from finished learning Your will here. It is not my desire to sound arrogant or “holier than thou” to others. Please don’t let that be my message here. I want to simply share what You have shared with me over the years. Thank You for all Your blessings, even when I wasn’t passing them along as I should have.