2 Corinthians Part Two Dive
YOU’RE GOING TO BRING UP MONEY NOW – ARE YOU CRAZY?
Have you ever brought a friend to church and that is the day that Brother Bob decides to go all out on the guilt of giving your tithe and you are cringing in your seat, praying that your friend has switched off or been sidetracked by something else and doesn’t hear it? You are now wondering why you brought them to church today, couldn’t it have been last week when the tithing message wasn’t so intense?
Now we have ridden the roller coaster of emotion of the contentious relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church, from a strong instructive letter, to hurt and offence, to the letter of tears and the visit of pain, then we have landed at 2 Corinthians where everything Paul is saying is loving, kind, open-hearted but still quite tender, and at this point in the relationship we hear the unthinkable. As you read the beginning of 2 Corinthians 8 where he is bragging about the Macedonian church and how generous they are even in the midst of trials, you stop, can he seriously be bringing up money now?
Why would you mention money at this point, Paul? Imagine the thoughts of the scribe –is he serious, no please be quiet, oh my goodness are you seriously going to bring up money right now? We just got this church liking you again, we just got them listening to you, and you are going to ruin it by talking about money!!
The thing I love about reading the Bible book by book is that you see the verses in their original setting. If you read 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, these are some of the most incredible and well-known verses on giving. But once you study what has happened between Paul and the Corinthian church before we get to 2 Corinthians 8-9, you cannot believe that these verses would fit into this book.
How much do you love Paul! He doesn’t tiptoe around anything, if it’s good for you, he is going to bring it up, and having the Corinthians continue in their generosity of giving, is good for them. Remember we have just walked through that the Corinthians were living life as they saw fit, I am free to do anything. These were the same people that when Paul lived with them, they were amazingly generous, so much so that Paul was boasting about them as he travelled around:
9:1 'There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For 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.'
He is bragging about how they were incredibly generous people, and how their actions actually stirred the Macedonians to give and asking them to finish the arrangements for the generous gift they had promised v9:5
I don’t know about you but I think of two things when I consider what Paul is doing here: firstly he really needs the money that they originally promised, and in his desperation for the money, even after all that they have been through he has to remind them of the generous gift that they promised to give. Now I hear this sometimes in reaction to church tithing messages, this church just wants my money, or this church needs my money, I am just a dollar sign to them. But really do you really think that after all of the effort Paul has put into in this situation that he would ruin so many letters, a trip to Corinth (which took forever by the way – no planes to jump on back then!) he would ruin it all just because he wanted their money – I think there is more in it than that!
The second thing I think of is Paul knows that the messy situation they have just walked through with the Corinthians will be used to stop them from being generous people. And that is what this church is good at, that is the grace that is over these people. So now things have been reconciled he is stirring the grace of giving (8:7) the surpassing grace God had given them (9:14) he is stirring them up once again to their calling, to be generous givers, to think about others above themselves, to give cheerfully, so that God will bless them – not because he wants their money, no, because he wants them to be blessed, he wants them to return to their generous heart. Look at:
9:8 'And 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. As it is written:
They have freely scattered their gift to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.'
9:11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Maybe this is more about the Corinthians being blessed than Paul wanting their money?
Chapters 8 and 9 are about turning their hearts back to hearts of generosity, not offended, or bitter but loving and generous-hearted people. Isn’t it amazing that one of the first things to happen when you are offended, or a leader corrects you, and you are now angry at them, is you stop giving? You lose your heart of generosity. I know that sounds quite simple, of course, I’m going to stop giving because I don’t trust the leader anymore, but is giving really about the leader or the Pastor? Or is giving about your heart, honouring the God who gives us the seed to give, honouring the God who enriches us in every way so that we can be generous on every occasion? Supplying the needs of the Lord's people, that overflowing in expression of thanks to God v 9:12.
He is restoring their vision to think and see beyond themselves. They once were so generous and other people focused that they pledged the money to the Jerusalem church but had not given it yet. So Paul is stirring them again to have a heart for others, to focus on taking care of the Jerusalem church. Read 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 again in light of what I have just raised, is Paul getting them to realise that their gift is about their heart, about their love for the people of God, their love for God himself and how sowing and reaping are part of a generous heart?
Is Paul reigniting in their hearts the heart of a generous person who doesn’t give to a man, or to a situation only when everything is going right but gives like the Macedonians in the midst of severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity? 2 Cor 8:2
In bringing up money in this situation is Paul being a good father and setting their hearts right before God so that God's people will be blessed, they will stop thinking about just themselves and looking to help others so that they will be blessed and God will be given the glory?
Perhaps when we get to heaven we can ask Paul – why did you bring up money when everything was going so well? Is there something you were unlocking in them for their own good? Study it to see what you discover!