THE THEOLOGY OF GIVING
Part 02 – Chapter 09: THE CHEERFUL GIVER
Chapters 8 and 9 of 2nd Corinthians constitute a new section with a new topic: THE THEOLOGY OF GIVING.
In this section, Paul followed up and reiterated his teaching about giving. At the end of his first letter to the Corinthians, he reminded them to give for the benefit of the poor Christians in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4).
“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.” – 1 Cor. 16:1-4
Back then, the reason why Paul reminded them was that they were the only church that failed to give. And now, he reminded them again because it appears that they still fail in this area. So instead of a simple reminder, Paul now gives a full exposition of the theology of giving and teaches them why every Christian needs to have this attitude of giving.
I. THE COLLECTION FOR CHRISTIANS IN JERUSALEM (v1-5)
“Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 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.”
In chapter 09, Paul continues to encourage the Corinthians to give. In these opening verses, Paul gives them a form of positive persuasion. If we will notice, this passage is filled with statements like:
- “It is superfluous for me to write to you” (meaning unnecessary)
- “For I know your readiness”
- “I boast about you”
- “Your zeal has stirred up most of them” (meaning it inspired others)
This is Paul’s way to motivate them to give. Back in chapter 08, Paul revealed that they were already ready to give, it just didn’t materialize for reasons not revealed (8:10). So now, Paul is counting on that. He believes in the heart of the Corinthians. He knows what they are capable to do. Paul thinks that what they only need is a little push and this is what he is giving to them now.
However, in verse 4, Paul also gave them a form of negative persuasion. Paul starts with the word “otherwise.” By this, he means that if they fail again, it would result in Paul and his team’s humiliation (since he boasted about them so much). This is why in verse 5, Paul said that he sent his brothers in advance so that they will have enough time to prepare and collect their contribution as a “willing gift” and not as an exaction (a forced contribution). Now, why is it important that the contribution be given willingly and not out of compliance? the answer lies in the next section.
II. THE CHEERFUL GIVER (v6-15)
“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. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!”
In this section, Paul explains why it is very important for Christians to give from a willing heart. And he starts with this point: “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
This is believed to be the new rule in giving that replaces tithing. To be clear, the New Testament does not require tithing. Christians are not obliged to observe that rule. However, it is encouraged. Therefore, tithing is encouraged but not required. The new rule now is this: “EACH ONE MUST GIVE AS HE HAS DECIDED IN HIS HEART, NOT RELUCTANTLY OR UNDER COMPULSION.” Each one is given the freedom to determine the amount that he wants to give. The important thing is that it should not be done out of compulsion or compliance (as with the case in tithing). Paul’s previous statement that those who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully means that God will bless abundantly those who give. To be clear, this is a not bargaining agreement. It doesn’t mean that the more we give, the more God will bless us. This line simply teaches that when we give, we can expect God to bless us in return. It also points out that the blessings that God gives are always greater than what we offer to Him. We can never out-give God. We can never beat God in giving. He is always greater than us, including the area of giving. As Paul said in his letter to the Romans, God was able to give His only Son to die for us. So what can’t He give us?
“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32
Lastly, God’s blessings are not always money or material things. It can also come in other forms like good health, wisdom, a happy family, or even the granting of our prayers. To put it simply, this passage invites us to open our hearts to giving for the God we worship is a giving and generous God and we can never beat Him in this area. God gives us so many blessings each day that we don’t even have the time to pray and thank Him for all of it. Therefore, we shouldn’t be afraid to give.
After this, Paul revealed another great revelation: “GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER.”
The original Greek word for cheerful is Hilaros from which the English word “Hilarious” came. Similarly, to be a cheerful giver means to give from a happy heart. And Paul was clear: God LOVES a cheerful giver. This just proves that the new rule in giving now is dependent on the state of our hearts. Let us remember that God doesn’t need whatever material things we think we are offering Him. God is self-sufficient and self-existing, and He owns everything in the first place (Ps 24:1). Again, this supports the notion that God is after the state of our hearts. Even if one donates a million dollars but did that with a grumbling heart, a selfish motive, or to impress others, then we can safely assume that that person doesn’t earn any commendation from God. But if one gives only a few pennies, but did that with a cheerful heart, then according to this passage, God loves that person very much. A similar event like this happened during Jesus’ time. This event is often referred to as the Widow’s Offering.
“And [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” – Mark 12:41-44
So again, it is not about the amount anymore. It is about the state of our hearts.
As we continue, the next verses are supporting statements to this new rule in giving. Verse 8 to 11 reiterates the notion that God will always be the greater giver than we could ever be. Paul also revealed that whenever God blesses us abundantly, that is meant for us to be more abundant in doing good works. This is a lesson that Christians should keep in their hearts: GOD BLESSES US SO WE CAN BLESS OTHERS. The is the true purpose of God’s blessings. As Proverbs 11:25 states:
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.”
In verses 12 to 14, Paul revealed that whenever we give, aside from it supplies the needs of others (v12), it also glorifies God (v13). As Paul taught in chapter 08, the act of giving is embedded in the Gospel itself. So when a believer learns to give generously from his heart, it shows and proves that he has been truly transformed by the gospel of God. That is why as a fitting ending, Paul thanked God for His inexpressible gift (v15). And this inexpressible gift is no other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we close this section, may this lesson open our hearts and change our perspective when it comes to giving. Like Paul taught, giving is embedded in the Gospel itself which is the very reason why we have hope and a new life. If we are truly transformed by the Gospel, then we should also possess that same generous heart that God has. Giving is a privilege and a form of worship to God. As we course through this earthly life, we will consistently meet a lot of people who are in need. Be it financial, emotional, or spiritual, people are always in need. And since God is the giver of all good things (James 1:17), who else would He use to become the channel or instruments of His blessings? of course it’s us, His church. So may we learn to become cheerful givers. The world is already full of greed and selfishness. What we need now the most are love and generosity.
God Bless!! 🙂