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Paul is writing to two regions of churches where he has been active in setting up faith communities. A severe famine has struck Jerusalem and surrounding areas with many in dire need and struggling. Paul is appealing to these churches in the region of Macedonia and Achaia to take up an offering and send aid to Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, Paul talks about the Macedonia church and their response to the needs within Jerusalem. He says, “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

In Chapter 9, Paul turns his attention to the Corinthian church and tells them, “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.” It is the grace of God, which He has instilled in the hearts of these people that has welled up in rich generosity towards the needs of Jerusalem.

A grace-filled church is a generous church. God’s grace is the vehicle by which we become generous to others, and our giving is evidence of the grace of God within us. Paul roots giving and generosity into the Gospel itself when he says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Christ making Himself poor and expending everything on our behalf to make us rich in Him is the heart of the Gospel. Out of our relationship with Christ, God gives us the grace to be generous towards the needs of others.

Paul is reminding the Corinthian church of their eagerness and willingness to give, and he sends a delegation of brothers to prepare them to make ready the gift they had promised. This was a faith promise, a pledge given to supply the needs of those in Jerusalem. Paul makes a significant statement concerning their faith promise when he says, “Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given (2 Corinthians 9:5). As an act of their faith and an outworking of their faith, the Corinthian church has made a promise to supply the needs of the poor in Jerusalem and it is willingly and generously given out of love. In what is known as the great chapter on love, Paul writes, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). It is out of love and compassion, derived from the love and grace of God within us that we reach out to a needy world.

Paul moves from the heart of generosity to a few practical, but timeless principles of generosity. Speaking to the Corinthian church, he says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). This should not be interpreted to mean that if we give much, God will give us even more for ourselves. Biblical giving is never about the reward the giver will receive, but rather what motivates the giver to give. A begrudgingly given gift is of little value. God requires that our giving be a willing, cheerful, generous expression of the thankfulness of our hearts. If we are not sowing generously towards the needs of others, there will not be that gift of growth, both spiritually and materially that God brings through our generosity.

Another principle in our giving is that it is not the size of our gift that matters, but the grace of God in enabling us to give. In Mark 12, Jesus directs the attention of His disciples to a poor widow who gave into the treasury what was worth only a fraction of a penny. Jesus said to His disciples, “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” She has given a greater gift, because it was not out of what she could afford, but out of the grace of God that she gave regardless of her poverty.

Paul also writes, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). When it comes to our giving, sometimes we need to allow God to search our hearts and pray to where we reach the point of being that cheerful giver; pray for God to bring into our hearts the grace which enables us to be ambitious for the needs of others and become part of His activity on earth. This is a grace-filled church, a grace-filled Christian; one who does not see their possessions as their own, but as blessings from God to be scattered everywhere for the needs of others.

Paul then talks about the impact of our generosity, and begins with a personal benefit, motivated by God’s grace at work within us. He says, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (Corinthians 9:10-11). This is not advocating a prosperity Gospel, but Paul is saying that if we allow God’s grace to flow through our lives in giving cheerfully, God will make it so that we can be generous on all occasions.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).What we see in 2 Corinthians, Chapters 8 and 9 is the outworking of that principle. Oswald J. Smith, the founder of the Peoples Church, Toronto, Canada, has said, “You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.” This is what will merit heaven’s attention and stores up for us treasures that will endure forever.

Finally, Paul makes the statement, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you” (2 Corinthians 9:12-14). The emphasis in these verses is on God, not the human givers. The Corinthian believers are a necessary part of the process, but it is God whom the Jerusalem believers will ultimately praise and thank for providing His people with the provisions they need.

Our generosity is a testimony to the goodness of God. It is all about Him, and the greatest reward is that our giving directs people to God. The same spirit that wells up in us to give, wells up in the recipients as a response of thanksgiving and praise to God. And the catalyst for this praise and thanksgiving going up to God is His grace indwelling our hearts, enabling us to give generously. This, in turn, moves others into God’s grace filling their hearts, so they too get involved in His work, and become generous, cheerful givers, passing on the grace and goodness of God.