GIVING—A RISK OR A JOY?

Mice are generally more known for stealing than giving but today Mouse looks at how we are to give, from 2 Corinthians 9. For disciples of Christ, giving should be for love, by faith and not ‘by the flesh.’ So, unlike those in the world, we don’t give in order to feel good, nor for any benefit to ourselves: we look for no return of any sort, not even gratitude. Even so, God promises that “he who sows generously, will reap generously.” But do we know why?  >ᴥ<

2 Corinthians 9

1     But it’s really redundant for me to write to you about this service to the saints,

Paul says he doesn’t really need to write this, but then he writes it anyway, showing that he’s not quite as confident as he claims. He’s trying to make sure they won’t contradict his rejoicing over them by allowing their flesh to subvert their zeal and thus reduce the generosity of their “promised gift.”

2    as I know your zeal, which I rejoiced to tell the Macedonians about—that Achaia has been ready to give for a year now; and your zeal has motivated most of them.

Almost all the translations insist that Paul was “boasting” about the Corinthians in each of these three verses, but Paul was rejoicing over their faith and, in doing so, attempting to inspire the Macedonians to similar heights.

If he had actually been boasting, he would have been encouraging competitiveness between the assemblies as their motivation for doing what they should have been doing for love. This would not be his intention as it would be entirely the wrong motive and entice them into living (giving) by the flesh.

3    So I sent the brethren, in order that our rejoicing over you would not prove empty in this, that you would be ready just as I told them,

Not only is Paul covering himself by writing to them, he’s even gone so far as to send men to supervise their behaviour. Contrary to appearances, he is not sending these brethren because his confidence in the Corinthians is weaker than he claims, it is so the presence of “the brethren” with them will build them up, strengthening their faith and inspiring them in their giving.

4    and if some Macedonians come with me, to avoid them finding you unprepared and that we were not describing you, as we would be confounded in our confident rejoicing,

All the translations use the wrong meaning of the Greek word λέγω (légō) which means to say, speak, tell, or describe; so they put “to say nothing of you” or something on those lines, though the Greek says, “that we were not describing you.” They also put “we would be ashamed,” or “embarrassed” where he has written “confounded” ie contradicted or refuted—neither ashamed nor embarrassed.

5    I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go to you in advance, to prepare your promised gift, so it may be ready as a blessing, and not reluctantly given.

So his concern here was not for himself at all, but entirely for the Corinthians and the Macedonians and the strength of their faith and thus their zeal. He wants the Corinthians to rejoice in their generous support of the saints in Jerusalem, and the Macedonians to be inspired to greater zeal by seeing that generosity.

6    And consider: he who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly, and he who sows generously, will reap generously.

Translation note: The first two words in the Greek mean “and this” or “yet this,” so, as that means nothing very obvious in English and he is clearly suggesting they read it and ‘take it on board,’ I thought that “consider” would work well.

This idea is exactly what farmers and gardeners have long known and always used, and it’s only modified on the ground by uncontrollable factors like the weather and pests. One thing is for sure: any farmer who only sows “sparingly,” can only hope to reap sparingly; if he wants to reap “generously” he’s going to have to sow generously. And as we know, this applies to our lives as disciples in every area. In the kingdom of God, resurrection life is the result of death.

7     Each should give as he has settled in his heart, not grudgingly or compelled, for God loves a joyful giver.

Translation note: “should give” seems to be a commonly agreed (and necessary) addition, and I have translated ἱλαρός (hilarós) as “joyful” because I felt that “cheerful” contains a hint of ‘keep smiling, even though it hurts’ which is definitely not what Paul is saying; “joyful” says (to me) ‘giving feels so right!’ Only the Aramaic Bible agrees.

God has no use for gifts which are not joyfully given, because the lie is built in to them, in much the same way as ‘works’ which are done ‘in the flesh’ cannot contribute to the kingdom of God or the assembly of believers. A blessing without the intention to bless, ie, grudgingly given, is not a blessing at all. So we see that God’s reality is a very deep thing, perceiving the most subtle motivations of our deeds themselves, and of our hearts—we have to give “in the Spirit” or we will never dodge the corruption of our hearts.

8    And God is mighty to lavish you with all grace, so that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may excel in every good work,

All the other translations put “God is able,” but I feel that, in that form it implies that ‘He might, or He might not, but don’t think He can’t,’ but I’m sure Paul is really saying that ‘God will supply, generously, by His infinite power,’ as the word δυνατός (dynatós) also means powerful, mighty and strong. Otherwise we couldn’t always rely on having all we needed to “excel in every good work,” the certainty of which Paul is trying to make clear.

9    as it is written, “he has dispersed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

This is a quote from Psalm 112:9, which says “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honour,” a short section describing the blessedness of those who fear the Lord. This psalm also describes the Messiah (who also fears the Lord), so this is also about the inherent generosity of God. Just as the Messiah has graciously dispersed His salvation to all in need and given to the poor, so should we, in the same spirit of generosity, built on our trust in God to supply our needs in turn.

“Their horn will be lifted high in honour” is a blessing for the generous implied by Paul, through his quoting from it, even though he actually stops short. As a result, doing as Paul is suggesting by quoting this verse, would result in it being confirmed or verified by their action. So we will find we can continuously give to the needy, as our personal resources will never be depleted. Experimental proving of this promise has led some to coin the phrase, “you cannot outgive God.”

“Righteousness” in Hebrew thought is virtually equivalent to alms giving, so it is the act of giving itself which will endure forever to their credit before God.

10   He who supplies seed for the sower and food for the consumer, will supply you with seed and multiply it, and augment the fruits of your righteousness,

Translation note: this verse echoes the structure of “seed for the sower” with “food for the consumer” in a common Hebrew construction (in particular see Isaiah 55:10), not the clumsy “bread for food” which most translations put. I have used “consumer” rather than “eater” as it is more general usage today.

The seed which God will supply is their (our) means and resource for contributing to the needs of the poor.

Paul takes the previous verse as referring directly to God and His gracious provision for all, therefore He will provide all they will need to be generous, so He will increase their ability to help and serve the poor, as they step out in joy to do so and, consequently, increase their credit with Him.

11    enriching you in everything for constant generosity which, with us, causes thanksgiving to God.

God’s provision is for the very purpose of constantly giving to the needy, so Paul’s wish is that they use their wealth to benefit others—particularly the poor saints of Jerusalem.

The reason it will cause thanksgiving to God “with us” is that Paul plans to distribute their gifts in such an honourable manner that God will get all the thanks: both from those who receive and from those rejoicing to give.

12   And this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also overflows in much thanksgiving to God

13   through the proofs the ministry provides: their glorifying of God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ; the generosity of your contribution to them and to all;

We must appreciate that this contribution is in response and in proportion to a very real need. Today, looking round the world, we can see many results of ill-considered charity causing immense suffering in plenty of instances, from funding drug users to supporting wars against non-aggressive nations, so we must give prayerfully and intelligently, allowing the Spirit to direct our giving.

14   and their prayers for you, longing for you because of the superior grace of God in you.

They “long for” the Corinthians because there is a strong, and inevitable attraction for all true believers towards those saints who are filled with the Spirit and who thus, through their obedience, reveal the indwelling Christ and the grace of God.

15   Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.

God’s gift being the grace of giving, together with the inexhaustible supply making it possible, with all its benefits to everyone, particularly the improvement of our relationship with God Himself—the original ‘win-win’ arrangement. As a result, its values take it beyond description.

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

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