Paul encourages the church in Corinth to experience grace. He points out the joy and grace the Macedonian church is receiving, despite extreme hardships. He sends Titus to help and encourage them to finish strong in what they started and committed.
3. Macedonia (Northern Greece): Phillippi, Thessalonica and Berea – Planted in Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey: 16:12 Lydia, then fortune-telling slave girl, jailhouse rock; 17 jealous jews seize Jason; 17:10 study day and night, many believed, Jews came from Thessalonica to run Paul out of town (to Athens)
4. a. from severe trial, overflowing joy; from extreme poverty welled up rich generosity. Gave as much as able even beyond pleading for the purpose of sharing in this service
b. Encouragement of grace, eager willingness. To test the sincerity of their love by comparing it with the earnestness of others (not view the “standard” as too low)
c. Managed rightly, both in the eyes of the Lord and also in the eyes of men
d. sowing and reaping are connected. God loves a cheerful giver. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. Generosity results in thanksgiving to God. Not just helping others, but giving thanks to God. Grace
5. Adjust where my focus lies. I pay too much attention to money and not enough to grace: To do more to recognize God’s grace so that I give thanks to God in our giving, not for the funds but for His grace.
I have to admit, this is a tough subject for me. Not because I don’t enjoy giving or see the need or see how it provides an avenue for God’s grace to enrich me in ways far more than money ever could. I’m just jaded because I have experienced church leaders parading out these verses only when it is the time of year for the annual pledge campaign. And, while we are on the subject – what a horrible name: campaign. I know it had a positive meaning at one point, but now it is more associated with politicians who are not know to be the most sincere or trustworthy during campaign season. I think too many churches turn members against cheerful giving when it is only discussed in light of the church receiving.
The important thing is that is not what Paul is saying. As I read these chapters for the tenth time I’m seeing more and more of Paul’s heart. The church in Corinth was living in financial prosperity. When this happens to us we begin to look all around us and start to believe things aren’t so bad. We compare our giving to others that we see. We compare our spending to others and what they purchase. Through all of it we lose sight of God’s grace. Not His grace that He has blessed us financially, but His grace that he has saved us from our sins. Paul was gravely concerned for the church in Corinth that they were falling into this trap of near sightedness. To open their eyes to the bigger picture he tells them about the church in Macedonia. But notice, this is not a guilt trip about how it is up to Corinth to save Macedonia. If anything it is the opposite. Look at the joy and grace these folks are experiencing. They do not see giving as a loss, but they are begging to give because they see the way God’s grace overflows to fill them up. Paul wants that same spirit and joy for the Corinthians. He is not sending Titus to be the collection agency. He is sending Titus as a third-base coach. You started out great, just a little way to go, let me help and encourage and coach you. Paul doesn’t want them to give so he can receive. He wants them to clean out their hearts so God can fill them up.
There are some great lessons here about giving. The example that Christ set of giving himself, stepping down from the throne to suffer and die in the flesh not for His gain but for ours. It was also important that “each man must decide in his heart how he should give.” The giving that God wants is a heart thing, not a head thing. You don’t crunch the numbers, you empty out your heart of worldly things so God can fill it with heavenly things. When you do that, it is cheerful – that’s the difference.