And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.
So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.
But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us--see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.
At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,
as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little."
I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.
For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.
And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.
What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help.
We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift.
For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.
In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.
As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.
Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.
There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints.
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.
But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be.
For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we--not to say anything about you--would be ashamed of having been so confident.
So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
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 made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men 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.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you--I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away!
I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he.
For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.
I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters.
For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing."
Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.
We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ.
Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand,
so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory.
But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.