III. The Collection for the Saints and the Importance of Generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1–9:15)

8:1-2 From Paul’s other letters, we know that he had taken up a collection among the Gentile churches on behalf of the poor believers in Jerusalem (see Rom 15:25-28; Gal 2:9-10). He had previously urged the Corinthians to take up an offering of their own that he could deliver when he traveled to Jerusalem (see 1 Cor 16:1-4). In this chapter, he makes an appeal for them to complete their collection.

9:6 Paul finally arrives at his main point in his exhortation on giving: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. In other words, a cheap giver will be a cheap receiver, and a generous giver will be a generous receiver. Paul uses a simple farming illustration. A farmer’s harvest is dependent on what he sows. Unless seeds are planted, there will be no crop. The seed deposited in the ground is an investment made in faithful expectation of reaping something much more significant.

In spite of what some health-and-wealth gospel advocates may say, Paul is not promising that giving generously to gospel ministry will result in earthly, material prosperity and the elimination of all your problems. Anyone who says that doesn’t know what he’s talking about and is claiming biblical support for false teaching.

But clearly there’s a principle of sowing and reaping here that’s not to be ignored. If you give generously to a legitimate need from sincere gospel motives when it is in your capacity to do so, God will give you his blessing. A blessing is the God-given capacity to experience, enjoy, and extend the goodness and favor of God in your life. Regardless of what God provides to you, he will bless you with his presence and the ability to use what he provides.

9:7 All giving should be done willingly and not out of compulsion. Why? Because God loves a cheerful giver. Thus, giving is not only about the gift but also about the attitude behind it. We are to be cheerful in our giving because of an understanding that our capacity to give is determined by God and not by ourselves. When you know that God is your source, you can be cheerful in giving since you understand there would be no possibility of giving if he hadn’t given to you first. “The earth and everything in it . . . belong to the Lord” (Ps 24:1). Thus, one of the ways you know you are growing in your faith is when you give with a glad heart in response to the goodness of God. Giving should be a joy not a job.

9:8-9 Paul’s next statement applies to all cheerful givers: God is able to make every grace overflow to you. God’s super abundant grace includes all that he can do for you that you are unable to do for yourself. He can guide you when you’re lost and provide for you when you’re in need. He can heal a relationship that’s broken and grant peace where there’s conflict.

When we have stingy hearts and are reluctant to give to a legitimate need, though, we restrict the flow of God’s grace. It’s cheerful generosity that causes his grace to comprehensively “overflow” so that in every way you have everything you need to excel in every good work (9:8). As Paul’s quotation from Psalm 112:9 shows, when God gives freely to those in need, his righteous character is magnified (9:9).

When God’s kingdom is given priority in your life, you open yourself to waves of grace that are bigger than your gift. History and eternity have more grace available than we could ever access (see Eph 2:7). As a result, the fruit that comes through your service to his kingdom multiplies into greater benefit to you, greater blessings to others, and greater glory to God.

9:10-12 Paul assures the Corinthians that the one who provides seed will multiply seed, and the one who provides bread will increase the harvest of . . . righteousness (9:10). The emphasis here is that God is both the source of what is planted and also the source of what is harvested. Truly acknowledging this rightly produces thanksgiving to God (9:11)—in other words, it causes internal transformation that is expressed in external praise. Thus, there is a twofold effect from this ministry: supplying the needs of the saints and expressions of thanks to God (9:12). God’s goal is that both giver and receiver obtain his blessing as he himself is exalted.

9:13-14 This ministry to the poor saints in Jerusalem was proof of God’s goodness and provision. As a result, Paul explains that the recipients will glorify God for the generous gift and lovingly pray for the Corinthians for being willing conduits of the grace of God. Cheerful and willing contributions to legitimate needs result in an overabundance of grace and blessing, leading to increased prayer and praise to God, which lead to more giving and grace. Those who refuse to give, or who give from mere compulsion, short-circuit this chain of blessing before it can even begin.

9:15 The only way Paul can respond to this amazing grace of God is to say, Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! The “surpassing grace of God” (9:14) so overwhelms Paul that he doesn’t have a vocabulary capable of describing it. It is, in fact, beyond description. That’s the kind of grace you need. That’s the kind of grace you want operating in your life. Don’t cut yourself off from it.

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