Summary: Righteous giving is motivated by 1) God’s grace (2 Cor. 8:1), It 2) Transcends difficult Circumstances (2 Cor. 8:2a), 3) Is with joy (2 Cor. 8:2b), It’s 4) Not hindered by poverty (2 Cor. 8:2c), and is 5) Generous (2 Cor. 8:2d)
In Ottawa tomorrow, the Federal government is expected to release its budget. Implicit in any budgetary expenditures, is the consideration of whose money is being spent. Without a surplus, which is the money set aside from previous taxation, the Federal government relies on current taxation, which is the money from present taxpayers. If they decide to spend money they do not have, they are spending money of future taxpayers. How generous they are in their spending is a barometer of how healthy they expect the economy to perform to cover their expenditures, and how much of taxpayers money they think they can spend without too much uproar.
How people view money is an effective barometer of their spiritual health. Money is neither good nor bad in itself; corrupt people can put it to evil uses, while godly people can put it to righteous uses. Though it is morally neutral, what people do with their money reflects their internal morality. In the words of Jesus, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
The early church gave to meet the needs of the poor. Most of its members were from the lower classes (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26), and many were unable to meet their own financial needs. As Paul wrote 2 Corinthians:8-9, he did not write about the poor in the Corinthian assembly; the Corinthians were apparently faithful in caring for them. Nor was the apostle’s focus on giving to the poor in general. He was concerned specifically about the many needy saints in the Jerusalem church. From its birth on the Day of Pentecost, the Jerusalem church had had to cope with the extreme poverty of many of its members. There were three main reasons for that situation.
Please turn to Acts 2
First, the Jerusalem church consisted largely of pilgrims. Many, if not most, of the first converts were visiting Jerusalem to celebrate the Day of Pentecost, when the church was born. They were Hellenistic Jews, who lived in the Gentile lands to which the Jewish people had been scattered in the Diaspora.
Acts 2:9–11 describes them as
Acts 2:9-11 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians--we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." (ESV)
"Keep your place in Acts 2"
On that Day of Pentecost, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2:41). Soon afterward, the number of men in the church reached five thousand (Acts 4:4), not counting the women. Since there were no churches or Christians anywhere else in the world, the converted pilgrims remained in Jerusalem. Only there could they sit under the apostles’ teaching and find fellowship with other believers. Most of them were not wealthy and could not afford to stay indefinitely in Jerusalem’s inns, nor would they wish to, given the condition of the typical inn. And many of those staying with Jewish relatives were alienated from family after becoming Christians and had to leave.
They would have had no option but to move in with the Jewish believers who lived in Jerusalem. Many of them were also poor, so housing thousands of converted pilgrims would have been a great hardship for them.
Another reason for the Jerusalem church’s poverty was persecution. New converts lost their jobs or businesses and were ostracized by their families and friends. Just as Jesus had predicted, they became the outcasts of Jewish society (John 16:2).
A third reason for the Jerusalem church’s poverty was the generally poor economic climate of the region. The Romans extracted all they could from their conquered territories, seizing their resources and imposing a heavy burden of taxation. The result was rampant poverty in Israel. Adding to the region’s economic woes was the worldwide famine predicted in Acts 11:27–29.
The Jerusalem church made a noble effort to meet the needs of its poor members. Acts 2:44–45 records:
Acts 2:44-45 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (ESV)
Acts 4:32-34 adds:
Acts 4:32-34 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold (ESV)