Summary: What is the purpose for giving?
On Christian Giving
One major themes of Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthian church, at least the second of which we have record and assuming that it is one letter and not several, deals with the topic of giving. The Old Testament prescribed several tithes that the people of Israel we to give which amounted to 23% of their income. On top of this, freewill offerings above the tithe were to be given. Taken together, a significant portion of the family’s income went to the running of the nation and to relief of the poor and needy.
The early church also had needs. Even though Paul did not receive a salary and worked for a living, he did acknowledge that the ministers of the church were entitled to be paid for their services, and that not grudgingly. Paul was also concerned about Christian believers who were in abject poverty and needed material sustenance. There were other needs of the church as well. Jesus did not drop the church money out of heaven for the ministry. In fact, Jesus when he walked on earth did not make His own bread. Luke 8 shows that in was the women who were the primary financial backers of Jesus’ ministry including Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and others. Even though the Gospel was to be freely offered, it was not free to offer it. Missionaries, ministers and ministries needed to be funded. And they were to be funded by members of the church itself and not the state. Nor was it to be financed by yard sales and begging from the world. God wants holy money sanctified by holy men and women who were called by God into His church.
One of the major projects which Paul advocated was the relief of the brethren in Palestine, many of whom were Jewish. He was collecting offerings from his churches with the intent of personally delivering it to the church in Jerusalem. Beyond the sheer compassion of the act, Paul hoped that it would help cement the bonds between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul had a high view of the unity of the Church. Whereas he did acknowledge diversity by using binaries like rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, wise and unwise, and male and female, Paul held to a unity to this diversity in the Church. This was a demonstration of the power of God and the truth of the Gospel. God was able to unite binaries which separated people from each other. The Greek philosophers tried this but failed. For them, unity could only be forged at the expense of individual distinctions. This is what we see in globalism today. Distinctions between gender need to go, and so must national boundaries. All cultures must be replaced by this new culture. It claims individual sovereignty and distinctions, but if there are infiniste genders, then there are really one at all.
The other approach is to emphasize diversity at the expense of unity which leads to anarchy. It also leads to things like ethnic cleansing fo groups unlike one’s own. The world has no solution for the problem of unity and diversity. But what is impossible with men is possible with God and His church. This is central to understanding Paul in particular and the Bible in General. A man is still a man and a woman a woman. But they are one in Christ. Christ becomes the common denominator qhich transcends binaries without blanking out diversity.
As far as the particulars are concerned here, Paul is enlisting the Corinthians to join him in this relief offering. Even though Paul had earlier that not many wise and noble were among the membership of the Corinthian Church, we get the idea that they were relatively well off in comparison to other churches. This was not just true of the churches of Palestine, but the churches in Macedonia as well. Paul uses the generosity of these Macedonian churches who had contributed to the relief of Palestine, even though they were economically struggling. This is how Paul frames what he is about to say to the Corinthians on this matter.
Paul begins this passage by commending several virtuous things about the Corinthian church. They were knowledgeable and able to communicate Christian knowledge. They were diligent in doing Christian ministry, faithful and loving. When one reads Paul’s writings to the Corinthians, one gets the idea that he is somewhat generous in these praiseworthy attributes. But it is always good to praise before offering correction so as not to discourage the hearers. Paul is about to ask them to go the extra mile, and because of the way Paul approaches the subject, they seemed to be somewhat tight with the money. Either they were generous in spending upon themselves and did not have a heart for mission to other churches, especially those who were struggling, or they were just plain stingy. Paul asks them to add generosity to their resume. It was necessary for their sense of connection to a church which was larger than themselves.