The following are my notes of Ed Gravely’s lecture at SEBTS on 2 Corinthians 8-9.
1. Giving is a spiritual / theological endeavor. (2 Cor. 8:8-10)
This is the most important principle. Giving is gospel-centered. Paul calls us to consider the example of Jesus’ generosity and give all of himself to us.
We need to be careful to connect material blessing with generosity. We cannot “out give” God because of how much God gave us with sending his son Jesus.
2. Giving takes discipline and commitment. (2 Cor. 8:10-11)
It takes discipline to follow through on their desires. It takes discipline to give and Christians will always put us one or two steps behind the culture in our finances. For example, if you tithe you will be at least one step behind those who do not give 10% of their salary away.
(See comments below about the context of the chapters.)
3. Giving should be in proportion to your abundance. (2 Cor. 8:12-15)
It would be foolish to give in such a way that you do not have any money yourself that now other church members would need to help you.
4. Money should always be handled carefully and faithfully. (2 Cor. 8:16-24)
The way they talk about this offering is that it well known how this money is being spent and how it is being handled. They are providing good reasons for people to trust them.
5. Giving should not be done begrudgingly or out of obligation but cheerfully. (2 Cor. 9:5-7)
6. Material giving should be a reflection of and an illustration of spiritual abundance. (2 Cor. 9:8-15).
What will we reap when we sow generously? Not cars, cash, or other stuff. The text is crystal clear that righteousness is what we reap. When people see our giving, it should reflect well the message of the gospel. The gospel should make more sense to those around us when they see how we spend our money.
Context of 2 Corinthians 8-9
In this passage the churches in Macedonia decided that they really wanted to support this giving ministry. They really wanted to take up this collection to support the suffering saints that were in Jerusalem. This vision caught on and became very popular. Titus ends ups being the guy who goes from church to church and from city to city in order for the churches to participate in this offering.
So what is going on in chapters 8 & 9 is that when the churches heard about this collection they got really excited. What is going on here is classic human nature. We hear of some need and we get really excited and tell people that you can count on me to give. Then six months goes by when it is time to actually give and there is a problem. You had forgotten about the whole thing and you have not disciplined your life in such a way that you actually have anything to give. Yet, one month is not sufficient time. What Paul is going to call them to is a life of discipline and a life of intentional giving so that members of the church are prepared to given when it is time to take the offering. Unless you are very wealthy we will not give much unless we have plan our giving out.
Therefore, Paul is writing in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 because he wants them to follow through on the offerings that they had already talked about in 1 Corinthians 16. So he tells them that Titus is coming and that he does not wan them to be ashamed because they do not have anything to give.
He also seems to be concerned that when Titus comes to collect this gift that they will give out of guilt. Consequently, he does not want them to just feel guilty and have some people to try and give money that they do not even have.
Doesn’t this whole thing so contrary to building projects that you have heard in our churches? We need to be careful with some of our church practices and how we communicate giving. We probably should not have giving testimonies and how God gave them so much more money after they started giving to the church.