but i am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as i said you would be. otherwise, if some macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. [2 corinthians 9:3-4]
let me set the scene for you just a little. paul is writing to the corinithians to collect a donation for the impoverished church in Jerusalem. he actually boasted to the other early churches about the corinithians to encourage them to give. now every other church has given a donation except the corinthians.
you can almost sense some sarcasm in paul as he gently warns the church at corinth of the arrival of “the brothers.” but why is he so concerned with getting a financial donation from the corinthians? does he just not want to look bad, is this some kind of power move? that doesn’t quite track with paul’s heart toward the early church overall.
in the verses to come, we will see that paul is not concerned about merely collecting money. what he’s concerned about is the heart. he knows that there is a difference between generosity and grudging obligation. i think we’ve all given out of grudging obligation before, but it’s safe to say that God never has.
the bible is full of examples of the attitude with which we are to approach giving. just a few verses down paul says God loves a cheerful giver! in proverbs it says that a generous giver is ushered into the presence of the great [proverbs 18:16], that we are to give our first-fruits. [proverbs 3:9] proverbs is actually a great place to go for wisdom about giving [proverbs 21:26].
the point is, generosity isn’t about how much you give, it’s about your attitude in the giving. our attitude reveals a lot about where our heart is at. when our hearts are not in glad submission to the Lord, our hands hold our resources tightly. God doesn’t want us to withhold resources from him because he knows that submission to him leads to life abundant, and anything else is death.
so paul is getting right to the heart of the matter with the corinthians. their willingness to give a donation has less to do with the money itself and more to do with the state of the church in corinth. paul knows that if they’ve begun to hold back resources from the work of the Lord, they’re probably holding their hearts back from him too.
is paul sending “the brothers” to corinth to strong-arm them into giving, or is he doing a welfare check on the corinthians’ hearts that hopefully leads to renewed fervor in advancing the gospel? i’d say the latter, every time.
these verses should prompt us to do a pulse check on ourselves:
where am I feeling my grip tighten on my resources? is it my time, my money, my giftings?
where have i given God my “last-fruits” instead of my “first-fruits?”
what will it take for me to repent, turn to God and cheerfully offer it all to him again?
and when you loosen your grip, spoiler alert, God promises you will abound in grace, and you will see the Lord working in ways you couldn’t have before.
and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. [2 corinthians 9:8]
~ erin boettge