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They Gave Themselves to the Lord

8/13 – Your Surplus (2 Corinthians 8:7-15)

 

Introduction — Here Paul continues his encouragement to the church. He wants them to finish the task. He wants them to complete the offering they began receiving the year prior. He wants them to see the wondrous grace of God at work among the churches. Paul directs them to the grace of their Lord Jesus Christ. Paul reminds them of their abundance, their surplus. This church abounds in everything—faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and love—through God’s grace. And since they were eager to begin the gracious work, and since they have the means to complete the gracious work, then they must finish the gracious work. They must not, however, see the task of giving as a burden. They must not give grudgingly. They must view their giving as a way to assist their brothers and sisters in Christ who could truly benefit from this monetary gift. Who knows? These folks in Corinth who now give from their surplus may find themselves in need of receiving help from the same folks in Jerusalem they now help. The folks in Corinth must abound in giving. They must be sincere in their giving. They must give generously of their own accord. They must give from their surplus. How about us? Do we give willingly? Do we give generously? Do we give out of our abundance?

 

Now as you excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this grace.

 

Your abundance is there by God’s grace to show forth God’s grace.

Be amazed with what you have. (7-9)

But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 

 

Comment: Paul wants the Corinthian church to see the bounty of God’s grace among them. First, they must never forget that they abound in faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and love by God’s grace. Second, they must constantly keep in mind (you know!) the grace of their Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for their sake He became poor, so that they through His poverty might become rich. Paul seems to be building a case for this church to stand amazed at all they have through God’s gracious work among them. Question: Does God’s grace amaze you? Do you often stop to consider the great riches you have from God? Do you see the bounty given to you? Application: Keep excelling in the gracious work of giving. Be amazed with what you have. Take inventory of God’s bounty lavished upon you (count your many blessing) through Jesus Christ. Look to the cross of Christ. Consider His passion. Consider His love. Think about who you are in Christ.

 

Be willing to share what you have. (10-12)

10 I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. 11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 

 

Comment: Paul urges the church in Corinth to finish the offering they began the prior year. He wants them to show forth God’s grace with an eager desire to share what they have with fellow believers in Jerusalem. The folks in Corinth must give according to what they have, not according to what they do not have. Still, they must give freely, according to their ability. They must be willing to share from their abundance. Question: Do you share what you have with others? Do you gladly offer what you can where you can? Do you have an eager desire to share? Do you see the benefits of giving freely? Do you give freely?

Application: If you’re somewhat stingy with what you have, then ask God to grow your willingness to share. Ask Him to make you more and more eager to let go of what you have in order to show forth His grace. Seek to have an open heart and open hands when it comes to giving. Refuse to cave to what culture may dictate. Listen closely to how God directs you to give.

 

Be generous with what you have. (13-15)

For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

 

Comment: Paul teaches that the folks in Corinth shouldn’t see their gift as a burden on themselves. Those in Corinth shouldn’t think that the folks in Jerusalem will be living in ease at their expense. Rather, the believers in Corinth should view their current abundance as a means to help the disadvantaged believers in Jerusalem Who knows? Those who now give from their surplus may find themselves in need of receiving help from the same folks in Jerusalem they now help. The folks in Corinth must abound in giving. They must be sincere in their giving. They must give generously of their own accord. They must be generous.

Question: How about you? How about us? Do we as a church give generously? Do we give of your own accord? Do we give sincerely? Do we give with a deep awareness of God’s blessings upon you? Do we give from our surplus? Do we share freely? Application: Let’s continue to pray about that one main ministry we can either join or begin that makes a huge difference in the community. Let’s look for ways we can assist other churches in what they are doing? Let’s be aware of the needs of fellow Christians around the world. Let’s prayerfully consider where we can give from our surplus. Let’s be generous. Let’s give to overflowing. Let’s be willing to share. Let’s be amazed with what we have. Let’s show forth God’s grace. Let’s excel in this grace.

Word Study for 2 Corinthians 8:12-15

12 present (prokeimai—lie before; set before; exist openly; exhibited; to be set out)

12 has (echo—possess; hold on to; retain; wear)

12 acceptable (euroskektos—quite pleasing; truly favorable; good pleasure; benevolence; favor)

13 ease (anesis—remission; liberty; release; freedom; indulgence; rest)

13 affliction (thlipsis—trouble; anguish; oppression; distress)

13 equality (isotes—equal in dignity, worth, honor; fairness)

14 abundance (perisseuma—overflow; plenty; have more than enough; full)

14 need (hysterema—absence; deficiency; want; what is lacking; poverty)

15 little (oligos—few; slight; small amount or quantity; few)

15 lack (elattoneo—receive less; diminish; have too little; make less)[1]

 

Application for 2 Corinthians 8:12-15

Let’s be ready to give.

Let’s give according to what we have, not according to what we don’t have.

Let’s give out of our present abundance to help those who might have less abundance.

Let’s know that the folks we help now may one day help us.

Let’s keep in mind that God provides exactly what we need.

 

Gospel Connections for 2 Corinthians 8:12-15

Jesus was ready and willing to give. He gave His love and grace and mercy generously. He supplied what people needed. He often went beyond what they expected. Jesus gave freely. Jesus gave joyfully. Jesus gave to glorify the Father. Jesus gave to direct people to the Father. Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many.

 

Thoughts and Quotes for 2 Corinthians 8:12-15

Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one's soul. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

When people get scared, they quit giving. ~ Dave Ramsey

 

The world says you gain your life by getting more and more and more and more, but Jesus says, 'No, that leads to death. You get it back by giving it away and when you give it away you get it back.' ~ Philipp Yancey

 

If you're a follower of Jesus, He has given you abundance so that you can care for others, not so you can stock up on Capri pants for next summer or afford a leather interior in the new SUV. As long as you don't own the responsibility of being blessed with resources so that you can give to those around you, then you can stay focused on getting more for yourself. ~ Craig Groeschel, Weird

 

To be blessed and yet permit gluttony to blind me to the blessings is to banish myself to a life of unrelenting poverty even though I might be utterly engulfed in the embrace of a million marvelous blessings. ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~ John Bunyan

 

Whether we live in poverty or prosperity, we can still live generously. ~ Dillon Burroughs, Hunger No More

 

The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage. ~ Tullian Tchividjian

 

Enjoy the adventure of generosity. ~ Judah Smith

Commentary for 2 Corinthians 8:12-15

(5) Divine Principle: Equity (8:13–15)

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15 as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

8:13–15 Stinginess has a way of expressing itself through suspicion of others and rationalizing its tightfisted ways. Paul is aware that some miserly members of the congregation might gripe, “Others will be profiting from our hard earned money.” “We have to bear the brunt of the burden while the poor get rich off us.” “We have enough financial troubles of our own, why should we have to help others we do not even know?” Paul is realistic; unless one has the spirit of Christ, one does not want to bear a greater burden so that others might be relieved. He therefore tries to deflect any possible complaint by assuring them that the Jerusalem church is not going to live the high life from these gifts.

Paul does not ask the Corinthians to give more than others because they are better off. He asks them only to give what they can. The example of the Macedonians shows that Paul is not placing an unequal burden upon them. He does not want them to become hard pressed in offering relief to others. The word translated “hard pressed” (thlipsis) in the NIV is the same word in 8:2 that refers to the Macedonian’s “test of affliction” (“out of the most severe trial,” NIV). The Corinthians’ giving to this fund, even sacrificially, will hardly compare with the severe affliction which the Macedonians endured. In spite of their dire circumstances, these Christians did not believe they were too hard pressed to give what they could and beyond what they could. But Paul is not asking the Corinthians to put themselves into debt by contributing. The principle undergirding the whole project is one of equity (isotēs, “equality,” NIV). It relates to “justice” and “fairness.”

Paul does not write “so that there might be equity,” as the NIV renders it, but instead he writes unexpectedly, “but out of equity” (allex isotētos). Paul is not talking about the purpose for their giving—to create equality—but the ground of their giving—from equality. Sharing from their surplus to give to this fund accords with a divine principle about equity and material goods. Calvin comments

that riches which are heaped up at the expense of our brethren are accursed and will soon perish and their owner will be ruined with them, so that we are not to imagine that the way to grow rich is to make provision for our own distant future and defraud our poor brethren of the help that is their due. I acknowledge indeed that we are not bound to such equality as would make it wrong for the rich to live more elegantly than the poor; but there must be such an equality that nobody starves and nobody hordes his abundance at another’s expense.

Two principles emerge from Paul’s discussion: giving in proportion to what one has, and giving on the basis of equity so that each has enough. The Corinthians’ current abundance will supply their current lack.

Instead of finishing the sentence in 8:13, Paul leaves it incomplete and starts another in 8:14. Georgi paraphrases 8:14–15, “At this point in time your abundance is added to their shortage, so that their might be equity; as it is written: ‘Who had much, did not have more, and who had little, did not have less.” Most do not believe that the expression “at the present time” (en tōi nyn kairōi) carries any particular eschatological significance but only refers to the present time of need suffered by the saints in Jerusalem. But Paul’s use of the phrase in Rom 3:26; 8:18; 11:5 and 2 Cor 6:2 suggests that it might indeed have eschatological overtones. Barnett interprets it to mean:

As God imposed “equality” within Israel during the wilderness pilgrimage, so at “the present time” under the “new covenant” (3:2–6; cf. 6:16), when there is, by fulfillment, an “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16), there is also to be “equality.” In this time of God’s eschatological fulfillment (v. 14) that “equality” is to be voluntary (vv. 3, 8–9), joyous, and generous (v. 2).

In Rom 15:25–31 Paul makes it clear that the gospel is a gift that creates an obligation of gratitude that should be shown by the return of material gifts. Paul specifically refers to the Macedonians and Achaians as spiritual debtors to those in Jerusalem (Rom 15:26–27; cp. Phlm 17–19). He explains, “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings” (Rom 15:27b; cp. John 4:22, “Salvation is of the Jews”). Peterman shows that in the ancient world, “When a person receives a benefit it is considered a social obligation to show gratitude. This gratitude is primarily displayed in a counter gift or favour.” The collection becomes a way of paying off a spiritual debt to those in Jerusalem.

Given the Corinthians’ sensitivities to the intricacies of such social relations, however, Paul does not come right out and say in so many words that they are debtors to the mother church in Jerusalem. He also shows sensitivity to the social rules of the time by emphasizing future reciprocity. The protocol of gift giving in this culture took for granted that whenever there was disparity in the exchange of gifts, the one who outgave the other gained status as the superior while the other moved down a rung in the status ladder. That explains why Paul stresses that the Corinthians’ plenty now will supply the needs of the saints “so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” No one will outgive the other and attain a higher status over the other. Hanson expresses it this way: “The Corinthians give now, not as the richer members condescending to give to their poorer brethren, but as brothers who know that, in Christ, their present supplying of the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem will be answered by the people of Jerusalem in some way and at some time supplying their need.”

Paul’s statement leaves open the possibility that they will repay in kind with material gifts if the Corinthians ever have need. But in chap. 9 Paul will give a Christian twist to the convention of gift giving. He stresses that God rewards those who are generous with the poor. This theological affirmation changes entirely the dynamics behind gift exchange with its expectation of reciprocity and brings it more in line with the gospel. The implication is that the bond between them is triangular because God repays those who are generous to the poor (9:6–11). He also spiritualizes their reciprocity. If the unlikely possibility ever comes to pass that their fortunes should be reversed, the Jerusalem Christians will share material gifts with the Corinthians. But immediately they will offer up prayers of thanksgiving and intercession for them (9:12–14).

Paul steers carefully through the intricate maze of cultural expectations regarding gift exchange and social reciprocity yet clearly implies that Christians cannot sit idly by and let the Christians starve who sent the gospel their way. God intends that there be fairness in the distribution of what people need to live. They will lose nothing in sharing with their needy brothers and sisters in Christ. But they will face God’s judgment if they keep for themselves a surplus that could have been used to help others on the edge of survival.

The quotation from Exod 16:18 from the miracle of the manna caps this stage of Paul’s argument:

And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them (Exod 16:18–20).

The manna was distributed “each according to his need,” and Paul takes this as a divine pattern for the distribution of material possessions. Strachan, among many others, fails to see how the quotation is relevant since, he claims, it does not illustrate the principle of give and take, except that in God’s scheme of things it does not pay to be selfish. But the principle of give and take is not the point. God’s justice demands equality, and Paul interprets this to apply to the equality of sharing. Trying to amass more than one’s fair share, hoarding it, or clutching it desperately is a futile waste of energy. One ends up with a pile of rot. Paul interprets the account from Exodus as teaching that one can share with others and still have enough.

The “enough” has to do with what is necessary. Unfortunately, the continuation of the story of the manna in the wilderness illustrates how humans never seem to feel that enough is enough. Sinful humans are not satisfied with their omer apiece and invariably want to squirrel away more for themselves and have something saved for a rainy day. They also grow dissatisfied with plain old manna from heaven and crave luxuries (see Num 11:5–6). Anxiety over possessing and keeping such things throttles any generosity as we worry that we may not have enough for ourselves. But our selfishness and covetousness is in turn stifled by the divine principle of equality that turns our excess spoils into spoilage reeking to heaven.

This divine principle—no one has a surplus; no one has a shortage—was enforced by God in the time of the wilderness. Now it is voluntary, dependent on the working of God’s grace in the hearts of Christians. The principle governs Paul’s advice on handling money. He told the Corinthians earlier that they should not depend on their money but live independently of it (1 Cor 7:29–31). He warns others to beware of greed (Rom 1:29; 1 Cor 6:10; 2 Cor 3:5; Eph 4:19; 5:3, 5; and 1 Tim 6:10) and to provide for those in need (Rom 12:13; 2 Cor 9:8; Gal 6:6–10; Eph 4:28; and 2 Thess 3:13). The most remarkable statement appears in Eph 4:28, that one should work so that one may “have something to share with those in need” (cp. 1 Thess 4:12). On the other side, he warns others from trying to take advantage of others’ generosity (see 2 Thess 3:8–12).

Paul applies the divine principle of equity to sharing material gifts with the poor in Jerusalem. Hays concludes that Paul uses the story about the manna “to good effect in depicting the Corinthians’ material ‘abundance’ (2 Cor 8:14) as a superfluous store that could and should be made available to supply the ‘wants of the saints.’ ” But the sharing of material gifts is a sign of a spiritual equity. Paul sees this project as the outworking of an even greater divine principle that is creating a worldwide fellowship of people in Christ. They are interconnected to one another through Christ and have equal access to God’s grace. They trust in God’s daily provision, and no one needs to hoard their material blessings since God provides abundantly. If they lack anything, they need not fret. God has provided other Christians an abundance so they can help. God has also poured out grace to make Christians generous.[2]

 

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

   7     But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.

   8     I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.

   9     For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

10     I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.

11     But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.

12     For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

13     For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—

14     at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality;

15     as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”[3]

 

 



[1] Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson

 

 

[2] Garland, D. E. (1999). 2 Corinthians (Vol. 29, pp. 382–386). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 8:7–15). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.