1. “But concerning the ministry to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you.” In view of the glorious encouragement Titus gave him, he feels very bold to approach them on all subjects. So he takes strong hold on them in behalf of the poor saints.
2. “For I know your promptitude, which I am in the habit of boasting to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready from last year. Oh, your zeal has aroused many.
3. “I also sent the brethren in that our boasting in your behalf in this region may not be empty.” He had sent unto them Timothy and Titus, and their evangelistic comrades, so there would be no delinquency on this line nor any other. “In order that as I said, ye may be prepared.
4. “Lest perhaps, if the Macedonians may come along with me and should find you unprepared, we (in order that we may not say you) may be put to shame in this confidence.” Certainly he would be in a serious dilemma if, after boasting of the Achaians to the Macedonians, some of the latter should accompany him (as they did) and find Achaia unprepared. Hence the pertinency of sending on the brethren and working the matter in anticipation. Preachers need common sense as well as other people.
5. “Therefore I considered it necessary to exhort the brethren [i.e., Titus and his two helpers] that they come to you beforehand and previously prepare you? long-announced benefaction, that the same may be ready as a beneficence and not as a stingy offering.” We see here that Paul was very particular about that contribution. He was not satisfied simply to raise the amount, but he was determined that it should be a blessing to the donor. He constantly uses the word eulogia, which means a spiritual blessing, and charis, which is the regular word for the grace of God. God help us all to heed the Pauline example and remember that we have no right to take contribution for the cause of God unless it comes in such a way as to be a positive spiritual blessing. Oh, how this knocks up all of your church festivals and various devices to raise money just any way you can get it. How shameful these devices, when as a rule the money is not needed except to sacrifice to church pride and enjoy the honor of paying the full assessments, which are frequently several times more than necessary; e. g., raise ten thousand dollars to run the church when it would actually be better to run it on two thousand. Here Paul refuses to accept, even for God’s poor, a stingy contribution. Would it not do the poor saints just as well as if it had been given cheerfully? So did not Paul make a mistake? Oh, no! God has charge of His poor, and it is an insult to Him to take a stingy contribution. Church benefactions are all taken up in the name of the great God, who is infinite. Hence it is grievous to Him to resort to the claptrap policy of church frolics, festivals and fandangos. No wonder the church is dead and the people going to Hell in platoons, when the hue and cry is money, and all sorts of questionable strategy laid under contribution to get it, and behind the whole compoodle enormous and utterly unnecessary assessments laid on the people in order to raise a big lot of money that the pastor’s family may live like kings in pomp and splendor, thus exposed to the most terrible temptation to lead a proud, wicked life, and turn out wicked and worldly, for which they are actually proverbial, lead many to ruin and make their bed in Hell.
6. “But I say this, He that soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he that soweth unto blessings hall also reap unto blessings.” Here we see Paul settles the matter that all financial contributions to the Lord shall be given in such a way as to be a spiritual blessing to the donor at the time he takes the contribution. Hence our collections should be religious services, as spiritual and profitable in the way of spiritual edification and inspiring as our praying. Others likewise will forfeit the final blessing resulting from the benefaction. How can this be? Will not the contribution prove a blessing in the end, even if I give it grudgingly or actuated by pride? The answer is in the negative. It is the same as if you cast it into the sea, for unless you give it unto “blessings,” you shall not receive reward “unto blessings.” Why, Paul, will not a stingy contribution help the saints at Jerusalem? The answer is in the negative. Why? The saints are not dependent on human liberality. God’s ravens are not all dead. He can take care of His poor and His missionaries as well without you as with you. Let us not be caught in the devil’s delusion to think we are important. If we should die, we would not be missed. N. B. — God can run His machinery without us. God is better than any board of stewards or finance committee.
7. “As each one hath determined in his heart, not from reluctance or from necessity.” The Holy Ghost here actually uses a pleonasm and tautology, two grammatical errors in the estimation of modern critics, in order to enforce the grand fact that He does not want the contributions which are not made cheerfully, willingly, gladly and adoringly, in such a way as to be a spiritual blessing to the contributor at the time. Hence we are to pray over this part of the service like we do our preaching and altar work, and everything connected with the worship of God. I believe that it is a great mistake to refrain from singing while taking up a contribution, because a really good spiritual song would prove the vehicle of the Holy Ghost to pour blessings on the congregation during the contribution. I love Revelation John Norberry’s methods. He passes no contribution boxes, but exhorts the people to give with an eye single to the glory of God or withhold their contribution, all standing and coming forward and laying their money on a table while the doxology and other good songs of a most spiritual character are being sung by the whole congregation, the pastor and many others leading the way to the Lord’s table, laying down their contributions and then falling on their knees in adoration and supplication, meanwhile all the congregation enjoy the privilege to come or send their gifts to the treasury of the Lord. We have in this sentence the preposition both before lupee, “reluctance,” and anangkee, “necessity,” a grammatical pleonasm and tautology, in order to enforce with burning emphasis God’s prohibition of that blasphemous religious farce which so frequently derogates and pollutes His house. This salient fact should be emphasized before every congregation and efforts made to keep people from thus recklessly and blasphemously grieving the Holy Ghost by giving from reluctance, i. e., when it does not come freely from the heart as an offering to the Lord, enjoyed and appreciated as a precious privilege and a means of grace. Again, we are not to give from necessity, i. e., with a feeling that I have to do it or the Lord’s preachers and the poor saints will starve. That is a downright insult to God in His own house, who says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the cattle on a thousand hills are mine.” The popular churches are everywhere blaspheming the name of God and disgracing Him before the infidels by this constant, indiscriminate and unscrupulous effort to get money. The result is they actually run into idolatry, ceasing to worship the God of the universe, who is infinitely rich, and disgusted and blasphemed by their stingy and reluctant contributions. But millions are actually worshipping a poor little god who is in an awful financial embarrassment and no akin to the omnipotent Jehovah, who sits upon the circle of the Heavens and turns the seasons round, with millions of ravens ready to fly and carry bread to every missionary girdling the globe and every suffering saint beneath the skies. When the Lord sanctified me thirty years ago He gave me light on this subject. Since that time I have been circuit rider, presiding elder, and occupied a diversity of ministerial relations. But I have stuck close to the Word of the Lord on finances. Twenty-eight years ago my Conference sent me to an old, dead, run-down circuit. My stewards met me and all wanted to resign, giving as a reason that none of the members were willing to pay the preacher, and they just had to wring from them their stingy and reluctant contributions amid rebellion, denunciation, and even abuse, because they asked them for ministerial support. I said to them, “I have but one charge to make you with reference to your duty to collect money for me, and that is that you be sure that you never receive anything that is not given with a free and cheerful heart. If I find out to the contrary I will send back everything that is reluctantly contributed.” “Well,” they said, “you will starve sure, for with all our efforts we have never been able to raise the pastor’s salary in full, and you will just about get nothing.” I not only thus charged my stewards, but I told the people from the pulpit what they had said to me about finances, and my order to them, then repeating it to the people: “I am glad to tell you that I serve a God who owns millions of immortal worlds and mountains of gold and silver. Be sure that you make no contribution to me this year unless you do it with an eye single to the glory of God, as a means of grace and blessing to your own souls.” The year passed away. The people gave me more than I knew what to do with, actually more than double the amount in former years assessed for the support of my predecessors, which, by all their financial strategy, they had never been able to collect in full. The stewards told me that the people ran after them from all directions with their contributions, begging them to receive them. Of course God was with us that year, gloriously converting four hundred people within the boundary of my little circuit, so that I went up to Conference with three times as many members as I had at the beginning of the year, meanwhile giving the Baptists ninety and the Presbyterians thirty who ha been gloriously converted at our altars. For many years I have traveled five to twenty-five thousand miles per annum with no person on the globe in any way being responsible for a penny, God Himself being my support, temporal as well as spiritual. Obedience to these commandments would actually bring a revival wave over the dead churches of Christendom, rolling from ocean to ocean like a sea of glory. Oh! that we could all wake up and take God in our finances an everything else. I am now preaching on the Atlantic Coast, responsive to calls which I received in California, four thousand miles distant. My response to the question, “What must we pay you to come to New England?” was the simple statement in brackets on a postal card: “No charge.” I travel constantly throughout the continent, making no charge and recognizing no financial obligation anywhere. God is better than all the banks in America. Do not fear. If you are doing His work, His ravens are already on the wing. “For God loves a laughing giver.” The Greek is hilaros, i. e., “hilarious,” the same word used in English, slightly modified in the spelling pursuant to the idiom of the English language. Look in your dictionary for hilarious. You will find it means “laughing uproariously.” Remember this giving is an act of devotion to God, which He blesses like He does your prayers, testimonies, songs, sermons and exhortations. The idea here is that you are to be so glad of the opportunity to co-operate with God in the salvation of the world that you will accompany your contribution with a glorious, uproarious, religious laugh, a regular hallelujah gaudeamus. This is the way the colored people in the South have astonished the world by building up church edifices and school-houses all over the country since they were emancipated in abject poverty. They walk up with shining faces and hilarious shouts and lay it down on the table. If the preachers and deacons would everywhere not’ only proclaim but enforce this rule, their finances would not only prove a paradoxical success, but instead of chilling the spiritual ardor would prove the vehicle of fiery baptisms poured on the congregation, and actual incentives to revival power.
8. “But God is able to cause all grace to abound unto you in order that always in everything, having all sufficiency, you may abound in every good work .” God help us to believe this truth, and make our contributions with a free will and a glad heart, hailing the glorious privilege and appreciating the means of grace, utterly saved from the diabolical lie that would make us feel that our poor benefaction is in any way a necessity to the cause of God. Oh, that we may constantly recognize in our God “all sufficiency,” temporal as well as spiritual! Such are His infinite resources that He can do without any of us and not know the difference. Here is the great culminating fact revealed. Our God has “all sufficiency,” temporal and spiritual, so that He does not need us nor anything we can do; meanwhile it is a privilege so glorious to be permitted to co-operate with God in His glorious philanthropy for the salvation and amelioration of the world that we should leap with joy and laugh uproariously, with the very ebullition of holy gratitude at the very thought of being permitted to bear some humble part in the glorious work of our wonderful Savior in redeeming this poor lost world from in, death and Hell.
9. “As has been written, He has scattered abroad, He hath given to the poor, His righteousness endureth forever.” What a wonderful promise! If you scatter your benefactions to the ends of the earth for the glory of God, helping the missionaries in all lands, and gladdening the hearts of the poor, your righteousness will endure forever. Here is a perfect guarantee against all backsliding.
10. “He that ministers seed to the sower and bread for eating shall supply and multiply your seed, and increase the fruits of your loving Heavenly Father. In ten thousand mysterious ways He will, to your own unutterable astonishment, multiply the seed which you are sowing in all the earth and increase the fruits of your righteousness.” How glorious it will be when the guardian angels in Heaven shall introduce to you many a soul saved through your instrumentality! Your little contributions crossed the great ocean, traveled half around the world, and carried the gospel to souls perishing for “the Bread of Life.” The guardian angels know you and know them. Happy will be your introduction in Heaven to the souls saved through your humble benefaction while toiling in earthly poverty.
11. “In everything being enriched unto all liberality, which worketh out through us thanksgiving unto God.” Here you see Paul prays that the Corinthian saints may be enriched unto all liberality, i. e., liberality in every respect and in the superlative degree. This liberality, which makes every little contribution a laughing blessing, is really a spiritual grace, the beautiful and delicious fruit of the blessed Holy Spirit Himself. And it works out in us gratitude to God. Oh, how infinitely alien from every conception of reluctance, burden or necessity! The idea here is that it works in us adoring thanksgiving to God for the blessed privilege.
12. “Because the ministry of this offering is not only supplying the deficiencies of the saints, but also abounding through much thanksgiving unto God.” Here you see the double inducement to participate in this philanthropy; i. e., because they are not only supplying the deficiencies for the saints, which is a glorious privilege and to them a great blessing, but it is reacting in showers of blessing on both the donors and the beneficiaries in the way of adoring gratitude to God, which of itself is a grand and amiable spiritual grace.
13. “Through the proof of this ministration glorifying God for the subjection of your confession unto the gospel of Christ and the liberality of your contribution as regards them and as regards all men.” How elaborately here Paul enlarges upon the gracious aspect of this contribution! exhibiting before the world the rich spiritual enduement of Christian liberality.
14. “Through their prayer in your behalf longing after you with Christian affection on account of the grace of God which superabounds unto you.” How beautiful this incentive: The Jerusalem saints will not only pray for you incessantly, but will actually long to see you and enjoy your saintly fellowship, drawn toward you with holy admiration on account of the sweet grace of God which actually superabounds in you.
15. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift;” i. e., His own Son to come down, suffer and die to redeem us all from sin, death and Hell; in consideration of which momentous reality how glad should we be to cast in our little mite and bear some humble part in the glorious enterprise for which God gave His only Son to die. This is the climax of all incentives to Christian liberality.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 9". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany