By nature, human beings are selfish. We are takers, not givers. God is different. He is love. God is a giver, not a taker. He wants us to become more like Him – unselfish; full of love; givers, not takers. He wants us to become givers of our time, our talents and our treasures. Giving is to be an important part of our lives as followers of God.
Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, God’s representative to the nations, but he was also a Messianic Jewish man who loved his own people. He was especially concerned for the well-being of his fellow Messianic Jews in Israel. They had been experiencing persecution by the majority of the Jewish people, who had rejected the truth about Messiah Yeshua. Because of the persecution, many had become impoverished. Paul wanted their Christian brothers and sisters outside of Israel who were better off to help them.
In his previous letter, the Rabbi had given instructions to Messiah’s Community in Corinth to prepare a donation to be given to their brothers and sisters in Israel. Now in this letter he gives additional instructions. From these instruction, we are to learn important lessons about giving not only our money, but giving ourselves.
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
The ability and the desire to give generously to the Lord’s work comes from the grace of God. We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. If it weren’t for the grace of God, we wouldn’t have the ability to give; and we wouldn’t want to give; and we would give to the wrong things.
We are to give when things are going well and we have an abundance. And it’s even more praiseworthy to give when things are not going well and we don’t have much. That was true of the congregations in Macedonia. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. We don’t know what kind of very severe trial the congregations in Macedonia, which were north of Corinth, were experiencing. We only know that they were experiencing a very severe trial and extreme poverty. Yet, in spite of that very difficult situation, they were experiencing overflowing joy, a great happiness not dependant on their circumstances; and even though they were suffering and impoverished, they were able to give generously to help their suffering Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel.
We should give according to our ability. However, there may be situations when we want to give beyond our ability. That was the situation with the congregations in Macedonia. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. They gave above and beyond their ability to give. They gave until it hurt. That’s supernatural, Holy Spirit empowered giving.
Our giving should be motivated by desire from within, not from pressure from without. That was the situation with the congregations in Macedonia. Paul and Timothy didn’t have to plead with them or pressure them to give. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
Not only does God love a cheerful giver, He loves a passionate giver. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. Their giving to help the Lord’s people in Israel wasn’t reluctant giving. They were earnestly and pleading to give.
Many people consider giving to be a burden. However, God’s people in Macedonia had an entirely different attitude. They considered giving to be a privilege. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
There is an order to giving. First we are to give ourselves to the Lord; then we give ourselves to the leaders the Lord places over us; then we give our money. They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. Someone who has not first given himself to the Lord may give his money with the wrong motivation. He may give because he thinks that by giving he will earn his salvation. Or, he may give to unworthy causes.
So, first, we give ourselves to the Lord. We turn our lives over to Him. We give our time, talent and treasure to Him to use as He sees fit. Then we do something similar with the leaders the Lord has placed over us. We give ourselves to them. We place ourselves under their authority. We follow their leadership. This is the will of God for us. Then, after we give ourselves to God and our spiritual leaders, give them our time and talents, we are in the best place to give our treasure.
Titus worked with Paul. He was the one who delivered Paul’s severe letter to the Corinthians. When he was in Corinth, he began raising money from them to help the persecuted Messianic Jews in Israel. Then he left and was now returning to them, probably with this letter, to finish the fund-raising. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. It was Paul and Timothy’s desire that the Corinthians cooperate with Titus and complete their gracious act of giving.
Corinth was an important city in Greece. It was a prosperous city. The people admired education and oratory skills. The people in Messiah’s Community in Corinth were proud of their faith, of their sincere and intense beliefs. They were proud of their love – their love for God; their love for their leaders; their love for each other; their love for those outside the community of salvation. They were proud of their well-educated leaders who had abilities to teach the truth and speak well. They believed they excelled in these areas. The Rabbi challenged them to excel in another very important area – giving. But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. Followers of the Lord are expected to give. Paul challenged them to excel in giving, to give generously to this fund-raising effort.
One way to discern if we are as full of love as we think we are is by comparing our actions to the actions of others. Generous giving is an indicator of love. The Macedonians demonstrated their love by their generous giving. Paul wanted to know the sincerity of the Corinthians’ love by comparing their love to others – like the Macedonians. And he would be able to discern the sincerity of their love by the generosity of their giving. Would they be as generous in their giving as the congregations in Macedonia? And there is Another who is the greatest example of love in action. How did their love compare to Messiah’s? I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. The Lord Yeshua didn’t have to leave His riches in Heaven and become a man – and not any kind of man, but a poor man – but He did. Why? For our sake. His love and His grace motivated Him to become poor to enrich those who were spiritually destitute. That’s love in action. How did the love of the Corinthians compare to His love? Would they do what He did? Were they willing to give some of their riches to meet the needs of their brothers and sisters in Israel?
Next the Rabbi told them what he thought was the best thing for them to do. And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. In the previous year, Paul and his team had started raising money among the congregations outside Israel for the believers in Israel. The Corinthians were the first ones to participate. They were the first congregation to want to give and they were the first congregation to give. But, that fund-raising effort had been interrupted – most likely due to the opposition of the group that opposed Paul. But that opposition had ended and now they could finished what they started. Paul thought that it was best if they now completed their fund-raising with the same eager willingness they had when they started.
And they should not be concerned if it turned out that they were able to give less than they wanted. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. When it comes to giving, the willingness to give is more important to God than the amount that one gives. If the willingness is there, then what is given is acceptable to God, even if the amount is less than we wanted to give. The Corinthians should not be embarrassed if they gave less than they wanted because our giving is determined by what we have, not by what we don’t have.
The Lord’s representative wanted them to give willingly; and he wanted them to give generously; and he wanted them to give according to their means, not beyond their means. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. Paul didn’t want them to give so much that their own lives became too difficult.
Over the years, people have come to me and asked: this month I can barely meet my expenses. I barely have enough money for food and rent. Should I be tithing anyway? My answer has been: Don’t give so much that you make it impossible for you to live. Don’t give so that you are hard pressed. Give what you can afford to give.
The Lord’s representative wanted them to give willingly; and he wanted them to give generously; and he wanted them to give according to their means, not beyond their means; and he wanted them to give so that the needs of the Lord’s people were being met. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.
Messiah’s Community is not limited to one city or one people. There is one community made up of all of Messiah’s followers. That means that when one community of the Lord’s followers has more than they need, they give to those who have less than they need; and if that situation reverses, the second group provides for the needs of the first group. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.
And as he did so often, the Rabbi reinforced his teaching with a quote from the Word of God, in this case from Exodus 16. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” Just as the first time the manna appeared, and some of the people gathered more than the required amount, and some gathered less, but then the manna was then distributed so that everyone got the required amount – so the people of Messiah’s Community should give of their resources so that everyone in Messiah’s Community has enough.
Giving is important, and our motives for giving are important; and our generosity is important; and the way that the fund-raising is handled and the way the money is safe-guarded and used after it is given is important. I know of two churches where people embezzled money from the church. Their sin harmed themselves; and it harmed the leaders of the congregations who had trusted these people with the money; and it harmed the community – their trust in the leaders was diminished.
Paul now informed them about the safeguards he put in place to ensure that the fund-rasing and the money that was raised would be handled with integrity. Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. Titus was a good and honest man who loved the Lord and who worked with Paul. He felt the same way as Paul – that it was the right thing for Messiah’s people in Corinth to make a generous contribution to the suffering Messianic Jews in Israel. And like Paul, Titus wanted to get involved with the fund-raising effort. He was motivated and enthusiastic. He was willing to travel to Corinth to help organize and collect the money. Titus was the right kind of man to help with this.
Paul and Timothy informed them they were sending two other unnamed men along with Titus to help. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. This unnamed man’s qualifications? He was dedicated to the Gospel. He was committed to proclaim the message about the Messiah to those who didn’t know it, and build the community of those who responded to the message. All the communities recognized this and praised him for his service to the Gospel. This is the kind of man to entrust with money after it has been raised.
Paul and Timothy knew that efforts must be taken to ensure that money that is given is handled with integrity. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
Along with Titus and the unnamed man, Paul and Timothy were sending another unnamed man to assist. In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. This unnamed man’s qualification? He was zealous. He was passionate about the things of God; and he was even more passionate about getting involved because he had great confidence the Corinthians would do something great to help the Messianic Jews in Israel. This is the kind of man to entrust with money after it has been raised.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to cooperate with the men being sent to them and treat them well. And now he gave them reasons why they should do that. As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Messiah. Paul was the Lord’s representative; and he founded the community in Corinth. The Corinthians should treat him with respect. And Titus was his partner and co-worker – which means that they should treat Titus with respect. And the other two unnamed men represented various communities, and since those communities deserved respect, their representatives deserved respect. And the two unnamed men brought honor to Messiah, and those who are an honor to Messiah should be honored.
Paul and Timothy wanted these men to be treated with love and respect. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it. These men should be treated with love and respect for three reasons:
One: The Corinthians claimed to excel in love. This was an opportunity to demonstrate their love by treating these men well. When God sends us someone, and we treat that person well, we prove that we have love.
Two: Paul and Timothy were proud of the Corinthians. They should treat these men with love and respect so that their pride in them would not be diminished.
Three: if they acted in the right way toward these men, other congregations would see it – and they be inspired to act in a similar way.
Father, thank You for Paul and Timothy’s second letter to the Corinthians, and the many important truths it teaches.
Father, You are full of love – love that is manifested in action; love that meets the needs of those who are loved. Help us be more like You. Helps us to be givers, not takers; givers of our time, our talents and our treasures.
Father, Your Son, and our Lord and Savior was the richest. Yet, He gave away His wealth to enrich those He loved. Help us be more like Messiah Yeshua.
Father, those who claim to be Christians or Messianic Jews but don’t give themselves to You first and to God-ordained spiritual leaders are not living according to Your will and their lives are not in order. Help us give ourselves to You and to the leaders You have placed over us.
Father, we acknowledge that if it weren’t for the grace of God, we wouldn’t have the ability to give; and we wouldn’t want to give; and we would give to the wrong things. Thank You for Your grace that enables us to be givers.
Father, You want our giving to be motivated by desire from within, not from pressure from without. Grace us with that motivation to give that comes from within.
Father, You love a cheerful giver, and a passionate giver. So work in us that we become cheerful and passionate givers. May our giving not be a burden but a delight.
Father, You teach us that giving is important, and our motives for giving are important; and our generosity is important; and the way that the fund-raising is handled and the way the money is safe-guarded and used after it is given is important. Help us here at Shema to safe-guard the money that Your people give, and use it wisely.