Pursuing Generosity

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Perhaps you are being confronted with a difficult situation, such as intending to accomplish the will of God and to follow the Lord faithfully, yet that path has become more intricate than you could have imagined. 

Perhaps you are wondering how to avoid a prior commitment, bypass some challenge, or partially obey a direct teaching of Scripture. Second Corinthians will encourage you to finish what you started. Doing so will result in joy, and the heavenly Father will be pleased when you are true to your commitments. The best way to fulfill good intentions is to accomplish them.

Being faithful to one’s commitments—especially regarding the purpose and will of God—means doing so freely, not simply out of compulsion. Nevertheless, it is not inappropriate to state reasons why one should bring a commitment to fulfillment, even when it may sometimes constitute significant urging. An impetus based on honest and truthful reasons is always legitimate, even though it should not be stated as a command. Second Corinthians 8—9 address this very issue.

Second Corinthians 8—9 refer to generosity that is enabled and motivated by God (vv. 1-4; cf. vv. 12-14). The expression “beyond their ability” (v. 3) is somewhat hyperbolic for beyond normal expectation. Personal interests do not interfere with giving what is not essential, which is why the Bible refers to it as a “gracious work” (vv. 6-7) or divine enablement. Being generous requires consecration “to the Lord” and to His servants, in addition to regarding all one possesses as God’s (v. 5). “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above” (Jas 1:17a); therefore, one is a steward (not master) of his or her possessions. The primary duty of a steward is faithfulness (1 Cor 4:2), which God rewards (Luke 16:10-12).

Defined as the transfer of income and wealth from some individuals to others, redistribution of wealth is a polarizing issue. Scripture, however, provides an example of the greatest redistribution of wealth that will ever occur. Second Corinthians 8:9 declares, “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.” Of course, verse 9 is not referring to monetary wealth; rather, Jesus is the eternal God, and as such owns everything by virtue of His authority and power. He “became poor” (by humbling himself as a bond-servant, and becoming obedient to a substitutionary death on a cross: Phil 2:5-8) encompasses the glorious truth of the gospel. Jesus “became poor,” even though the riches of His glory as God the Son are infinite. Jesus is the great example for being generous, and the gospel is the basis and motivation for godly living. Being a generous person is modeled after Christ’s example. Considering the cheerfulness, desire, and willingness of Jesus Christ to give all for those who trust in Him, is reason to be generous (2 Cor 8:8-9).

Paul could have stated a command based upon individuals being among “the first” to take the lead in wanting to help others, even having “a desire” to do so (v. 10). The commitment and desire to help meant taking the lead in doing that. Fulfilling one’s commitment is to correspond with actions consistent with that originally expressed desire (v. 11). When eager to help those in need, it is only appropriate to give what is possible. The standard by which God judges a person’s generosity is how much is given in proportion “to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (v. 12; cf. Mark 12:41-44). God does not expect a person to give what he or she “does not have” (though sacrificial giving is appropriate at certain times); rather, generosity arises from proper motivation and earnestness to fulfill one’s promises. The right attitude is more important than the sacrifice (cf. Gen 4:4; 1 Sam 15:22).

The objective in view (“equality”) is giving according to means, so that no one is afflicted “for the ease of others” (2 Cor 8:13). Present help is given because a time may arise in the future when it is another’s person opportunity to receive. Believers in Jesus Christ are viewed as brothers and sisters constituting a large family, and each has responsibility to care for one another. Scripture avoids the injustice that occurs from condemning economic goods or private property, and recognizes that material assets may be the blessing of God and can most certainly be used for His glory. The act of voluntarily giving to help those in need considers the universal bond of believers. Those in need are commanded “to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands. . .” (1 Thess 4:11).

Scripture does not command equality, though it does appeal for all God’s people to have what is needed for the coming day. God has always desired that the needs of His people are satisfied, and for them to share cheerfully and voluntarily with those who have less (2 Cor 8:15). “Thanks be to God” when fellow believers share an excitement, interest, and love for one another’s well-being (vv. 16-17a). What a great blessing also when someone serves of his or her own accord, as opposed to being coerced (v. 17b)!

Where sensitive matters are concerned (especially finances), it is always best to involve those persons who are well-known to have the respect of others, are “tested and found diligent,” and who are honorable (vv. 18-19, 22-23). “Readiness” to help those in need is a wonderful opportunity to promote “the glory of the Lord” (v. 19; cf. Matt 22:37-39). Heeding every “precaution” to avoid mismanagement of any project, is wise. Leaders should be advised to not only do what is proper, but also be certain that everyone regards such actions as honest and reputable (2 Cor 8:20-21). Scripture exhorts believers to demonstrate proof of love toward those who are called to spiritual leadership, in addition to all the other “churches.”

Someone is always watching to see whether faith in Jesus Christ truly manifests in a changed and empowered life. The public demonstration of authentic faith will dispel any doubts otherwise (v. 24). Roman statesman Cicero once remarked, “The greatest privilege of wealth is, beyond all peradventure, the opportunity it affords for doing good. . . .” He advised, “But the chief thing in all public administration and public service is to avoid even the slightest suspicion of self-seeking. . . . There is, then, . . . no vice more offensive than avarice, especially in men who stand foremost and hold the helm of state. For to exploit . . . for selfish profit is not only immoral; it is criminal, infamous” [de Officiis 2.64, 75, 77].

The previous discussion regarding “ministry to the [needs of the] saints,” persists in the ninth chapter with continued attention upon not bringing criticism toward the ministry of Christ (v. 1). Zealousness to be generous in meeting the needs of others, is an example to the majority (v. 2). Great embarrassment occurs when boasting is made on behalf of others’ commitment to do something, yet they do not follow through on it (vv. 3-4). Hence, Scripture encourages generosity—“not affected by covetousness”—toward the work of the Lord (v. 5).

One of the great truths of Scripture is that God endows people in proportion to how they bless others (v. 6; Gen 12:1-3; Matt 25:29). Seeking to be a blessing to others is like sowing seed; it will eventually yield a harvest of the same kind. There is a direct correspondence between having “treasures in heaven” (eternal rewards) with investing talents, time, and treasure in the work of the Lord (cf. Matt 6:19-21). There are inevitable consequences of one’s actions that should motivate a person to do what is proper. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ought to make one “a cheerful giver,” for thereby one receives God’s loving approval (2 Cor 9:7).

God demonstrates His love for those who are a blessing to others by giving them “all grace” and “all sufficiency in everything.” Whatever the Lord supplies is more than enough for one to have “sufficiency in everything” and to abound in “every good deed” (v. 8). God is gracious—providing His enablement—to those who are givers. The Lord rewards those who live sacrificially for His sake with blessings in the present life, in addition to an eternal reward (i.e., a person’s “righteousness endures forever”: v. 9). God multiplies His favor toward those who are keen to bestow grace on others.

God promises an abundant harvest for those who live seeking to be a blessing to others. He never forgets or overlooks righteous actions. God’s blessing is “seed to the sower,” which is having the opportunity and resources for greater investment of good deeds (v. 10). His provision is not primarily material blessing, but is more the blessings of the Holy Spirit, who is the pledge on the inheritance of riches with the return (Second Coming) of Jesus. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to fill and indwell believers (cf. Isa 44:3; Luke 24:49; John 14:15-17; Acts 2; Eph 1:13; 5:18; 1 Cor 12:13; 1 Thess 5:19), they are “enriched in everything” (2 Cor 9:11).

Scripture indicates that as the Lord is “fully supplying the needs” of His people, this results in “overflowing through many thanksgivings to God” (v. 12). The abundance of divine grace overflows into the lives of many others. Being a blessing to others not only glorifies the Lord, but also demonstrates the reality of one’s “confession of the gospel of Christ,” and hence a spirit of “liberality.” The Greek word koinōnia (κοινωνία), translated “contribution” (v. 13), is the same word used for notions of communion and fellowship. Koinōnia indicates a sharing of things in common (communion) as the result of a spiritual fellowship.

The “surpassing grace of God” at work in the lives of His people, resulted in the prayers of other believers. Being encouraged by God’s presence in their lives would result in other believers interceding on their behalf. How wonderful to know that one’s faithfulness to God may result in the prayers of believers throughout the world (v. 14)! All that has been affirmed in 2 Corinthians 9 is because of God’s “indescribable gift” (v. 15), which is that He did not spare His only begotten Son, but freely gave Jesus for the sake of His elect (cf. John 3:16-17; Rom 8:28-32). For this reason, all thanksgiving is directed to God for His blessings, which is evident in attitudes of concern and love for brothers and sisters in fellowship with Christ.

Midnight Call - 12/2022

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