Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:24-9:15
Paul now turns his attention to something that was very much on his heart, a collection for the Jerusalem Church [see 8:4 and 9:1]. This relief fund was intended to aid the poverty-stricken saints in Jerusalem. A prophet named Agabus had come to Antioch and spoken about a great famine, and this came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. The church in Antioch had taken up a collection and sent it by the hands of Barnabas and Saul [Acts 11:27-30].
Later, at the Council of Jerusalem the ministry of Paul and Barnabas among the Gentiles was approved, but they were also exhorted to remember the poor, which was something that Paul was eager to do [Galatians 2:10]. In his epistle to the Romans Paul spoke of going to Jerusalem and to take with him contributions from Achaia [Corinth] and Macedonia for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem [Romans 15:25-27, 31].
Paul had previously mentioned this to the Church [1 Corinthians 16:1-2], but it seems that the Corinthians had been a little slow to come forward with this money. It was now time to collect the money, and so Paul instructed Titus to complete this grace in them [8:6]. Notice that giving is seen as an evidence and work of grace. Relationships between the Jewish Christian Community and the Gentile Christians were not always easy, and Paul hoped that this gift from the Gentile congregations would cement relationships between the two groups in the early Christian community.
To encourage the Christians in Corinth Paul used the example of the generosity of the believers in Macedonia [2 Corinthians 8:1-5]. These included the church in Philippi. The believers in Macedonia were being tested by many trials and troubles and were very poor, but this did not stop them from being filled with joy and rich in generosity. The word generosity is the Greek word haplotes that means among other things bountiful, copious bestowal of generosity, and sincerity without self-seeking.
The Macedonian Church gave with such generosity because of the work that God had done in their hearts [8:1,5]. They did not consider their own circumstances as a hindrance and did not wait until they had more with which to bless others. When he wrote to the Philippians, Paul said that because of their generosity God would supply all their needs [Philippians 4:19]. Don’t wait for God to provide before you give, but give and expect God to provide!
Paul’s hope was that the example of the Macedonians would encourage the Church at Corinth, which was much wealthier, to also give to the needs of the poor. In our next devotional we would look at the principles of giving
Why do you think it is that God has such a heart for the poor?
What are you doing personally to help meet the needs of the poor?
Why is it important that we give and then trust God to meet our needs, rather than wait until He provides for us and then give?