Text: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A spiritually minded man differs in his attitude towards possessions when compared
with the people of the world. All his possessions are meant to be used for the glory of
God and the promotion of His kingdom. Thus, the spiritually minded man is most
happy to give to the Lord’s work. On the other hand, the carnally minded man is
materialistic, and thus, will be tight-fisted in giving to anything that involves the work
of the gospel.

The effect of spiritual-mindedness on giving to the Lord’s work is evident in our
passage today. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, the Apostle Paul started a fund to relieve the
poor saints in Jerusalem. However, at the time of the writing of this chapter, this
collection had not been completed. The reason for this was the constant strivings and
divisions in the Corinthian church due to their spiritual immaturity and carnality. “And
I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto
babes in Christ.I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not
able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is
among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1
Cor. 3:1-3) The handling of these manifold problems distracted the Corinthian
Christians from completing the collection, thus resulting in the Apostle Paul writing
this section to provoke them to finish what they have started.

To encourage the Corinthian Christians to complete their giving to the poor saints in
Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul cited the good examples of the churches in Macedonia (eg:
Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea).

The region of Macedonia had seen numerous long wars in history. Due to the toils of
these wars, the region of Macedonia was not rich compared to its neighbours.
Moreover, there had been a “great ordeal of affliction” in these churches for the
gospel’s sake. Hints of these troubles can be seen in the other epistles. For example, in
1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul wrote, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord,
having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.” He added in 1
Thessalonians 2:14-15, “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God
which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own
countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their
own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary
to all men.

Nevertheless, the Macedonian Christians were able to rise above their
circumstances to give to the relief fund for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Instead
of considering their own needs, they empathised with the brethren in Jerusalem and
gave generously to them. This was Christian-giving manifested out of God’s grace in
the hearts of the Macedonians. They were of the same spirit as the widow who gave
her all to the Lord with her mites (Mark 12: 41-44).

Moreover, concerning the attitude and extent of the Macedonian Christian’s giving,
the Apostle recorded that “beyond their power they were willing of themselves” (2
Cor 8:3). Paul was not asking Christians to give beyond what they were able. Rather
Paul was pointing to the willingness of the Macedonians to consecrate everything that
they had unto the Lord including their money. There was no need for them to be
cajoled into giving. They themselves had begged the missionary team for the
privilege to give. If they were given more in their hands, they would have also put
these resources to good use for the Lord’s glory. What a wonderful testimony of good
stewardship in the Lord.

The liberality of the Macedonian Christians ought to provoke the Corinthian
Christians to do likewise. The Corinthian Christians were far more well-off
economically compared to the Macedonians. However, they were so distracted by
their internal problems that they had forgotten their duty to help the needy brethren.
Their carnal mindset had affected their giving to the Lord’s work.

Although Paul could have easily issued a command for the Corinthian Christians to
contribute to the relief fund, he preferred that they give cheerfully and willingly from
their hearts. Thus, he urged them to consider the example of the Macedonian
Christians, hoping that the giving of the Macedonians would provoke the Corinthians
to also “prove” their love for the saints.

The perfect example, however, would have to be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. “…
that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his
poverty might be rich” (2 Cor 8:9). This points to the humility of Christ in His
incarnation. Though Christ was infinitely rich as God, yet He humbled Himself to
come down to earth as a man, that man may find salvation from his sins. “Let this
mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and
took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being
found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:5-8). Through the sacrificial giving of Christ,
those who believe are now spiritually rich, having been blessed “with all spiritual
blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Indeed, through the poverty of
Christ, we have become rich. Thus, Calvin said, “The Son of God became the Son of
Man so that the sons of men may become the sons of God.”

Since Christ has given of Himself so that we may have the gracious gift of salvation,
surely the Corinthian Christians ought to do the same for the poor saints in Jerusalem
in their need. Thus, the Apostle Paul urged them to consider what Christ had done for
them and prove their love by following in the same self-sacrificial spirit of Christ.
They ought to place the needs of others above themselves.

Paul ended the section by quoting on the principle of equality. “For I mean not that
other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your
abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply
for your want: that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:13-14) Paul was not asking the
Corinthian Christians to be impoverished so that the Jerusalem Christians may be
enriched. Rather, Paul was urging the Corinthian Christians to consider how their
current state of abundance presented a wonderful opportunity to help the poor saints in
Jerusalem out of Christian charity. The principle of equality hearkens to the example of
the saints at Pentecost. “And all that believed were together, and had all things
common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every
man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) These saints willingly parted with their possessions as
their brethren had a need. The Corinthians were to follow in their footsteps.

Paul then quoted Exodus 16:18 in support of this principle of equality. The historical
scenario of this verse involves the gathering of manna. Every man was to gather what he
needed. If he gathered beyond his need, the excess would breed worms and stink (Exod.
16:20). The principle here is that we must be good stewards of the resources which God
has given to us. If we do not use those resources wisely, then all may be in vain. The
Lord may even take them away from us, for what use is there for us to have those
possessions if we do not use them for God’s glory? These possessions would just be like
the excess manna that stank.

As an illustration, the late Reverend Timothy Tow used to describe the Sea of Galilee as
full of life because it is always giving as a source of water. On the other hand, the Dead
Sea is dead because it is always receiving water and never giving. “It is more blessed to
give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Dear reader, how do you view your possessions? When we truly surrender all to the
Lord, we will find that the Lord will grant us grace to consider others before ourselves.
We will then be able to give with simplicity, as commanded by the Lord (Rom 12:8).
This is the mark of a spiritually minded Christian.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew