I. TO WILL.
1. Charity must be voluntary. No one can make us will. We can be made to give, but such giving is morally worthless. God loveth a cheerful giver, because a cheerful giver is in all certainty a voluntary giver. The "voluntary system" is not one form of charity; it is the only form. Unless we willingly give, the less said about our charity the better; for we have none!
2. The "willing must be rightly prompted. True charity means heart love. The coin is base unless it bears this stamp. Though it may pass current amongst men, God will arrest and condemn it. Motives in giving should be carefully studied; not others' motives, but ours!
II. TO DO. Some are charitable in intention, not in action. Fruit trees are sometimes destitute of fruit, but to those thus symbolized there is but little encouragement in the fate of that barren tree which confronted Christ as he walked from Bethany to Jerusalem. Charity must be spiritual, but it must be practical also. Our love will never feed' the hungry nor clothe the naked; and if our love does not prompt us to do, it is of less value than a mote in the sunbeam. Faith without works is dead, and charity without works is dead, buried, and rotting in its grave.
III. TO GIVE ACCORDING TO OUR ABILITY. (Ver. 12.) Not according to what others give. We are apt to give according to the ability of somebody else. Perhaps when we judge of our own ability we had better ask God to help us. There are two occasions when a man's possessions are apt to dwindle - the one when he makes out his income tax return, and the other when he is asked for a subscription. We need much grace rightly to estimate our own resources. Charitable appeals are apt to derange the laws of arithmetic and to lead to astonishing results.
IV. TO GIVE JUDICIOUSLY.
1. The needs of any case should be carefully considered. Not to make them less than they are, but to know them as they are. To give to undeserving cases is not only to waste our substance, but to do a vast amount of mischief.
2. We are not required to impoverish ourselves that others may be enriched. (Ver. 13.) Though, if we had tendencies in this direction, perhaps we should not be travelling away from our Master's example (ver. 9). Our danger probably lies in being content with the impoverished condition of others. But the object of charity is not that the poor should be made rich and the rich poor.
3. An equality is to be aimed at. (Ver. 14.) As to believers especially we should remember that they are members of the same faith, and should seek to make their condition equally healthy with our own. But our charity should not be restricted by the limits of the household of faith." One has well said, "Our luxuries should yield to our neighbour's comforts, and our comforts to his necessities." This seems Paul's conception, who explains what he means by "equality in the expression following: Your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want" (ver. 14); and he illustrates it by reference to the manna given to Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:18). How far from approach to this equality is the giving of many!
4. We must not so give as to check the exertions of those whom we help. Paul does not apprehend that so undesirable a result will follow the charity which he recommends; he anticipates that the poor may become so rich as to help those now helping them. Unwise charity hinders, not helps, the recipient, Pauperism is a poor harvest to reap. Still we must see that this argument is not unduly pressed. It is to be a protector, it is not to be a murderer, of charity. - H.
Acts 2:27-30). They received prompt contributions from the Churches in Achaia, also from those in Macedonia (Romans 15:26). A strong appeal was made to the churches of Galatia (1 Corinthians 16:1). The congregation at Rome, made up largely of Gentiles, some of whom were wealthy and influential, was exhorted to do its part (Romans 15:27). And in the Scripture before us the matter is presented to the Corinthian Christians in a way to stir their deepest and most substantial sympathy. It was a splendid opportunity for displaying the genuineness of Christian unity. In appealing to the Corinthian Church the apostle makes mention of the liberality of their brethren in Macedonia, hoping thus to provoke them to good works. At the very time when these Macedonians were sending their gifts to Jerusalem, they themselves were groaning under a twofold yoke of poverty and persecution. Nevertheless they furnished forth a pattern of benevolence. First, they gave voluntarily. They gave with spontaneity, with good cheer, with abandon. They gave not as a deep well gives to the toiler at the windlass, but as a fountain gives to the wounded hart that stands panting at its brink. Second, they gave largely — "to their power, yea, and beyond it." Self-denial is the first step in consecration. The virtue of sacrifice lies largely in the cost of it. Third, they gave from principle. The beginning of their generosity and its motive and inspiration lay in this, that "they first of all gave their own selves to the Lord." After that everything was easy. Let us note some of the reasons why God's people, "as they abound in everything, in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in diligence, and in brotherly love, should abound in this grace also."
The grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.I. TRUE LIBERALITY IS A CHRISTIAN GRACE — as truly a grace as knowledge, diligence, and love. What light this throws upon the whole subject of church finances!
1. Failing to see that liberality is a grace, we have made it a burden. As a grace in the heart, liberality struggles for an outlet in acts of benevolence; as a duty or a burden, it needs to be urged. Hence all this claptrap machinery for raising church money.
2. This grace, like any other, may be obtained —(1) By consecration. No man is prepared to receive it until he has "first given himself to the Lord." Paul enforces such a consecration (ver. 9).(2) By prayer. What reflections would arise in the mind of one praying for the grace of liberality! What views of responsibility would the Spirit of all grace flash upon his mind! How would the claims of self dwindle into insignificance in the presence of the claims of Christ.
II. THIS GRACE LEADS MEN TO GIVE ACCORDING TO THEIR ABILITY; YEA, BEYOND.
1. Neither the scanty income of "deep poverty," nor the increasing demands of accumulating wealth, nor the claims of fashionable life, will prevent such a man from being liberal "according to that which he hath," etc. He will never begin to retrench at the church, because he knows that God can retrench upon him in a thousand ways.
2. The reason "God loves a cheerful giver" is because such giving can only flow from grace, and such giving is always a means of grace. Instead of a collection dissipating all religious feeling, our "joy" ought "to abound unto liberality." If liberality is a Christian grace, and giving is a means of grace, why should not a man feel as religious while giving as he does while singing and praying?
3. Ordinary poverty is generally considered a lawful excuse for not giving. But "the deep poverty of the Macedonians abounded unto the riches of their liberality" (vers. 2-4). The offering is sanctified by its motive and spirit. It is not the intrinsic value of the contribution, but the love of the contributor and his relative ability to give, that makes the contribution acceptable to God.
4. There are three classes who fail to do their duty —(1) Those who give largely, but not "according to their means"; if they did, they would give hundreds instead of tens, and thousands instead of hundreds.(2) Those who give nothing because they are too poor.(3) A class made up of rich and poor, whose religious joy is so seraphic that it always soars above the financial wants of the Church. They are always trembling lest the pastor should drive all religion out of the Church by taking so many collections! blow, what is wanting in all these classes is this grace of liberality. This would lead the rich and the poor to give "according to their means."
III. THE GRACE OF LIBERALITY, LIKE ANY OTHER, MAY BE CULTIVATED (ver. 6; 1 Corinthians 16:1).
1. Here is systematic beneficence. The grace of liberality needs exercise just as much as faith and love. Besides, the Churches need money now — every week. This systematic way of giving by weekly instalments keeps the duty of self-denial before the mind. Such a system of beneficence would soon develop the grace of liberality and increase the funds of the Church to a point where she would have an ample fund "laid by" all the time, ready to meet all the claims at home and abroad!
2. Those who wait to give largely, when they do give, usually let the grace of liberality die for the want of exercise; so that, when the time comes when they are able to give largely, they have neither the grace nor the desire to do so. And those who give but little or nothing through life, and give largely when they come to die, rarely ever give enough to pay the interest on what they ought to have given under a life course of systematic beneficence.
3. It is only those who enjoy the grace of liberality as a growing principle in the soul that can realise the saying of Christ: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
(J. M. Bolland, A. M.)
I. BECAUSE GIVING IS A GRACE. It is not a mere adjunct or incident of the Christian life, but one of its cardinal graces. Whether a disciple of Christ shall make a practice of giving or not is no more an open question than whether he shall pray or not. The rule of holy living is never selfishness, but always self-forgetfulness. This was the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and this must be the disposition of those who follow him.
II. IT IS IN THE LINE OF COMMON HONESTY. We are stewards of the gifts of God. The silver and the gold are His.
III. GIVING IS A FRUITFUL SOURCE OF HAPPINESS.
IV. GIVING IS A MEANS OF GETTING. Let us observe the testimony of Scripture on this point. "Honour the Lord with thy substance and with the first-fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty."
V. THIS IS THE NOBLEST END OF MONEY-MARKING. Some men get to hoard. Others get to spend. Still others get to give.
VI. OUR GIVING IS GOD'S METHOD FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE WORLD. It is God's purpose that all nations should be evangelised. Our wealth must furnish the sinews of the holy war.
VII. THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST TEACHES US TO GIVE. He was the greatest of givers. He gave everything He had for our deliverance from sin and death.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)1 Corinthians 16 mention was made of a contribution which the Corinthians were systematically to store up for the poor brethren at Jerusalem. Paul here renews the subject and records the largeness of the sum contributed by the churches of Macedonia, and urges the Corinthians to emulate their example. Note —
I. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN LIBERALITY.
1. It was a grace bestowed from God (vers. 1, 6). Now there are many reasons which make liberality desirable.(1) Utility. By liberality hospitals are supported, missions established, social disorders healed. But St. Paul does not take the utilitarian ground; though in its way it is a true one.(2) Nor does he take the ground that it is for the advantage of the persons relieved (ver. 13). He takes the higher ground: it is a grace of God. He contemplates the benefit to the soul of the giver.
2. It was the work of a willing mind (ver. 12).(1) The offering is sanctified or made unholy in God's sight by the spirit in which it is given.(2) A willing mind, however, is not all. "Now therefore perform the doing of it." Where the means are, willingness is only tested by performance. Test your feelings and fine liberal words by self-denial. Let it be said, "He hath done what he could."
3. It was the outpouring of poverty (ver. 2). As it was in the time of the apostle, so it is now. It was the poor widow who gave all. Generally a man's liberality does not increase in proportion as he grows rich, but the reverse.(1) Let this circumstance be a set-off against poverty. God has made charity easier to you who are not the rich of this world.(2) Let it weaken the thirst for riches. Doubtless riches are a good; but remember that the Bible says, "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare."
4. It was exhibited to strangers. Gentile and Jew were united to each other by a common love. There is nothing but Christianity which can do this. Think of the old rancours of the heathen world. Philanthropy is a dream without Christ. Why should I love the foreigner? Because we are one family in Christ.
II. ITS MOTIVES.
1. Christian completeness (ver. 7). It is the work of Christ to take the whole man, and present him a living sacrifice to God.
2. Emulation. Compare vers. 1 to 8 and Romans 11:11. Ordinary, feeble philanthropy would say, "Emulation is dangerous." Yet there is such a feeling in our nature. So St. Paul here took advantage of it, and exhorts the Corinthians to enter the lists in honourable rivalry. Emulation, meaning a desire to outstrip individuals, is a perverted feeling; emulation, meaning a desire to reach and pass a standard, is the parent of all progress and excellence. Hence, set before you high models. Try to live with the most generous, and to observe their deeds.
3. The example of Christ (ver. 9).(1) Christ is the reference for everything. But(2) it is in spirit, and not in letter, that Christ is our example. The Corinthians were asked to give money for a special object. But Christ did not give money, He gave Himself.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)I. GIVING IS A CHRISTIAN GRACE. It is a recognition of that great duty of service which is obligatory throughout the kingdom of Christ.
II. Naturally enough, then, we find giving treated in this passage as THE DUTY OF ALL. The churches of Macedonia in their deep poverty are commended for their giving. Giving is of as wide obligation as the observance of the Sabbath. Much the same reasons could be urged for excusing the poor from the observance of the Sabbath as from the duty of giving. The Sabbath might be transmuted into money. The poor might use the day to earn additional wages.
III. A third lesson of this paragraph is that GIVING SHOULD BE VOLUNTARY AND CHEERFUL. The Macedonian churches are here commended that they gave of their own accord and besought Paul with much entreaty to accept their gift for the needy at Jerusalem.
IV. Giving, we are to notice, is also AN ACT OF FELLOWSHIP. The Macedonians in sending their contribution to the Christians at Jerusalem were enjoying "fellowship in the ministering to the saints." Fellowship is an interflow of hearts and a cooperation with others. Now giving is one of the simplest and easiest methods of expressing fellowship. It is at the outset a recognition of the brotherly relation of man to man. It is an effort to share the burdens of others. We are filled with amazement at the discoveries of modern science. To-day power can be sent along a wire through our streets and into the country and utilised wherever we please. It is a blessing of much the same character that our gifts can fly here and there over the whole world as a force to relieve distress and elevate character. We cannot always go ourselves.
V. We must recognise Christian giving as THE OUTCOME OF PERSONAL CONSECRATION. The wonderful liberality of the Macedonian Christians was due to the fact that "first they gave their own selves to the Lord." A friend lately received the gift of a house; what did that include? The rent, of course, that certain tenants were paying for the use of the house. The original owner, after he had given this house to another, could no longer collect the rents for himself. If we have truly given ourselves up to God in a complete consecration, that includes anything and everything of ours. If we have property, it is His; time, abilities, influence — all are His.
VI. The passage declares that giving is A PROOF OF LOVE. It is no trial to us to advance the cause of Christ by our gifts if we love the Lord Jesus supremely.
VII. The passage urges us to GIVE IN IMITATION OF CHRIST. The apostle reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor.
VIII. Once more let us notice that GIVING IS MEASURED BY WILLINGNESS, NOT BY AMOUNT. "If the readiness is there," wrote the apostle, "it is acceptable according as a man hath and not according as he hath not." We are often discouraged by the smallness of our gifts, but we need not be.
(Addison P. Foster.)
1. That a charitable disposition is the gift of God — "the grace of God bestowed on the churches" — who sends His Holy Ghost, and pours into all hearts that will receive it, "that most excellent gift of charity."
2. That it is a source of pure and rich enjoyment to its possessor, "the abundance of their joy," the apostle calls it, "twice blessed," in the phrase of our great poet.
3. That its exercise, where it exists, is not repressed by poverty, not even "deep poverty, in a great trial of affliction."
4. That it waits not to be asked, but is "willing of itself."
5. That its tendency is always to exceed, rather than to fall short, of the true measure of ability, overflowing in the riches of its liberality, not only "according to" its power, but "beyond" its "power."
6. That it counts the opportunity of exercise a favour done to it, "praying us, with much entreaty, that we would receive the gift."
7. That this will only be so when the heart has been surrendered, as "living sacrifice," and then will always be, first giving "their own selves to the Lord, and" then "to us, by the will of God."
(Sermons by American Clergymen.)
Homilist.This is as much a doctrine as any taught in God's Word, although it may not be so popular as some others.
I. HOW DID THE MACEDONIANS GIVE?
1. In affliction.
2. In poverty.
3. In self-abnegation. They gave more than they were able to give.
4. In willingness. Not grudgingly — "Praying us with much entreaty."
5. Beyond expectation — "Not as we hoped."
II. TO WHOM DID THEY GIVE?
1. To Corinth; that was Home Missions.
2. To Jerusalem; that was Foreign Missions.
III. WHAT DID THEY GIVE?
1. Their own selves.
2. Their money.
IV. WHY DID THEY GIVE?
1. They were moved by what Christ had sacrificed for them.
2. They "gave to God."
(J. Denney, B. D.)
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