2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Moreover, brothers, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;…
In 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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;