“For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:” (2 Corinthians 9:1–3, KJV)
There were times when I gloried in hearing the flattering words people said about me and then there were times where it bothered me. Boasting is a difficult subject in the Christian life. When I entered military service in 1974, my first duty station was at Fort Knox where I went through the Armor Officers Basic Course. As a new Second Lieutenant, I reported in a month early and they assigned me to a staff job where I prepared training media, observed test firing of new weapon systems, and did a host of administrative tasks.
I already had my permanent duty assignment to a unit in Germany that I would take in just over six months. My supervisor in the temporary assignment at Fort Knox apparently was impressed with my work and, knowing where I was to be assigned, sent a letter of recommendation to someone he knew at my first duty station. He apparently said some great things about me in the letter. Now you might think this was a good thing, but it had its downfalls. The person he knew fought to have me assigned to him and the battalion commander did assign me to that company. The letter also elevated my next commander’s expectations of me. This unknowingly put me in a tenuous situation. The glowing recommendation put me in a position where I could only underperform expectations.
Paul had boasted to the Macedonians of the Corinthian churches care for the saints, that they were eager to help in the relief fund for those in Jerusalem. This apparently had a positive effect as Paul’s boasting of their “zeal hath provoked very many” of those in Macedonia to also contribute. Yet now it was time for the Corinthians to ante up. After all the boasting, there was a concern. What would happen if the Corinthians did not fulfill Paul’s expectations? Well, it could be quite embarrassing to both Paul and the church in Corinth.
Paul wanted The Corinthian church’s contribution to be seen properly. He wanted them to be ready with the collection when he arrived (v4). For this reason, he sent a team of brothers ahead to Corinth. See his words. “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” (2 Corinthians 9:5, ESV)
He wanted the gift to be ready when he arrived so that it would be seen in the most positive light. By it being ready, it would be seen as their eagerness to help the saints. If it was not ready when he arrived and he had some from Macedonia accompany him, they may have misunderstood, thinking that Paul had come and forced the Corinthians to give. He wanted everyone to understand that the Corinthian contribution was given willingly from their hearts.
I have been in a church or two where offerings were taken, especially for special projects, where it seemed that undue pressure was exerted on the congregation. This often has a negative effect on the church. In the following words of Paul’s letter, he gave several vital principles that churches and believers should understand regarding cheerful giving.
(To be continued. Several principles for generosity (2 Cor 9:6-15))