What does 2 Corinthians 9 mean?
This chapter continues to urge Christians in the Corinthian church to follow through on their commitment. They had agreed to participate in a collection for suffering Christians in Jerusalem. Paul says he should not even need to write to them about the collection, which he calls the "ministry for the saints" (2 Corinthians 9:1).
After all, the Corinthians were one of the early churches to embrace the idea of raising funds for this ministry. Paul's boasting about the enthusiasm of the churches in the region of Achaia—which included Corinth—motivated the churches in Macedonia to participate, as well. As the previous chapter revealed, those churches had already given to the collection well beyond what Paul expected (2 Corinthians 8:3–5).
The Corinthians, though, seem to have lost their eagerness for the collection, perhaps as a result of the tension between themselves and Paul. It would be an embarrassment for everyone involved if fellow believers were to arrive from Macedonia only to find the Corinthians unprepared to contribute. To avoid that, Paul is sending Titus ahead of him to help them be ready when the time comes (2 Corinthians 9:2–5).
Next, Paul describes why Christian giving matters both for believers and for the work of God. It's not just about money. Nor is it about fixing problems caused by a lack of funds. Christian giving is about the heart of the giver and brings spiritual gains that go far beyond the physical needs that might be met.
Paul uses the metaphor of planting and harvesting. Those who plant little will harvest little. Those who plant a lot will harvest much more. In other words, the more generously one gives, the more abundant will be the results of that giving. It's important to remember that the "harvest" Paul refers to is the benefit given to others—not to the giver. Modern false teachers claim these verses as a promise of wealth to those who give. On the contrary—the point of giving more is not to gain more in return, but to be a greater blessing to others. Giving generously also attunes us to the will of God, spiritually enabling us to be even more generous in the future (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Scripture never mandates a specific amount each Christian or church must give. Paul even refuses to name a percentage of income or belongings. Instead, God's Word sets a standard according to what each person has decided to give. God does not want giving to be done under obligation, but willingly and even "cheerfully." Nobody should fail to give out of fear that they won't have enough. God, in His grace, is able to provide abundantly so that every believer has all they need at all times and in all ways to abound in whatever good work God has assigned for them (2 Corinthians 9:7–9).
In other words, God wants Christians to do good works, and He will provide all that is needed to do so. God is the provider. He is the one who distributes freely to the poor. He provides both the seed and the bread. He uses generous believers to meet the needs of others, increasing the resources of those who give so that they can give more (2 Corinthians 9:10).
Giving as a Christlike act of grace is about more than meeting physical needs for those who lack. It also causes thankfulness to God to overflow. It builds connections between believers who give and those who receive the gift. Specifically, in this case, the generosity of Christians in Corinth can cause Jewish Christians in Jerusalem to glorify God. It can encourage them to long for and pray for their spiritual siblings around the world (2 Corinthians 9:11–15).
Second Corinthians 9:1–5 describes Paul's concern: that he and the Corinthians will be embarrassed if he shows up in Corinth to collect their contribution to the Jerusalem Christians and they are not ready. He is sending Titus ahead of himself to help them prepare. They were once enthusiastic about participating in the project. Paul hopes his boasting about the Corinthians—which inspired the Macedonians to give sacrificially—will not prove to have been meaningless.
Second Corinthians 9:6–15 contains Paul's explanation of benefits and opportunities tied to generous giving. The key point is that godly giving is a Christlike act of grace. God does not intend giving to be done as an obligation, or under a cloud of legalism. Rather, it should be inspired and driven by a willing and cheerful heart. Giving is an opportunity for believers to participate with God in meeting the needs of the poor. God increases the ability of believers who give generously to give even more. This results in increasing His righteousness on earth, as well as in causing thankfulness to Him to overflow. He will be glorified by those who receive the gift and pray for those who give.
Paul continues to urge the Corinthians to follow through on their commitment. They had agreed to contribute to a collection for suffering Christians in Jerusalem. They should give willingly, even cheerfully, according to what they had agreed earlier. Not only will they participate with God in meeting the physical needs of others, they will contribute to an overflowing thankfulness to God. They will build a connection with their suffering siblings in Christ that will also bring glory to God. This chapter points out that God expects Christian giving to be faith-based, voluntary, and cheerful—not legalistic, oppressive, or mandatory.
Second Corinthians chapter 9 continues an appeal begun earlier in the letter. Paul urges the Corinthians to participate in the gift to the Jerusalem Christians. Paul is concerned their earlier enthusiasm might have waned. Everyone should give what he or she previously decided to give and do so willingly and cheerfully. God makes those who give generously abound so that they will be able to give even more. The result goes beyond meeting physical needs to increasing God's righteousness on earth, causing thankfulness to Him to overflow, and bringing glory to Him as connections are forged between the givers and those whose needs are met. After this, Paul will return to a defense of his spiritual legitimacy.
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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