2 Corinth. 9: “The Jerusalem Relief Fund Prt. 2”

As we discussed yesterday in 2 Corinthians 8, Paul spent close to ten years raising funds for Judean believers who were experience incredible financial hardship due to many issues, one being a great famine.

In Chapter 9 Paul continues to talk about and warn the Corinthians about his expectation for them to give towards the Jerusalem Relief Fund.

2 Corinthians 9:3-5 (NLT) 3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. 4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! 5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.

 As I read this section of scripture, I couldn’t help but here Paul half guilting the Corinthians to give. In one breath Paul is saying, “hey, I’m coming, be ready; but in another breath he says, “but I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly…” Really Paul? I mean, that’s what I would think if I was hearing this letter read to the congregation. But here’s the thing. Paul wasn’t asking the church to give more money, he was reminding/urging them them to “finish what they started” (see 8:10-12).

Hilarious Giving

Paul then moves to a farming analogy regarding scattering seed that the Corinthians would understand. The analogy is meant to remind the people to be wise with their seed (money). But the analogy isn’t about the seed at all! It’s actually about what the seed will produce, the harvest! Paul is saying here: Don’t be like the foolish farmer who was stingy with his seed (money) and didn’t trust God with their future harvest (financial security), because you will inevitably forfeit God’s blessings (not always financial). Instead, Paul urges, sowing generously will invest in an eternal harvest that will exceed your expectations.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT) You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 

The word cheerfully is the Greek word  ἱλαρός (hilaros), which is were we get our English word hilarious. Basically Paul is saying, God loves a person who is so cheerful in their giving, it’s almost laughable. 

John Wesley was a Hilarious Giver  

The following is from an article in Christianity Today (Winter 1987), “What Wesley Practiced and Preached About Money” by Charles Edward White:

In 1731 Wesley began to limit his expenses so he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one-year his income was £30, and his living expenses £28, so he had £2 to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still lived on £28 and gave £32 away. In the third year his income jumped to £90, again he lived on £28, giving £62 away. The fourth year he made £120, lived again on £28 and gave £92 to the poor.

Wesley preached that Christians should not merely tithe, but give away all extra income once the family and creditors were taken care of. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving.

In 1744 Wesley wrote, “[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds… you and all mankind [can] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.”When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers, he’d given everything else away.

Try to Out-Give Give

John Wesley tried to out-give God, Paul wad advocating the challenge to try and out-give God, shoot… my wife and I have tried to out-give God. The reality… you can’t out-give God. When you give with a generous, grateful, and hilarious heart God will always out-give you. Don’t let your income determine your outcome today.