Read: Second Corinthians 8.1—9.15
For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by) his poverty you might become rich.
Second Corinthians 8.9 (NRSV)
During his second and third Missionary Journeys, the Apostle Paul took up a collection among the Gentile churches for the poor church in Jerusalem. Certainly there were poor believers among the Gentile churches so why did Paul think it so important to deliver this offering? He saw in this gift both an act of unity and a fulfillment of Scripture.
In Acts 11.28-30, Luke wrote about a famine affecting the region and the decision by the believers in Antioch to send relief to the church in Jerusalem. As Paul reached the end of his final mission tour, he planned to carry this gift personally and deliver it to James, the leader of the Jerusalem fellowship and the brother of Jesus (Acts 21.17-19). The Corinthians were among the first to pledge but among the last to actually give. Paul gave them some simple instruction to ensure the gift would be sizable and ready when he arrived (“Put a little aside on the first day of each week,” First Corinthians 16.1-4) and he offered encouragement when they were having second thoughts (“God loves a cheerful giver,” Second Corinthians 9.7). Knowing the tendency among the Corinthian Christians to boast about their excellence (8.7), Paul challenged them to make good their pledges by reminding them that the churches in Macedonia, who were less prosperous, had given an exceptional gift out of their poverty (8.1-2)! Why was this gift so important? Paul saw this generous act as a connecting bond between the Jewish believers in Jerusalem and the Gentile Christians around the world. The Gentiles had accepted a saving faith in Jesus. That faith had been nurtured in the covenant people of Israel for centuries. The Gentiles were the nations God promised to bless through Abraham (Genesis 12.3). The Jews were in great need in Jerusalem and the Greek churches had resources to share. These two communities had an adversarial history but now, in Christ, they shared a common life and destiny.
The model for our giving is always Jesus. He had all things and gave them up to dwell among us. He gave his very life for us. Can we not give to him our very best?
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence