Not only is the collection or offering of the saints itself rich and meaningful, but in II Cor. 8 and 9 Paul also goes on to show what great and far-reaching effects of blessing these offerings have, both for them that give as well as for them that receive, and above all what glory to God it arouses.
The Lord certainly does not want us to give liberally with the hope of a rich reward in return for our giving. Beautifully Calvin expresses this when he says: “It is indeed the saying of a heathen—‘what you have given away is the only riches you will have’ but the reason is that ‘whatever is given to friends is placed beyond all risk’. The Lord on the other hand (quoting Calvin still) would not have us influenced by the hope of a reward, or of any remuneration in return, but, on the contrary, though men should be ungrateful, so that we may seem to have lost what we have given away, He would have us, notwithstanding, persevere in doing good. The advantage however arises from this—that ‘he that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord,’” (Calvin, II Cor. p. 291).
Scarcely is it necessary in this connection to remind you of the practices of the Pharisees. When they gave liberally (?) they did it with a view to what benefit might accrue to them for their generosity, being careful in the meantime to limit their gifts to likely prospects only. Perhaps sometimes we too give with a view to net returns. Some view their giving as an insurance for their own protection should they themselves ever become needy. Others ascribe to their gifts magical qualities of compounded interest, ten dollars given away will net ten-fold in the years to come. Some even tell stories of the more they gave the richer they became.
It is quite needless to re-affirm that our giving, if it springs up out of such motives, is very impure. It ceases to be genuine giving. For the giver seeks self, not others, and the quality of mercy has changed into self-seeking. God condemns in us all selfishness, of whatever form or shape.
Although, therefore, we are not to give with a view to a likely return, Scripture does teach that the giver himself receives a blessing when he “lends to the Lord.” This fact must surely not be overlooked, and Paul more than once uses this truth to incite the Corinthians to liberality.
In II Cor. 9:6 Paul remarks that he who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly and visa-versa. Offerings are likened to sowing. Give sparingly, reap sparingly; give abundantly, reap abundantly. How true that is, and nature itself testifies of this inexorable law of order. Our offering is not lost, wasted or dead if we give in the Lord, but it becomes a matter of seed sown. As less as seed when covered with ground is to be computed dead, so less must our giving be computed as in vain, for it is a seed sown. And in due time we will reap if we faint not. And with this fact the saints shall many times have to console themselves for not infrequently the gift they give is repaid with ingratitude and it seems their gift is dead. But not dead says Paul, it is seed sown, and he who sows abundantly shall reap plentifully. The reaping however is not first in terms of material things. Paul further deliberates on this matter in 9:10 explaining that God multiplies the seed sown and increases the fruits of your righteousness, i.e. your righteousness bears fruits in your works. The blessing the giver receives is the joy of abounding in the work of the Lord, the happiness of being worthy to bear the image of the Son of God the Great and Merciful High Priest. And “blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”
The giver himself experiences a blessing. As says Calvin elsewhere: “The more beneficent you are to your neighbors, you will find the blessing of God so much the more abundant poured out upon you.” Pity the miser who of all his wealth cannot spare a dime for others, pity HIM, how shall he know Christ Who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor in order that we might be rich? Pity him that niggardly gives for how can he know Christ Who freely gave Himself for our sakes?
The sum of the matter therefore is that if we are abundant in the work of the Lord, He causes us to taste His blessing and the Law of the Kingdom holds: as we sow we reap. Be not deceived, God is not mocked.
The Saints That Receive
And how blessed for the saints in need is this offering of mercy. From the closing verses of the ninth chapter it is evident with what great gladness the needy saints received the offered gift. The needy saints did not blush with shame and fret at the reception of that gift of mercy. Nay, but the saints experienced the mercy touch of their sympathetic High Priest, and in that gift they tasted the glorious word of God’s blessing.
In 9:12 we read that that gift “supplieth the want of the saints.” That first of all was the effect of the liberal gift collected for them. The need of the saints was real and pressing. They could not survive the famine with a “depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but the saints were in need of cash, food and clothing. They needed mercy in the very practical form of food and clothing etc. With anything less they should have to die. No amount of fair speech can fill our needs, when we are in dire straits we need mercy-money. So it was with the Jews at Jerusalem. And now this gift of collection was calculated exactly to fit their needs. And it did, for they survived the famine. The abundance of the saints in one part of the church provided for the need of the saints in another part of the church.
And so it is today. Time and again a saint falls into deep need, they need help. And from the saints elsewhere comes. . . . not an assurance that they would like to help if they only ‘were a little better situated themselves,’ nor a promise that if it becomes convenient they will sometime consider a collection for them. . . . but from the other saints comes a bag of money, food and clothing. Practical mercy.
A second result or fruit of such a gift is marked in 9:14, when Paul states that the saints which receive the gift begin to pray for and to long after their benefactors. In other words, this gift arouses a feeling of intimate fellowship with the other saints. What so deadens the ardor of fellowship as indifference to the needs of them that are hard-pressed? How can there be fellowship when saints allow fellow saints practically to starve? Where is the tie that binds when one saint is indifferent to the suffering of the fellow saint? But, ah, how genuinely they feel that tie that binds when they receive help in the hour of need. The saints that received were overjoyed at the feeling of such fellowship, the more because it went from Gentiles to Jews. They prayed for their benefactors, amid their prayers they longed for them because of the abounding grace of God in Christ Jesus.
The God of All Glory
The paramount result however of this gift to the needy saints is observed in 9:11-18 when Paul asserts that in the matter of this gift many thanksgivings go out unto God and God gets all the glory. In 9:12 Paul emphasizes that the gift not only supplies the needs of the saints but it arouses many thanksgivings unto God. In 9:13 the saints that receive the gift glorify God for the grace in them that gave the gift. At the reception of this gift therefore there goes up a volume of thanksgiving to God. Paul thanks God when he sees the readiness to offer in his spiritual children; they that give thank God that they were counted worthy and made able to give, while the receivers of the gift thanked God for the grace in others and His mercy over them in their hour of dire need. How great a volume of thanksgiving therefore has swelled out of that rustic collection plate.
Out of Him, through Him and unto Him all things.
How careful we should be when we have the collection plate passed. Whether we give or whether we receive it shall be “thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. . . .”