“ . . . just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).
In this verse, the Apostle Paul framed the beginning of a convincing argument for Christian giving, an argument based on the power of the Gospel.
It would have been quite easy for the Apostle Paul, as God’s messenger, to command that people give. He did not do so. Rather, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he carefully and tactfully built a logical argument based on Christ as the example for not neglecting Christian giving.
He advised this church at Corinth to take a good hard look at itself. That self-study would cause those in this congregation to discover that they excelled in many things. They presented and applied the Gospel message in its truth. They were growing in knowledge and wisdom in the Word. They were diligent and enthusiastic in carrying out the will of God. They showed a special love and concern for those who preached and taught the Gospel message. In Christian liberty, they excelled in many ways.
With this background, the Apostle Paul asked, If you excel in all these things, how is it that there is some neglect in the area of Christian giving? He answers this question and concludes his argument by reminding them of Christ as the model and as the selfless giver: “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.”
How often is the grace of giving neglected in churches today. Many congregations excel in so many ways, and yet their treasuries are often on the verge of depletion. When that happens and the bills cannot be paid, there is the temptation to give speeches which command donations or to send emotional letters appealing for funds. Sometimes, when large sums of money are needed and the consensus is that the funds will not be given, congregations turn to gimmicks, marketing techniques and high-pressured fund raisers.
In his argument for giving, the Apostle Paul spells out clearly what should motivate our giving. Christ first loved us and gave Himself for us. “ . . . for your sakes, he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Because of His love for us which now resides and works in our hearts, we are to “finish the work” that God intends for us to do. And we will do so as we excel in everything — including the grace of giving — by the power of the Gospel.