Paul dedicates most of this chapter to generosity. He first comments on how even the poor give well beyond their possessions. Paul says in verse 3, “according to their means – indeed I can testify even beyond their means – and voluntarily…” He sees not wealth, but a disposition of the soul. As poor as they are, they want to give what they can: their very being to God and His works. It is a desire they have in their hearts, as expressed by how they voluntarily give and offer to do whatever God wants of them. In fact, they see it as a grace or “favor” (v4) to allow them to give either through money or through works.
Paul is using the example of the generosity of the poor to inspire those who do have money and time to give what they can. Paul is not commanding or trying to beat anybody down to give (8). He is begging on God’s behalf for them to have that same spirit of generosity. God desires a generous heart and a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). He reminds them how good God has been to them for a couple reasons. It reminds them of this model that Jesus Himself has shown, but he particularly wants to inspire them to give by reminding them of the benefits they have received from Jesus. How much Jesus was willing to become poor Himself so that we may rejoice in Him. Joy was the fruit of the generosity of Jesus. So joy is the fruit of giving. When we give, Jesus gives us a share in His joy (9). What God offers us is a snowball effect of His Joy. The more generosity we possess, the more joy we possess. If you suffer depression, give what you can.
Neither Paul nor God expects you to become poor in your giving (12-13). But Paul does suggest to give with resolve. Do not waver back and forth so that the gift does not have fruitfulness. Everybody likes to see the effect of their giving and should hope to see it. It may not be what we expect, but the bottom line is that good comes from giving. The joy of the fruitfulness of giving confirms the gift and solidifies the resolve. Yet when troubles come, this should not lead us into despair. We give according to God’s plan. Sometimes when we give, we do not see the fruit. Jesus did not see a single conversion when He died on the cross. In fact, they cast lots for His clothes and ridiculed Him while He was hanging on the cross. Sometimes we have to either wait to see the fruits of our generosity, or trust that Our Lord will bring it about in ways we will only see after this life. Even when it is fruitless in our direct actions, God can take our desires to do good for Him and turn it into grace for others. In this way, a cheerful giver always bears an abundant fruit because it is secure in Christ, who sees to it.
The grace that flows through giving can have its payback in a very positive way. When a person gives to those in need, the joy of those in need turns into grace for those who have given. The poor in wealth provide for those who are spiritually poor while those who give provide for material things. One provides for material needs while the other provides spiritual needs (15). We are all poor in one way or another, but we all can give to help each other get to our homeland in heaven.
Paul is thankful for all those who have a generous heart in its many forms. Through his thankfulness, Paul is able to appreciate all those around him and all their efforts to help not only Paul, but Titus and the communities. Gratitude is really the main inspiration to give. Paul naturally wants to give of himself even more because he sees the fruitfulness in their lives. Goodness begets goodness. In all of this snowball effect of goodness, purity of intention is being built up and God is made known to all. The goodness of God is revealed by the way they love one another (Jn 13:35). God has been so good to us. The world needs to see proof of this (24).