Paul continues to encourage and even applauds the generosity of the Corinthians. He is not looking at this generosity as just another subsidy or state program that has no connection or relationship with the people. Such “help” remains cold and lifeless. So much money never gets to the ones who need it or it is intended for. True giving comes “willingly” (ch9:2). It comes from a heart that is humble. It recognizes that we are all made in God’s image and likeness and so for that very reason, everybody deserves respect as a human being. This kind of generosity says something about the heart of the giver. This is what Paul is rejoicing in and allows him to “boast” about them (v2).
Paul and those in Macedonia interpret the generosity of the Corinthians as “zeal” (v2). It takes not just generosity, but faith to give. There has to be a trust in God and in those involved to take the risk of giving. It takes a positive disposition to be willing to give. It means willing the good for others. This is what defined the “zeal” as understood and inspired others to imitate such goodness and care. Being good to others means making ourselves vulnerable. Jesus did much good for us. He made Himself vulnerable. We did evil to Him, but He still remained good to us. For some people it is scary to be generous, but God will always reward those who are generous. So Paul is offering these words to encourage this behavior, but even more so, this disposition in the soul.
Evidently, the Corinthians made a very generous pledge and now is the time to collect for the needs. But Paul is very aware that with time and circumstances things change, and so does the ability to give while still at the same time encouraging them in this gift because it is needed. He wants to plan things out, and sends people before him to make sure everything goes well and possibly make adjustments due to circumstances. But ultimately, he wants it to come from the heart as an act of love. Paul is acting as a father when he says, “It should be ready as a gracious gift, not as an exaction” (v5). Paul, in his fatherly role, is not concerned or teaching about sin. It is a moment to teach his spiritual children how to love. He is taking time out not to demand the minimal requirements of being children of God. He is showing us the way of God who is love.
The one who loves much is passionate about what they love. The things we love, we make time for. What we love, we try to spend more time with, and we benefit from the goodness of what we love. There is a fruitfulness being around good things. We spare nothing for the things we love. “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully” (v6). When you give so much with love, it becomes a cheerful occasion.
Christmas season can be such a joyful time. I think for the most part it is because so many people are buying and doing things for others. There is a sense of fulfillment in giving of oneself. There becomes a purpose that is higher than oneself. God is pleased with generosity and the joy becomes complete as “God loves a cheerful giver” (v7). God in turn gives many graces to those who have it in their heart to give much (v8-9). God cannot be outdone for He is the giver of all good things!
In the end, you and those who receive the fruits of your labor in money or in time given will all end in giving thanks to God. When we do not think of self-glorifying, the glory goes to God. When one gives humbly, the receiver of the gift praises God and the giver is humble enough to be allowed to be a means by which God is glorified and not themselves. How much more the Father in heaven rejoices that you have become more like Him, truly the giver of all that is good. God bless you!