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Lesson 7: Generosity from Joy Overflowing (2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15)

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And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

Paul’s heart was hurting because the Corinthian Christians closed off their affection for him. The relationship was broken, at least temporarily, for several reasons—misunderstandings, slander against him, and his need to send them a stern letter warning them about their sinful behavior. Paul took deliberate steps to address the problems. And, he was rewarded with comforting words sent by the Corinthians to Paul through Titus. Paul writes that this comfort came from God, and hearing how much they longed for him and were concerned for him made his heart overflow with joy. He saw the fruit of the letter that had needed to be written, though painful for both the writer and the receiver.

To reconcile a relationship, one must take deliberate actions and address the problem that caused the breach. These actions hurt but are necessary. Hoping that the misunderstandings will go away on their own rarely works. The same is true of recognized sin in one’s life. You must take deliberate actions that are biblical and lead you to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ even more to overcome whatever that sin is. That also makes your joy overflow as you trust in Him to work in your life.

Now, we come to one of the most amazing passages in the Bible. Paul writes about generosity that springs from overflowing joy, even in the midst of extreme poverty. This is so totally opposite of what the world teaches about money. In Matthew 6:32-33, Jesus told His followers to think differently regarding God’s provision. Don’t let your needs dominate your thoughts. Your heavenly Father knows them. He cares for the creatures in the natural world so they lack nothing. He will care for you. Give yourself to the Lord first. Pursue what matters to God—His honor and His purposes—more than your own. God’s provision to us is not only for our needs but also for us to use to advance His purposes as we are ambassadors for Him. Let’s see what that looks like.

Questions To Consider This Week:

  • What is your concept of generosity?
  • How do you choose someone trustworthy to handle money for a church community or small group?
  • If you are active in ministry to others, do you surround yourself with people worthy of respect who will be trusted by others and, therefore, show you to be trustworthy, also?

Day One Study—Get The Big Picture.

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

[To print, follow this link (or for the NIV, this one). Use your own method (colored pencils, lines, shapes) to mark: 1) anything that grabs your attention and 2) words you want to understand. Feel free to develop your own method of marking up a passage. Put a star  next to anything you think relates to dependent living.]

Note: The financial gift is for the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem and Judea.

1. What grabbed your attention from these verses?

  • 8:1-9
  • 8:10-24
  • 9:1-15

2. What verses or specific words do you want to understand better?

3. What topics are repeated in this passage or continue an earlier discussion in this letter?

4. What verses illustrate or help you understand what dependent living on God looks like?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Two Study

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-10. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

5. God’s grace not only saves us but also teaches us to trust Him more and more with our lives and everything we hold dear. Paul is with the Macedonians as he writes this.

  • What does Paul want the Corinthians to know (v. 1)?
  • Write verse 2 below.
  • Who gave the Macedonians the ability to do that?
  • Paul testifies what about the Macedonians (v. 3)?
  • Entirely on their own, what did they do (v. 4)? See also Matthew 6:33.
  • By what process did they do this (v. 5)?
  • What was Titus urged to do in Corinth (v. 6)?
  • In what did the Corinthians already excel (v. 7)?
  • What did Paul then challenge the Corinthians to do (v. 7)?
  • What is being tested in their hearts and how (v. 8)?
  • How did Jesus model the grace of giving for them (v. 9)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

What Does It Mean?

6. Write verse 2 from any three Bible translations.

What is so amazing about what is revealed in verse 2?

Think About It: While undergoing severe trials, afflictions, and extreme poverty, overflowing joy yielded rich generosity. What counts as “rich generosity?” R. G. LeTourneau, who created the first massive earth-moving machines, would often quote this little poem, “It is not what you’d do with a million, if riches should e’er be your lot. But what you are doing at present with the dollar and a quarter you’ve got.” So true!

7. Looking at vv. 1-5, identify the choices the Macedonians made in their process of giving. Note: Paul never mentioned the size of their gift.

8. God had gifted the Corinthians with every spiritual gift they needed (1 Corinthians 1:5-7). And, Corinth was a prosperous community. They lacked nothing from God.

  • Considering the meaning of grace to be “a gift that is not deserved,” what does Paul mean by “this grace of giving (NIV)” / “act of grace (ESV)” in v. 7? What is it not?
  • So, whom are they mimicking in their giving? See also Philippians 2:5-7; 4:19; and Ephesians 1:14, 18.

Scriptural Insight: The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the greatest example of self-sacrificing generosity. He gave up the riches of glory in heaven, when He became a man and died on the cross, so that we might share His riches of glory in heaven (cf. Philippians 2:1-11). Gratitude to Him for His condescending grace should be the supreme motive for Christian giving. … The Macedonians gave when they were very poor, but Christ gave when He was immensely rich. The Corinthians were between these two extremes. These two examples leave no question that giving is a grace which both the rich and the poor should manifest. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 86)

9. Usually, we think of comparison as a bad thing. For what purpose can comparison be good (v. 8)?

10. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 8:1-9?

Scriptural Insight: Tithing is an Old Testament concept. After the death of Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, the New Testament nowhere commands, or even recommends, that Christians set aside a certain percentage of income, but only says gifts should be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The New Testament talks about giving as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the body of Christ. Every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in giving and/or how much to give (2 Corinthians 8:5). Above all, all offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). (“What does the Bible say about Christian tithing? from Gotquestions.org)

What Application Will You Make?

11. What choices must you make to apply this passage to your life? See also Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 16:2.

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Three Study

Read 2 Corinthians 8:10-24. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

12. Remember that the context is offering to help the believers in Jerusalem and Judea who are suffering persecution and hardship. In his previous letter, Paul proposed how to make this collection. Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. Answer the following questions based on 2 Corinthians 8:10-24.

  • Paul reminded them that they were the first to do what (v. 10)? See also 9:2.
  • Now what should they do (v. 11)?
  • What is true if the “willingness is there” (v. 12)?
  • What is Paul’s desire in encouraging them to give (v. 13)?
  • What does Paul state in verse 14?
  • Why does Paul thank God (v. 16)?
  • What does Paul say about Titus (vv. 17, 23)?
  • What does Paul say about the other two men (vv. 18-19, 22)?
  • What is Paul being careful to do concerning the offering (vv. 20-21)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

Scriptural Insight: Some think “the brother” was Trophimus the Ephesian (Acts 21:29). The other brother may have been one of those mentioned in Acts 20:1-5. All three of them (v. 23) were representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.

What Does It Mean?

Based on v. 10, it’s okay to give advice. God gives us a brain to use in making decisions, giving wise counsel, and helping others to see what is best to do in light of the truth of His Word. Paul does that in these verses.

13. Discuss vv. 10-12 regarding the relationship between willingness and intentional action in giving. See also 1 Corinthians 16:2.

14. Examine the sharing principle in verses 13-15. To help in understanding, read these verses in other translations, including “The Message.”

  • How is Paul’s teaching about equality in provision for Christians in the body of Christ different from the forced equality of socialism?
  • Why is this sharing principle good for the body of Christ? Look at 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 for your answer.

Scriptural Insight: Paul viewed Christians as being brothers and sisters in a large family. As a family, we have a responsibility to care for each other. … Paul did not legislate equality; he appealed for it. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 87)

15. What wisdom does Paul share in in vv. 19-21 regarding the handling of money belonging to others?

16. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 8:10-24?

What Application Will You Make?

17. Giving is a part of a Christian’s faith walk with God. Read 2 Corinthians 8:10-11 in The Message version. What decisions must you make to move from having good intentions to being intentional when it comes to giving?

Historical Insight: The Corinthians did follow through and assemble their gift. It was only a few months after Paul penned 2 Corinthians that he wrote Romans. In that epistle, he said that the Christians of “Macedonia and Achaia” (which includes Corinth) had made a contribution to the poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26-27). Paul and his delegation then traveled back to Jerusalem, from Corinth, through Macedonia and Asia Minor (Acts 20:3—21:19). The leaders of the Jerusalem church evidently received the gift gladly (Acts 21:17). (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 97)

18. From vv. 18-23, we see that it is important to surround yourself in ministry with people worthy of respect who will be trusted by others and therefore show you to be trustworthy, also. What has been your experience in this?

19. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Four Study

Read 2 Corinthians 9:1-15. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

20. Paul continues his discussion of the grace of giving. Remember, he is with the Macedonians still.

  • What compliment does he give in v. 2?
  • Why is Paul sending “the brothers” (vv. 3-5)?
  • What does he say they need to remember in v. 6 (likely a familiar proverb of the day)?
  • How should each person decide what to give (v. 7)?
  • What does God love (v. 7)?
  • What is God able to do (vv. 8, 10)?
  • Why does God give to us (vv. 10-11)?
  • What are the benefits of giving generously according to v. 12?
  • What are the benefits of giving generously according to v. 13?
  • What are the benefits of giving generously according to v. 14?
  • How does Paul conclude this section (v. 15)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

From the Greek: We read in 2 Corinthians 9:8 that God is “able to bless you abundantly.” That word “bless” (NIV) is from the Greek word charis, meaning grace (see 2 Corinthians 1:11 “gracious favor”). Most translations say that God is able to make all grace overflow or abound to you. It refers to His lovingkindness and favor given to you, which may include material provision but is not guaranteeing financial abundance.

What Does It Mean?

21. God is the source of all physical and spiritual resources.

  • How does God increase our resources (v. 10)? What does “seed to the sower” mean?
  • Why does God increase our resources (vv. 11-14)?

Think About It: God gives to us. We give to others. Needs are met. Thanks is given. The gospel is proven to be true. God gets praised. Unity and love increases in the church community and body of Christ as a whole. Sounds like a win/win.

22. What is God’s indescribable gift (v. 15)? See 2 Corinthians 8:9; 9:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; and John 3:16.

Scriptural Insight: God is the first giver; He first selflessly gives Himself to us in the person of His Son, and all true Christian giving is our response of gratitude for this gift that is beyond description. See also 1 John 4:9-11. (NIV Study Bible, note on v. 15, p. 1773)

23. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 9:1-15?

What Application Will You Make?

24. Like those Macedonian Christians, you can ask God to help you determine something you can and will live without for a period of time. Your choice. No one’s looking. Take the money you would have spent on that and look for ways to further God’s kingdom with it. Or, remember a time in your life when God provided what you needed through others giving to meet your needs. It’s all His anyway. Give Him the glory.

25. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Dependent Living: Read the essay Its His Anyway at the end of this lesson to learn more about trusting God with His money that He gives to you to use for His purposes.

26. Review the passage for this lesson in “Day One Study.” Add reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves to the chart below. I’ve given a few prompts.

Verse(s)

Reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves

8:1

He initiates the grace of giving

8:5

We need Him to direct our giving according to His will

8:9

He makes us spiritually rich so we can give

8:16

He puts into our hearts concerns for us to have

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

As His child, God transforms your life by teaching you to live dependently on Him in weakness and in strength.

[To get a better perspective on how we should view and use God’s provision to us, read the following essay, “It’s His Anyway.”]

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