Some of the bible’s most specific instructions about giving are found in the ninth chapter of Second Corinthians. Paul already pointed out in chapter eight that personal commitment is the fundamental key to genuine Christian generosity; now he will emphasize several important, corollary principles on the subject, in chapter nine. The context of his instructions here relates to a “special contribution” to assist oppressed Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. This particular offering stands out because it was gathered from among Gentile congregations to benefit Jewish Christians.
There are several important lessons to note from the instructions found here: First, this situation mentioned here shows that “special” offerings – in addition to the regular, weekly gathering of funds for a congregation’s ongoing works – are not wrong. When an unplanned or unanticipated need arises, Christians have an opportunity to “rise to the occasion” by giving beyond our normal offerings. (Brethren will sometimes object to such offerings, arguing that “If we’re giving as we ought to, we’re already giving all we can” – but such statements fly in the face of the facts here in 2 Corinthians 9 – do we really believe Paul was criticizing these brethren for “not giving enough” all along?) Second, verse 6 expresses a fundamental principle; our “harvest” is proportional to our “planting!” To “harvest big,” we have to “plant big!” The point here is really that our giving is a matter of trust: God challenges us to give sacrificially, and demonstrate our trust that He will enable us to give even more (see vs. 10)! Third, we note in verse 7 that a Christian’s giving is a “personal matter.” No passage in the new testament binds on us the ancient Jewish obligation to “tithe” (give 10% of our income). The fact that there is no “prescribed percentage” we must give does not, however, excuse us to simply give a “token” offering. Since we live and worship under a superior covenant, with superior promises, a superior Sacrifice for our sins and a superior High Priest (Jesus), Christians should make routinely superior offerings! (I.e., we ought to give even more generously, more sacrificially, than the ancient Jews were required to give)! Fourth, verses 9-10 emphasize the fact that God challenges us to test His willingness to bless us by challenging ourselves in our giving. Fifth, we should note in verses 11-15 that the result of generous, sacrificial giving is that God is glorified: And sixth, verse 13 shows that the financial “benevolence” of the Gentile saints was not meant to be limited to “saints only” (as some have insisted), but was clearly intended to benefit both the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and others there as well. (The word “them” in vs. 13 speaks of Christian brethren, so “all” must refer to non-Christians who would also benefit from the kindness of the Gentile Christians – such as unbelieving family members, etc.).
Second Corinthians 10:4 presents a simple but critically important point every Christian ought to understand: Our Father expects us to discipline our thoughts, not “just” our words and actions. One of the prevailing attitudes in our world is that “what I think about doesn’t ‘count’” – but Paul’s words here clearly contradict such a self-indulgent, self-excusing point of view. Not only did king David long ago acknowledge that the Lord “…understand [s] my thought afar off” (Psalm 139:2), the wise king Solomon pointed out in Proverbs 23:7 that “…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In Luke 6:45, the Lord Jesus Himself noted that, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (emphasis mine, DR). The point is really quite simple; as Christians, we ought to “police” the things we think about, so that we will not be polluted by impure thoughts.