Paul's Persuasive Arguments
There is certainly a place for the sharp rebuke (Titus 1: 13), but there is also a place for exhortation and encouragement (Acts 11: 23.) In chapters eight and nine of Second Corinthians, Paul used several very effective persuasive arguments in favor of liberal giving. We need to be constantly taught on the grace of giving, so we might benefit by a brief meditation on Paul's word of exhortation to the saints at Corinth.
He first mentioned the willing spirit and rich liberality of the brethren in Macedonia who gave themselves to the Lord. Even from a position of poverty, they had sacrificed to have this fellowship of ministering to the saints. A good example is a wonderful sermon. The master Teacher left us an example. (I Peter 2:21.) His faithful teachers are to show themselves patterns. (Titus 2:7.) The apostle had told the Macedonians of the forwardness of mind and zeal of the Corinthians when he first mentioned the need at Jerusalem. This mentioning of the zeal and liberality of some is still an effective and legitimate way to persuade.
Paul sent Titus to finish this same grace in the Corinthians (2 Cor. 8:6.) Teaching, teaching, and more teaching is needed on every principle of right. Churches of 1849 in America were not known for liberality in support of the gospel, so teachers of that day organized a money drinking, power loving missionary society as if this were the solution. They needed no organization beyond the simple plan God gave for the church with its elders. Their real need was for the preaching of the whole counsel (including the grace of giving) and not just lessons on faith, repentance, and baptism.
The great apostle then commended the Corinthians and reminded them of gifts and traits of character which stood out among them (2 Cor. 8:7.) You and I, as well as the Corinthians, can stand a few pleasant words of commendations. Some sermons on giving may have a negative effect because of the spirit of harsh sarcasm rather than the spirit of exhortation and instruction (Phile. 8-10, 20, 21). It is a matter of wisdom to know when the sharp rebuke is needed, and when it is far better to provoke unto love and good works by the word of entreaty.
Our love is to be sincere (2 Cor. 8:8.) Genuine love, like living faith, is a thing that can be proven or demonstrated by works. (James 2:18.) We may love in word or pretense only. We demonstrate that our love for a cause or a person is genuine when we show a willingness to give. (I John 3:17-19.) How many of us realize that the Lord sees our zeal and liberality, or the lack of it, as we purpose in our hearts in the matter of giving? (Mark 12:41-44.)
The "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" as made known in the gospel is the most powerful persuasive argument in favor of liberal giving. He, who had the riches of heaven, became poor that we through His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9.) It is very obvious that He has a right to find this same mind in us. (Phil. 2:1-9.) The man of greed and selfishness is as unlike the Lord who gave Himself a ransom for many as any sinner you can think of among all the people you know. His love and spirit of sacrifice is the story of the gospel. To preach Christ is to preach liberality and genuine love.
Paul said, "I give my advice." He often used the word "I," but never as an egotist. His record was excellent so he, no doubt, had a powerful personal influence which he could use in this matter. For Paul to advise it would be to exert a good influence among good people. Some (men who have on the breastplate of righteousness) are in a position to preach on giving and many other subjects. They give and practice the things they preach (I Tim. 4:12.)
The apostle emphasized the difference in the "readiness to will" and the "performance" of the task (2 Cor. 8: 11.) He remembered their pleasant reaction to the idea, but he evidently knew that many are better at agreeing than in doing (2 Cor. 9: 15.) Are you one to plan big things and do little?
The widow had only her two mites to give. (Mark 12:41-44.) That does not prevent her from giving nor does it hinder the acceptance of her gift before God. The order is that "every one" give according to his ability (I Cor. 16:1-3; Acts 11:29, 30.) Many little gifts count and liberality is always beautiful. "It is accepted according to that a man hath" (2 Cor. 8:12.)
There are two sides to this matter of giving. People who give, as members of the Lord's family, when they are able, may receive loving care, when they are in need (2 Cor. 8:13-15.) There is the bountiful reaping from God and man (2 Cor. 9:6-10.) The giver is blessed more than the receiver (Acts 20:35; Mark 10: 29, 30; Luke 6:38; Matt. 6:19-21; etc.)
"God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7.) How much would you give to please Him? Stop and think a while on this before you proceed further. Remember that He "is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8.) He knows your needs and is eager for you to learn to be content with simple things here and to seek first the kingdom. (Matt. 6:33; 1 Tim. 6:8.) He is more interested in the cheerful purpose of heart than in the ability to give great sums. He is not served by men's hands as though He needed our gifts, but He is glorified by the unselfish life of one who walks in the light (Matt. 5:16; Acts 17:25.)
The pleasant liberality among Gentile churches for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem would supply their needs and cause much thanksgiving. The middle wall of partition needed to be completely forgotten. It would be a great day when many Jewish brethren were offering prayers and thanksgiving to God for Gentile brethren (2 Cor. 9:12-15.) Ponder the closing sentence of the chapter: "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." Let us do our mite to indicate our gratitude and to provoke gratitude.
Other reasons could be given for liberality in the Lord's work. Let this little article cause you to meditate further and to practice this grace more.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 5, pp. 10-12