I certainly don’t mean to challenge the biblical scholars on this passage, but we need to open our minds to the spiritual implications of what Paul is saying here. Many believe Paul is talking about a monetary gift and it very well could be that. However, let’s try to read this passage from the perspective of, “how does this apply to me and the rest of the church today?”
2 Corinthians 8:22 – 9:5
22 We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. 24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you. 9 For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4 otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to speak of you—will be put to shame by this confidence. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.
Throughout this course of discussion, Paul has been talking about the gracious work of Christ in us, which as a result is our calling to go forth and share it with others. I just read a blog entry from friends of mine preparing to be a missionary abroad on The Old Rugged Cruz that talks about God being the exemplary missionary and sender of missionaries. I’ve never looked at it that way. In today’s passage, I believe we see Paul exemplifying Christ in like manner.
Paul was a missionary of missionaries. He planted churches all over what he refers to as Macedonia: a great part of Asia (if my memory serves correctly). The gift that Paul is talking about here that needs to “be prepared” isn’t one of money or goods but rather of spiritual maturity. It seems that the Corinthians not only have taken Paul’s advice to heart (what we read in 1 Corinthians) but they have been transformed by the renewing of their minds and are now eager to go share it with others. This is what happens when we fully understand what God has done for us and what He continues to do for us. Our pastor explained it the other week about whenever we see a great movie or eat at an awesome restaurant, we tell our friends, don’t we? I think that we get the same drive by understanding what it means to be loved by God and adopted as His son or daughter.
In this passage I think we must also grab ahold of the point that we must be prepared. We cannot just take this desire and run with it. I think this is how missions have been mishandled for decades. We have this desire to do some good, we find the resources for it, and we just jump in without first making sure we are being good stewards of our resources and that we are actually accomplishing what we think we are. We let our feelings drive our actions instead of God. As a missionary abroad myself, I have studied various authors who discuss what happens when we just move into a foreign land and start throwing money at everything. I think this is what Paul’s concern was, which is why he sent a troupe of seasoned missionaries to prepare the Corinthians for what they were about to do.
My friends are currently in this process. Their recent newsletter revealed that they are still in need of financial and prayer support, but ultimately they plan to continue to follow God’s call to Nepal for their family. Stop by and check out their page and the awesome work God has called them to in spreading the Gospel of God’s salvation.
A good friend once said, “there are two types of people: goers and senders.” Which one are you? Will you be both just as Christ was?