Paul has just finished talking about money and giving and now he transitions into this passage. Clearly, it could be interpreted to discuss the giving of physical things, but if we look at his example of Titus (whom he previously mentioned), you can understand that what Paul is talking about there is spiritual, not physical.
7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. 11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
Verse 7 mentions this gracious work. Verse 6 explained Titus completing the gracious work in the Corinthians, which refers to teaching them how to first seek out the will of God and act once they find it. Paul is now encouraging the Corinthians to do this as they become complete in this gracious work. When Paul discusses abundance and need here he isn’t talking about money or material things, rather spiritual maturity. He is encouraging the Corinthians (and us) that as we grow in Christ we should share what we learn and know with others because they too are spiritually needy.
In verse 11, there is a nuance that echoes something Jesus said mixed with a principle we find in the book of James. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. I like to call James’ main principle “activating your faith.” James says our faith and belief is worthless if we don’t put it to use. It’s like going to a 4-year college to be an engineer and getting a job as a chef when you graduate. Paul puts it differently here. He explains that the abundance we have was given to us to give to others. He quotes and Old Testament principle for the nation of Israel where God told them to share and spread evenly among themselves so nobody lacked. That principle is being replicated here but on a spiritual level.
Verse 8 is a challenge. Paul isn’t commanding the Corinthians (or us) to do this; he is challenging us to prove the love we say we have. We continually speak of the God of love, and how much Jesus loves/loved us, and we are sons and daughters of the king, etc. etc. but do we act like it? As His abundance of love overflows our lives with grace, mercy, and compassion do we give it to others? Likewise it works the other way, as we read in verse 14. How hard is it to ask for help? When we feel spiritually drained, how difficult is it for us to lay aside our pride and ask someone to minister to us whether it is by way of prayer or something else? It’s not about who has more or the most; it’s about everyone taking care of each other. The spirit of compassion works both ways not as a way for us to feel good about ourselves, but as a way for us to live without need, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
What abundance can you give out of today? What need do you have for which you must ask help?