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2 Corinthians 8:10–12

>“If the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (v. 12).

God had not uttered a direct command through the Apostle Paul that the Corinthian Christians were required to give to the collection for the impoverished first-century church in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:8). Nevertheless, Paul believed that their willingness to give was a vital part of their discipleship. It would be a tangible expression of their love for other believers and a sign that they understood the ramifications of the work of Christ. When they understood that Jesus became poor so that they would become rich, they would see the implications of that for the Christian life—that believers should willingly give of their material goods so that the poor Christians would be enriched and not left in a state of absolute destitution (vv. 8–9).

As we will see when we look at 2Corinthians 8:13–15, Paul was not advocating for socialism or for the current idea of equity held by many in the West that all people should have the same standard of living. Before we cover that in our next study, we note that today’s passage gives another reason that the Apostle believed the Corinthians’ support of the collection was important and corrects a potential misunderstanding on the part of the church in Corinth. First, Paul notes that for the Corinthians to donate to the Jerusalem church would be beneficial for them because it would be finishing what they had already started (vv. 10–11; see also v. 6). This indicates that the chief problem with the Corinthians’ lack of support was not a complete lack of willingness to help others; rather, the issue was that they had committed to provide assistance but were not following through on their promise. Apparently, the Corinthians had begun to collect funds for the Jerusalem Christians but their effort had petered out. But if one makes a commitment to do something good, one should keep it. As Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”

In 2 Corinthians 8:12, the Apostle addresses a potential misunderstanding of his exhortation. Some Corinthians might have thought that Paul was mandating a specific amount that they had to give or that he was obligating them to the same level of sacrificial giving as the Macedonians (see 2 Cor. 8:1–5). Yet, Paul was not asking them to give what they did not have—to sacrifice so much that it hurt—but only that they be willing to give (v. 12). The size of the gift mattered less than the act of giving and its motivation.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

One commentator notes how 2 Corinthians 8:12 is in line with the prophetic emphasis that the act of giving is less important than the heart behind it. In other words, just as the sacrifices of the old covenant people—even if offered lavishly—were unacceptable when the heart of the worshiper was not in it (Hos. 6:6), so also our giving to help others is not acceptable to God if we are not motivated by love of Him and our neighbor.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 21:2
  • Proverbs 24:12
  • Amos 5:21–24
  • Matthew 9:13
  • 1 Timothy 1:5

He Gives His Beloved Sleep

A Matter of Fairness

Keep Reading The Doctrine of Justification

From the October 2021 Issue
Oct 2021 Issue