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2 Corinthians 9:7

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

As Paul seeks to motivate the Corinthian church to fulfill its pledge to give to the collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem, he seeks to balance at least two concerns. On the one hand, he says that God’s acceptance of the gift depends not on the amount given but on the readiness to give (2 Cor. 8:11–12). In other words, a small amount given from the heart with sincerity and love is better than a large amount given reluctantly. At the same time, Paul teaches that it really is a good thing to be generous. In fact, a bountiful gift will lead to bountiful blessings for the giver (9:6).

Both of these concerns come together in today’s passage, which stresses the importance of giving freely and without external compulsion. Paul will not mandate what must be given to alleviate the poverty of the church in Jerusalem because he sees the essence of the gift as the giver’s willingly contributing. True generosity is found not in the amount given but in the eagerness of the giver. It would be inappropriate to call a person generous if he were to give millions of dollars only because he was being coerced by some external force. He is not giving because he wants to but because he has to. At the same time, Paul is not saying that doing one’s duty because it is one’s duty is always a bad thing. As a believer, he certainly understood that we have a duty to obey God’s law and to fulfill it through love of neighbor (see Rom. 13:8–10). But the duty of loving neighbor can be fulfilled in many different ways. Strictly speaking, we have a duty to help provide for the needs of believers who cannot take care of themselves (James 1:27), but we are not all duty-bound to give in specific ways to every specific concern. The Corinthians’ giving to the fund to help the needy believers in Jerusalem was not in itself mandatory but was just one option to help other Christians. It only became necessary for them once they had made the pledge to give. Once that pledge was made, individuals had to give willingly and only what they had determined in their hearts to give.

In that respect, as commentators rightly note, the closest analogy to the giving described in 2 Corinthians 8–9 was the freewill offering that the Israelites made for the tabernacle’s construction (Ex. 35–36). Thus, today’s passage is not rightly used to argue that the old covenant tithe has passed away, as some have taught. That question is not on Paul’s mind here. The issue at hand is that generosity cannot be compelled but is a matter of the heart.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Commenting on the fact that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7), John Chrysostom writes, “God appointed almsgiving not only for the nourishment of the needy but also for the benefit of the providers, and much more so for the latter than for the former.” In giving generously, we get far more benefit from the gift than those to whom we give.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 22:9
  • Mark 7:1–23
  • 1 Timothy 1:5
  • Philemon 13–14

How to Reap Bountifully

God’s Abounding Grace

Keep Reading The Kingdom of God

From the November 2021 Issue
Nov 2021 Issue