2 Corinthians 8:16-24
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.…
(text and chap. 2 Corinthians 9.): —
I. THE MODE OF COLLECTING THE CONTRIBUTION.
1. St. Paul entrusted this task to three messengers: to Titus, who was himself eager to go; to a Christian brother whom the churches had selected as their almoner; and to another whose zeal had been tested frequently by St. Paul himself.
2. The reasons for sending these messengers.
(1) To give the Corinthians time (2 Corinthians 9:3). Observe. the tender wisdom of this proceeding. Every one knows how different is the feeling with which we give when charity is beforehand, from that with which we give when it comes side by side with debts and taxes. The charity which finds us unprepared is a call as hateful as that of any creditor whom it is hard to pay.
(2) To preserve their reputation for charity. For if the Corinthians were not ready, their inability to pay would be exhibited before the messengers. Observe —
(a) The just value which the apostle set on Christian reputation. For the inability of the Corinthians would be like insolvency, and would damage their character. We all know how insolvency damages the man, how he feels humbled by it, and "ashamed" before men.
(b) The delicacy of the mode in which the hint is given: "We (that we say not, ye) may not be ashamed." St. Paul makes it a matter of personal anxiety. Thereby he appealed not to their selfish feelings, but to everything which was noble or high within them. The Corinthians would feel, We cannot bear that Paul should be disgraced. This is a great principle. Appeal to the highest motives, whether they be there or no, for you make them where you do not find them. Arnold trusted his boys, and all attempt at deceiving him ceased forthwith. When Christ appealed to the love in the heart of the sinful woman, that love broke forth pure again.
(3) To preserve his own reputation. If so large a sum had been entrusted to him alone he might have been suspected of appropriating a portion to himself (vers. 20, 21). In this is to be observed St. Paul's wisdom. He knew that the world would scan his every act and word, and attribute all conceivable and even inconceivable evil to what he did in all honour. Now, because the bare conception of malversation was impossible to him, we might have expected him to forget that the world would not think it equally impossible. For to the pure all things are pure. It is to such — men guileless of heart — that Christ says, "Be ye wise as serpents." Consider how defenceless St. Paul would have been had the accusation been made! Moreover, though he were to be acquitted, a charge refuted is not as if a charge had never been made: Years after, the oblivious world, remembering only the accusation, and forgetting the fulness of the refutation, asks, "But were there not some suspicious circumstances?" No innocence will shield, no honour, nor integrity bright as the sun itself, will keep off altogether the biting breath of calumny. Therefore it is that he says, "Let not your good be evil spoken of." Therefore it is that he, avoiding the possibility of this, sent messengers to collect the money, "providing for things honest in the sight of all men."
II. THE MEASURE OF THE AMOUNT. The apostle did not name a sum to the Corinthians, but counselled them to be —
1. Liberal: "As a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness." He did not speak as we often preach — in an impassioned manner in order to get a large collection. Yet he plainly told them that a large contribution was what God asked. In the multitudinous charities for which you are solicited, give liberally somewhere, in God's name, and to God's cause. But the cases must depend on yourselves, and should be conscientiously adopted.
2. Deliberate: "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart." Distinguish this deliberate charity from giving through mere impulse. Christian charity is a calm, wise thing; it has, too, courage to refuse. A Christian man will not give to everything; he will not give because it is the fashion; because an appeal is very impassioned, or because it touches his sensibilities. He gives as he "purposeth in his heart." Here I remark that often the truest charity is not giving but employing.
3. Cheerful: "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver."
III. THE MEASURE OF THE REWARD. As in all spiritual rewards it is exactly proportioned to the acts done. The law of the spiritual harvest is twofold.
1. In reference to quantity: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly." Hence may be inferred the principle of degrees of glory hereafter (cf. the Parable of the Talents). The right hand and left of Christ in His kingdom are given only to those who drink of His cup and are baptized with His baptism.
2. In reference to kind. The reward of an act of charity is kindred with the act itself. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." A harvest of wheat comes not from sown barley, etc. Thus also is it in the spiritual world. Now here often a strange fallacy arises. Men sow their carnal things — give their money, for example, to God, and expect to reap the same. In pagan times fishermen or farmers sacrificed their respective properties, and expected a double fishery or harvest in return. The same pagan principle has come down to us. Some persons "lend to the Lord," in order that He may repay them with success in business, or an advance in trade. The fallacy lies in this: the thing sown was not money, but spirit, e.g., the poor widow gave two mites, but God took account of sacrifice. The sinful woman gave an alabaster box of ointment, valued by a miserable economist at three hundred pence. God valued it as so much love. Now God is not going to pay these things in coin of this earth. He will repay them with spiritual coin in kind. In the particular instance now before us, what are the rewards of liberality which St. Paul promises to the Corinthians? They are —
(1) The love of God (ver. 7).
(2) A spirit abounding to every good work (ver. 8).
(3) Thanksgiving on their behalf (vers. 11, 12, 13).A noble harvest! but all spiritual. Give, and do not expect your money to be returned, like that of Joseph's brethren in their sacks'mouths. When you give to God, sacrifice, and know that what you give is sacrificed, and is not to be got again, even in this world; for if you give, expecting it back again, there is no sacrifice; charity is no speculation in the spiritual funds, no wise investment, to be repaid with interest either in time or eternity!
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.