2 Corinthians 10

Chapter ten begins the final section of the letter and a new defense of Paul’s authority over the Corinthian church as God’s divinely-appointed apostle, specifically in comparison to the false teachers that had deceived them.

Paul’s appeal that they would listen to him was offered in “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1). His comment that he was meek while with them and full of courage only in his letters was a sarcastic retort toward his accusers, who apparently had convinced many of the Corinthians that Paul was a hypocrite. He could talk a big game in his letters, but in person, he carried no power or authority. Paul claimed this was ludicrous (2 Corinthians 10:9-11). The bulk of his argument in this chapter was based on the truth that the most important aspect of this life is a spiritual matter, not a physical one, emphasizing thoughts and not just actions (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). This is why he refused to be held to someone else’s human standards (2 Corinthians 10:2); why he seemed harsh when dealing with matters of obedience and disobedience in the church (2 Corinthians 10:6); and why he did not let outward matters distract him from inward realities (2 Corinthians 10:7-8).

In the final verses, Paul denounced his critics for boasting about their accomplishments while minimizing Paul’s (2 Corinthians 10:12-18). He pointed out that they simply “compare[d] themselves with themselves” to brag about how good they were, but he was not about to lower himself to their games. Instead, he would boast only about the work God was doing in and through him and his team, including what God was accomplishing in Corinth. Ultimately, he cared only that people heard the gospel (from him directly or the churches he started) and that they continued to grow in their faith. Nothing else was worth bragging about because that was all God called him to do.

The last verse should be a wonderful encouragement to all who want to be faithful servants: “It is not the person who commends himself who is approved, but the person the Lord commends.”

2 Corinthians 9

Chapter nine continues Paul’s discussion on the Corinthians’ giving toward his benevolence ministry with some important general principles about giving in the Church Age. We must understand that tithing is strictly an Old Testament teaching and practice. Nowhere is tithing taught or commanded in the New Testament, including in this chapter. Instead, Christians should give generously and graciously for four reasons, one of which is the support of our global Christian family. (The support of local church leaders, local church members, and global missions are the other three.)

Paul was not afraid to be blunt with his churches. He would not let them feign ignorance as if they did not know they should give toward this ministry (2 Corinthians 9:1-4). In fact, he had bragged to the Macedonians about how well the Corinthians were doing with their fund-raising. This is the second time he mentioned about bragging on them (2 Corinthians 7:14) and the second time he wanted to make sure he was not embarrassed by it. Although some may call this a “guilt trip,” it is obvious that, no matter how wrong they could be in some areas, Paul always had great hopes for their growth.

It was important that they did not give just because he told them to do so, though, so he gave three principles of generous giving that are still applicable today (2 Corinthians 9:5-9). First, giving is like sowing. The principle of the harvest reveals that our harvest reflects what we sow, comes later than we sow, and is in proportion to what we sow. Second, giving should be done intentionally and not reluctantly. Third, giving with the right heart (“cheerful”) pleases God.

Prosperity Gospel preachers misuse these principles to convince people to give to their ministries, often promising “returns on investment” for every dollar given. Paul did not do that. Giving is a spiritual issue, and God will reward, although not necessarily with more finances in this lifetime. Instead, the harvest may be one “of righteousness,” both in the giver and the recipient (2 Corinthians 9:10-15). Ultimately, the reason for our giving should be to glorify God, and it is a privilege to be able to participate in his work in this way. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

2 Corinthians 8

Chapters eight and nine contain some of the most well-known passages on giving in the New Testament. When churches hold giving campaigns and pastors preach on tithing, these chapters are likely to come up. “They gave according to their means and beyond their means” (2 Corinthians 8:3). “Make sure you excel in this act of kindness, too” (2 Corinthians 8:7). “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). These and others seem to teach that giving to the church is important, and it is. The problem, however, is that was not Paul’s point when he wrote.

In reality, one of Paul’s missions, while he preached the gospel and planted churches, was to raise support for other struggling believers, especially those in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; Romans 15:25-29). Thus, the giving that Paul asked the Corinthians to do was not for their own church; he was encouraging them to give generously for the benefit of others. He noted that the Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) continued to give, even sacrificially, during a difficult period (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). When Titus went to Corinth, Paul instructed him to make sure they did the same (2 Corinthians 8:6-9). It was especially important to Paul that they gave toward this mission because they had already promised that they would and had begun putting money aside for it (2 Corinthians 8:10-11; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3). As he would explain further in chapter nine, Paul was less concerned with the amount they gave as he was that they gave. However, he did want them to consider their better financial situation as an opportunity to serve, since it may not always be that way. One day they might find themselves on the receiving side, subject to someone else’s generosity or lack thereof (2 Corinthians 8:12-15).

Titus and another brother were going back to Corinth again, carrying this letter with them and planning to accept the financial gift from the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:16-19). Paul noted that, especially with the accusations still swirling about him, he would not accept the gift personally, so as to not add fuel for his accusers (2 Corinthians 8:20-24). As if that were not enough, Paul sent yet another brother with them – for a total of three trustworthy men – to accept the money and return with it, so they could distribute it as necessary. Not only was there great wisdom in having multiple men traveling together for protection, but Paul was also right to “recuse” himself from showing up at Corinth for what could be construed just for money.