The Grace Exchange
Make no mistake about it, Paul pushed the issue of giving with the Corinthians. But why? What did he want from these Corinthian believers? Their money? Not a chance. If you read through the two letters he wrote you would realize that he made a big point about distancing himself from any of their physical goods - he wasn't even going to touch the stuff when it traded hands.
If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ ... I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one ... when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. --Selected statements from 1 Corinthians 9:11-18
Realize that Paul did receive gifts from some, as the Philippians, to whom he wrote,
you have done well to share with me in my affliction Philippians 4:14
But it was under different circumstances that did not interfere with their understanding of the free gift of God. He would rather die than to take anything from the Corinthians because they were so caught up with the infrastructure of a leadership that compared and competed with itself causing those under it to judge all things by fleshly wisdom. By the way, since these others who were "sharing the right" over the Corinthians were not preaching Christ but preaching themselves, Paul's mention of it probably stuck out like a sore thumb.
So, why did he press upon them to complete their financial pledge? Notice, he didn't beg and plead with them based on how badly the money was needed, but instead he referred to a MUTUAL need. Mutual need?:
...your abundance being a supply for THEIR need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for YOUR need". 2 Corinthians 8:2
Now, it's obvious why the believers in Jerusalem needed the physical support, and it's obvious why Paul didn't want to take everything the Macedonians were willing to give to provide that need, but what did the Corinthians NEED from both those in Jerusalem as well as those in Macedonia? "... their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality ..."
Liberality = giving freely.
All things considered, one might come to the conclusion that the poor saints in Jerusalem were not the neediest part of the body, but instead it was those believers in Corinth who were so full of themselves they had forgotten what the true riches were. You see, the freedom of Christ is not an idea, it is LIFE. The Corinthians didn't make a pledge to give because they were responding to an outward compelling, they pledged to give because they were truly FREE on the inside. Paul called their attention to this former pledge because it forced them to reconsider the miraculous freedom they had experienced.
Consider, if the Corinthians had made their pledge of financial support based on an obligation to perform, do you think Paul would have suggested they follow it through? Gimme a break! If that had been the case, I think his letters to them may have sounded a little more like the letter to the Galatians where he concluded that going through with a ritual requirement of the law would only obligate them to perform the whole law. The whole point of the giving issue with the Corinthians had nothing to do with binding them to a duty or to a requirement, but in causing them to remember the freedom by which they had been delivered from the bondage of law!!
Secondly, consider the possibility that since the Corinthians BEGAN this work the previous year they most likely began collecting some funds that never made it to Jerusalem. Split between the wolves perhaps? Or taken by the most fleshly-minded? My point: If the fleshly dealings in the matter had been exposed, they would have seen how their supposed leaders had stifled the work of the Spirit in them and they would not be so quick to listen to them anymore.
When the body isn't afflicted with insanity it automatically senses the needs within it and it attends to those needs. The Corinthians had gone insane. The life that flowed through them as they were responding in love to take up a collection for those in need got put on hold. To withhold freedom is to become constipated. Understand that TO THEM the holding back of their liberality (giving freely) was so interconnected with their sanity of freedom in Christ that in completing the gift they would be released from the straight-jacket that bound them.
My friends, freedom is truly a dangerous thing to the religious mind because it cannot be controlled. But know this, that the Spirit of Christ calls you to live freely. For in living freely you are living as one truly alive!!
Next time: Sowing and Reaping
I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 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. 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. 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. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality 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; as it is written, 'he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.' 2 Corinthians 8:8-15