I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 2 Corinthians 8:8
Ever had to jump start a car? Put it in 2nd, pedal down, get it rolling, pop the clutch, and vroooom!! Hopefully. :) It may be a poor illustration, but Paul had observed these believers stalled out as if on the side of the road and yet still playing behind the wheel as if running smoothly.
Hey, when dealing with verses from 1st or 2nd Corinthians, it's pretty important to tie it all together in order to get the big picture, otherwise you end up trying to apply disjointed concepts to totally unrelated areas of your life, all the while thinking that by using Bible verses it MUST be what God wants you to know.
But the Corinthians had been sidetracked from the simplicity of Christ.
For I want you to know what a great struggle I have on your behalf Colossians 2:1
This is what Paul told the Colossians, and it best sums up his dealings with the Corinthians (see 2 Corinthians 10-13) for he was up against some powerful forces who desired to keep them floundering while at the same time causing them to question the reality of Christ among themselves.
Suffice it to say that the Corinthians were caught up in all kinds of insanity at the time. We should be able to relate. For more insight on the Corinthians' frame of mind check out:
A year before Paul wrote this letter, the Corinthians had been the very first to offer some monetary assistance to the devastated believers in Jerusalem. Pretty impressive, huh? Now, in terms of physical well-being, the Corinthians were much better off than the Macedonians, who had little to give, but somehow gave way beyond their means. It was to this surprising outcome that Paul wrote,
and this, NOT as we had expected, but they first gave THEMSELVES 2 Corinthians 8:5
But the Corinthians hadn't made good on their offer.
The question is: What is it that stirred these less fortunate to give beyond their abilities when those who had more sat on their offer?
I am not speaking this as a command... 2 Corinthians 8:8
Paul was not demanding they pay up. No, he brought up the motivation within the Macedonians that drove them to give beyond their means in order to PROVE to the Corinthians that this same genuineness was also in THEM. Here's the point: the same thing that caused the Corinthians to live after the manner of the world's wisdom is the exact same thing that kept them from acting upon their original genuine offer.
See that word "sincerity"? It means anything but the ATTEMPT to come across as being real, but instead it means: True, genuine, sincere, legitimately born. Paul uses it to get behind the bogus superficial boasts.
You see, the Corinthians had forgotten WHO THEY WERE, and it showed in every single area of their existence. In the same way Paul asked the Galatians...
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? Galatians 3:2
...he now tells the Corinthians that he is going to prove to them the in-born legitimacy of the love that is in them.
And I will continue with this in the next Shoveletter! :)
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 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. 2 Corinthians 8:1-12