The Word Merchants
I am not speaking this as a command ... I give my opinion in this matter 2 Corinthians 8:8,10(see below for 2 Corinthians 8:8-15)
Why did Paul give these people his opinion? The theology of bondage might suggest that he was putting forth one of his own non-binding principles as opposed to one of the inspired new rules of the Christian life. But if Christ came to set us free from the law why do we think the disciples wrote their letters to bring us back into the bondage of even more rules? Once you mentally break free from the law-bound, fleshly perception of Christ the recorded words of his disciples will begin to reflect that life instead of being a noose around your neck!
So, if Paul is not making a distinction between his flexible opinion and the concrete command of God, what is his point? Wouldn't you know it, the answer is found in the simple context of the two letters to the Corinthians. Consider: These believers had been abused by men Paul described as...
false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ 2 Corinthians 11:13
Take a fresh read through these letters and see if you notice any hint of this mistreatment. Here's one:
For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. 2 Corinthians 11:20
The commands were from MEN, the opinion was from a man...
determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 2 Corinthians 2:2
Do you see it? The Corinthian believers were being subjected to harsh and abusive demands of false apostles who used guilt and obligation for their own advantage; while Paul, their...
father through the gospel 1 Corinthians 4:15
...addressed them in gentleness as equals. I imagine the people who received this letter saw the contrast so clearly that it shook them out of their spiritual trance.
Here is that contrast:
For we are not like many, PEDDLING the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 2:17
Word-Merchants operate under the premise of commands because they disregard the inner working of the Spirit of Christ within the new creation. Some disregard it because they don't have this Spirit, while some have simply forgotten the reality of the life of Christ within them. What a tragedy! While the men Paul referred to leaned upon verbal commands, he himself would only lean upon the freely-given life of God within those born of the Spirit.
So, what does this have to do with the matter of giving? Well, if the goal of a merchant is to make a profit, wouldn't a Word-Merchant operate under the same premise? The only variable to take into account is the payoff. In other words, what does the merchant want in exchange for his goods? It may be prestige, it may be popularity, it may be a sense of control or power, but it often includes money. There should be little doubt that the Corinthians were used to hearing commands from many of their spiritual leaders for money or material goods. Against this, Paul offers an opinion that is rooted in the fact that Christ is the life and motivation that has been put within them.
So, are you counting on that outward-command-style motivation ... or the inward working of the Spirit?
Next time: The Grace Exchange
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