The most detailed passage on giving in the New Testament is found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9). The primary reason that Paul addressed this topic here was that false teachers in Corinth were questioning Paul’s motives for ministry. Evidently they were suggesting that Paul was pocketing contributions earmarked for the poor believers in Jerusalem. Consequently the Corinthians, despite their announced willingness to help, had not donated to the cause.
Taking pen in hand, Paul defended his integrity ( 2 Corinthians 1:12). Using the churches in Macedonia as his example, Paul gave the Corinthians a wonderful summary of why and how believers ought to give. Here are the highlights of Paul’s sermon:
First, who should give? All believers can and should contribute to the cause of Christ. The church at Macedonia was notoriously poor, yet they asked for the privilege of being allowed to give (2 Corinthians 8:4) out of “their deep poverty” ( 2 Corinthians 8:2).
In what spirit should we give? We ought to give willingly ( 2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:2) and cheerfully, “not grudgingly or of necessity” (2 Corinthians 9:7). It is a privilege to share in the work of God. Moreover, it is the appropriate response to God’s “indescribable gift,” His own Son ( 2 Corinthians 9:15).
How much should we give? Nowhere does the New Testament give us a specified percentage or amount. In this passage, Paul simply exhorts each of the members of the Corinthian church to give “as he purposes in his heart” ( 2 Corinthians 9:7). Ideally, our gifts would be “generous” (9:5) and given with “liberality” (2 Corinthians 9:11). The overall tenor of this passage suggests sacrificial giving. Again, by way of example, the Macedonians, like the poor widow praised by Christ in Luke 21:1–4, gave not merely their “leftovers,” but more than they could afford ( 2 Corinthians 8:3).
How should monetary gifts be handled? Paul took special care to explain that the Corinthians’ contributions would be handled with integrity by Titus (2 Corinthians 8:16–20, 23) and another unnamed brother ( 2 Corinthians 8:22). These were men of the highest character. They were trustworthy and above reproach in the handling of money. We should entrust our church finances to men of this caliber.
Why is giving so important? In Paul’s words, it tests the sincerity of our love for God and others (2 Corinthians 8:7, 8). To paraphrase the words of Christ (Matthew 6:19–21), how we handle material wealth is a barometer of our spiritual health.
What will be the results of our giving? We should not give primarily to get, but Paul makes it clear that giving does lead to abundance. Cheerful givers experience God’s love in a special way (2 Corinthians 9:7). They enjoy the spiritual blessing of participating in a rich harvest of righteousness (2 Corinthians 9:10).