LESSON 9
THE MINISTRY OF THE SAINTS
(2 CORINTHIANS 8:16--9:15)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard. 

INTRODUCTION: This week we continue our study of Paul's message to
the Corinthian church about giving.  I chuckled when I first read
our text for this week. Let's get into our study and see what we
can learn about "fundraising," generosity and humor!

I. SENDING THE ADVANCE MEN

     A. Read 2 Corinthians 8:16-21.  Is Paul not going to Corinth?
     If Paul and Titus "have the same concern" for the Corinthians
     (v.16), why is Titus going and not Paul? (You will recall from
     our earlier study of 2 Corinthians that Paul changed his
     travel plans about coming to Corinth right away.  In the first
     two chapters of 2 Corinthians he says he intended to come, had
     plans to come (in connection with a trip to Macedonia), but
     decided not to visit then. Paul said it would be too
     "painful." (2 Corinthians 2:1) He will be coming in the
     future, but apparently not now. (2 Corinthians 12:14))

          1. So why is Titus coming in the immediate future?

          2. What does Paul mean (v.17) when he says Titus
          "welcomed our appeal?"

               a. Does Paul mean he appealed to Titus to go to
               Corinth? (No. Verse 17 says Titus went on "his own
               initiative." What Paul means is that Titus welcomed
               Paul's appeal to collect money for the poor in
               Jerusalem.)

     B. We discussed last week how Paul made his appeal to the
     Corinthian church for funds for the poor in Jerusalem. What
     does Paul mean when he says (in the context of this appeal for
     funds), "we are taking pains to do what is right not only in
     the eyes of the Lord, but also in the eyes of men?"

          1.  If collecting money for the poor is "right in the
          eyes" of God, how could there be any question of
          propriety "in the eyes of men?"

               a. Would men be more critical than God?

               b. What view would men have that is different than
               God's point of view God? (Men would not see as
               clearly. Their vision of what is in the heart might
               be especially poor.)

          2. Notice in vv.18-19 Paul talks about a "brother" who is
          coming with Titus.  Why is this brother coming? (This is
          a "layman" who has the trust of the churches.  Paul is
          not content to just say "trust me," or "trust Titus."  He
          goes the extra mile to insure things look right "in the
          eyes of men.")

          3. Do you have any suggestions on how your local church
          can be sure its financial affairs appear "right in the
          eyes of men?"

               a. What do you currently do to avoid any questions?

          4. Do you have any suggestions on how the "higher" levels
          of the church administrative structure can be sure its
          financial affairs appear "right in the eyes of men?"

          5. Many years ago I was asked for two years in a row to
          sit on an "audit committee" composed of three laymen who
          would review the financial affairs of the local
          conference.  Both years, over my vigorous objections, we
          were not given any financial information in advance of
          the meeting and were not provided with the actual audit
          of conference funds.  I do not think there was any
          financial wrongdoing (because they asked me back at least
          once), but consider how this type of thing looks "in the
          eyes of men!"

          6. How about your life?  Is there something that you do
          that you feel is right with God, but could be
          misinterpreted by others?  What have you done to avoid
          that possibility?

II. FUNDRAISING STRATEGY

     A. Read 2 Corinthians 8:22-24. Paul says two things in these
     verses about the Corinthians.  In v.22 he says he is sending
     another unnamed brother who has "great confidence in you."  In
     v.24 he says, "show these men ... the reason for our pride in
     you, so that the churches can see it."

          1. Why does Paul write about "confidence" and "pride?"

          2. Last week I visited my son's academy and saw, as I
          am sure you have at virtually every educational
          institution, the names of contributors to the institution
          on a plaque.  How do you feel about prominently posting
          contributors' names?

               a. To what emotion does the listing of contributors'
               names appeal?

               b. How do you feel about it in a Christian
               institution?

               c. Does this promote pride among givers?

                    (1) If so, should a Christian institution be
                    promoting pride?

                    (2) What about this idea that we studied last
                    week in 2 Corinthians 8:12 of giving
                    "according to what one has...?"  They just
                    give absolute amounts in these plaques and
                    reports, not how much it "cost" the giver.
                    Does it falsely promote pride to just post
                    absolute amounts?

                         (a) Would you like your name on a list
                         entitled "Dirt-poor graduates who gave a
                         lot?"  Perhaps your annual income should
                         be listed along with the amount of your
                         gift?

               d. Consider Matthew 6:1-4 "Be careful not to do your
               'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by
               them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your
               Father in heaven....[D]o not let your left hand
               know what your right hand is doing, so that your
               giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees
               what is done in secret, will reward you."
 
               e. How do you reconcile Matthew 6:1-4 with 2
               Corinthians 8:22-24: "[S]how these men the proof of
               your love and the reason for our pride in you, so
               that the churches can see it?"

                    (1) Is there a difference between identifying
                    generous individuals and identifying generous
                    groups?

                    (2) Is it "OK" to say, "If they want to put my
                    name up in lights, let them?" (And you give
                    just enough to qualify for the "name up in
                    lights" list!)

     B. Read 2 Corinthians 9:1-2. Who was Paul pointing to last
     week as being the prime example of those who are generous
     givers? (2 Corinthians 8:1-4: the Macedonians!)

          1. Who do we find in our text today that Paul told the
          Macedonians was a good example for them? (The
          Corinthians!)

          2. What do you call this strategy? "Playing both sides
          against each other?" (This is the part I found to be most
          humorous!)

          3. Did this strategy work?  Were the extremely poor
          Macedonians inspired to give because of the Corinthians?
          (Yes! Verse 2: "your enthusiasm has stirred most of them
          to action.)

     C. Read 2 Corinthians 9:3-5. What is the potential problem
     here? (The Macedonians might come with Paul to Corinth and
     find that they had not given generously!)

          1. Is Paul afraid of being exposed as not telling the
          truth?

          2. Do Paul's fundraising tactics leave a lot of leeway
          for fundraisers today? Do Paul's tactics seem
          questionable?

          3. How would Paul's fundraising tactics be rated when it
          comes to the "eyes of men" test we discussed earlier? (On
          first reading, this account made me chuckle because it
          sounded like a bit of a scam.  However, I do not think
          Paul is doing anything improper. Look again at 2
          Corinthians 9:2 to see exactly what Paul said about the
          Corinthians: I told the Macedonians "you in Achaia were
          ready to give [enthusiastically]." Paul only said they
          were ready. After starting out right, something happened
          along the way (a painful letter, maybe) and now Paul
          simply wants the Corinthians to do what they promised
          (v.5).)

          4. Paul says in v.5, "give what you promised." This will
          result in a generous gift and not a grudging gift. Do you
          agree that telling someone to keep their word makes the
          gift "generous" and not "grudging?" (I think Paul is
          saying that the Corinthians, once upon a time, had
          voluntarily decided to give generously to the poor in
          Jerusalem. Having once made that decision out of a
          generous heart, Paul's pressure to keep their promise
          does not transform the promise into a "grudging" gift.)

III. THE RESULTS OF GENEROSITY

     A. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. In verse 6 Paul reminds the
     Corinthians of Proverbs 11:24-25 that links generosity to
     greater wealth and stinginess to greater poverty.

          1. Have you seen this principle operate in life? Is
          "giving" really "getting?" When you give something away,
          is it like planting or making an investment? (Consider
          the impact of the McKee family ("Little Debbie" brand
          desserts).  That family has obviously been tremendously
          blessed financially. At the same time consider how that
          family has blessed Christian education by building
          factories and recycling centers near schools to provide
          employment to young people who desperately need to work
          to pay for a Christian education. This is clearly an
          example of giving that results in getting.)

               a. If you really believed that you could get more by
               giving, would you be more generous than you are
               now?  Is it possible that our actions show that we
               do not really believe this principle?

                    (1) And if we do not believe the principle,
                    does that account for our relative lack of
                    wealth?

          2. What attitude is God looking for in those who support
          His program? (Cheerful giver)

               a. What does that say about God? (He is not a
               tyrant, He is a lover. He is looking for people who
               want to serve Him, who love to serve Him -- not
               those who obey Him out of fear.)

          3. When we are talking about "reaping" or "getting,"  are
          we necessarily talking about money? How do you understand
          the statement in v.10 that God will "enlarge the harvest
          of your righteousness?" (Verse 11 says that we "will be
          made rich in every way." This has to mean that we are not
          simply talking about money.)

     B. Read 2 Corinthians 9:12-15. Paul says that when we give to
     the poor among the believers that we not only supply their
     needs, something else happens. What is that? (They will praise
     God for you.)

          1. What gift does v.15 say that we get as a result of our
          generosity? (The hearts of those we have helped will go
          out to us and they will pray for us (v.14). Paul calls
          this a gift beyond description!)

     C. Lord, give us a generous heart, a cheerful attitude in
     helping those around us!

IV. NEXT WEEK: "ARMED FOR MINISTRY" Study 2 Corinthians 10:1-18. or among the believers that we not only supply their
     needs, something else happens. What is that? (They will praise
     God for you.)

          1. What gift does v.15 say that we get as a result of our
          generosity? (The hearts of those we have helped will go
          out to us and they will pray for us (v.14). Paul calls
          this a gift beyond description!)

     C. Lord, give us a generous heart, a cheerful attitude in
     helping those around us!

IV. NEXT WEEK: "ARMED FOR MINISTRY" Study 2 Corinthians 10:1-18.