Friday, August 29, 2014

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 31, 2014

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GIVING TO OTHERS
(Growing in your willingness to give)
(2 Corinthians 8:1-15)

In the biblical Greek, the word used for “grace” is “charis” and it is “the divine influence upon one’s heart, and its reflection on life”. In 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, the Apostle Paul turns to the subject of “gracious giving” by the saints of the newly formed Christian Churches. The main purpose of Paul’s third missionary journey was to raise money for the central church at Jerusalem, who had fallen on hard times.
Paul had actually been organizing this tour to aid the needy there at Jerusalem for a number of years, after being urged to do so by Peter, James, and John (Acts 9:27-29 (also see Galatians 2:9-10). From the time the Corinthians first heard about this collection, they had been, seemingly, very eager to participate, and Paul had previously laid out a plan that would make it possible for them to do so without putting a strain on their personal budgets (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).
According to Paul’s wording in this passage, however, it seems that the previous good intentions of the church at Corinth had since dissipated, and so Paul asked his trusted aid, Titus, to go and look into the situation at Corinth. Paul wanted to find out what factors, or, issues had come up to interrupt, or derail, the church’s previous intended benevolence (2 Corinthians 8:6). 
Here in 2 Corinthians 8, verses 1-5, Paul sought to motivate the Corinthians spirit of generosity, by first giving the great example of the benevolence of the Church at Macedonia. Here he told of how, even though, the Macedonians were going through much hardship themselves, they were able to “turn the concern for their own deep poverty, into an overflowing of rich generosity for others”. They gave, not only what they could afford, but through their joyful spirit, they even went beyond the call of Christian duty. In fact, Paul says that they even pleaded for him to allow them the privilege of doing even more, and they dedicated themselves to the LORD, and to Paul and his aides for whatever directions and instructions GOD would give them.
Then, in verse 9, Paul uses the greatest example of all times, to motivate this young Church at Corinth. Here he steers their attentions to the very “personification of benevolence”, our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. Here Paul reminds the Church of how full of love and kindness CHRIST was when HE came to us, though HE was very rich, HE made HIMSELF poor so that, by HIS poverty, HE could make us rich.
Paul’s advice to the Corinthians in verses 10-11 is that the young church finishes what they had started a year earlier, when they were so enthusiastic about wanting to give and help with the benevolent project that had been initiated for Jerusalem. Their church had been the first to act upon this idea, and now was the time to go forward towards its completion. In verses 12-13, Paul reasons that “each individual’s giving need only be commensurate with their ability to give”. Beyond an individual’s tithes, GOD does not want us to give, what you can’t afford to give. HE does not want us to give so much that we suffer from having too little ourselves. Such could, in time, cause us to have ill feelings about giving, or cause one to feel as though they have put the church in their debt, or put GOD in their debt. And so we can see that, even in giving, one must use GODLY wisdom.
Finally, in verses 14-15, Paul expounds upon the guiding principal regarding the material exchange between Christian churches. It is the “principle of equality” which involves the “checks” and “balances” that are contained in “GOD’s system of justice for the regulation of human existence”:

When one has plenty,
he should share with others,
and when one does not have enough,
others should share with him”.

When we apply that principle to real life, the needs of every individual will always be met, and there would never be a need for government sponsored welfare programs.
Paul then reminds the church of the very source of this “guiding principle”, which GOD exposed to the Israelites one day in the wilderness of the Negev, following their divine exodus from Egypt. It is with the miracle of “manna from Heaven”, as it is recorded by Moses in Exodus 16:14-18:

When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance, as fine as frost, blanketed the ground.  The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was. And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat.  These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts   for each person in your tent. So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little.  But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed”. (NLT)

There we see that, by the Israelites gathering two quarts for each person, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had plenty enough. Each family had just what it needed”. Let those who have ears to hear, take heed, and those who can read this lesson, understand.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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