“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” —2 Corinthians 9:12
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we learn that a severe famine had struck Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem church and surrounding regions were struggling (Romans 15:25-28). The poor did not have enough to eat, so Paul reached out to the churches he had planted throughout Macedonia and Achaia for aid. He asked the largely Gentile body of believers in these churches to take up an offering for their struggling Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.
This request for aid was well received on the whole. Paul reminds the Corinthians of their initial “eagerness to help” when he first sought their aid (2 Corinthians 9:2), and now he is excited to see them fulfill their promise. This is one response that our giving inspires; it brings joy for those involved in the process of collecting and distributing our gifts.
The greater response that Paul highlights in this chapter is the thankfulness of those who receive our gifts. Paul encourages the Corinthians by saying that their generosity “will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). Notice that the emphasis is on God and not the human givers. The Corinthian believers are a necessary part of the process, but it is God to whom the Jerusalem believers will ultimately give praise and thanksgiving for providing His people with the provisions they need. In the same way, God might choose to work through us to support missionaries, give food to the hungry or even to slip a cheque into a struggling neighbour’s mailbox. We, however, should not be surprised if those we have helped express their thankfulness to God, the Giver of all good gifts, before they thank us.
This is good, for it means our generosity can be a testimony to the goodness of God. Paul writes, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else” (2 Corinthians 9:13). In other words, the greatest praise we can receive when we give is that our obedient giving directs people back to Christ and the generosity He produces in us.
As givers, we might never receive a word of thanks for the gifts we give. If we do, we have every right to be grateful, but we should also remember that we are simply participants in God’s activity. It is His Spirit in us from which our generosity derives; the same Spirit that also wells up a response of thanksgiving in the lives of those who have received.
Lord Jesus, thank You that as You work in me, my gifts bring others to be thankful for Your greater generosity. Please open that door to bring them closer to You. Praise You!