Generosity in Giving. 1* We want you to know, brothers,* of the grace of God* that has been given to the churches of Macedonia,a 2* for in a severe test of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3* For according to their means, I can testify, and beyond their means, spontaneously, 4they begged us insistently for the favor of taking part in the service to the holy ones,b 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us* through the will of God, 6so that we urged Titus* that, as he had already begun, he should also complete for you this gracious act also.c 7* Now as you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,d may you excel in this gracious act also.
8I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others. 9* e For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And I am giving counsel in this matter, for it is appropriate for you who began not only to act but to act willingly last year:f 11complete it now, so that your eager* willingness may be matched by your completion of it out of what you have. 12* For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have; 13not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality 14your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. 15As it is written:
“Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.”g
Titus and His Collaborators.* 16But thanks be to God who put the same concern for you into the heart of Titus, 17for he not only welcomed our appeal but, since he is very concerned, he has gone to you of his own accord. 18With him we have sent the brother* who is praised in all the churches for his preaching of the gospel.h 19And not only that, but he has also been appointed our traveling companion by the churches in this gracious work administered by us for the glory of the Lord [himself] and for the expression of our eagerness.i 20This we desire to avoid, that anyone blame us* about this lavish gift administered by us, 21for we are concerned for what is honorable not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of others.j 22And with them we have sent our brother whom we often tested in many ways and found earnest, but who is now much more earnest because of his great confidence in you. 23As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker for you; as for our brothers, they are apostles of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to them.*
* [8:1–9:15] Paul turns to a new topic, the collection for the church in Jerusalem. There is an early precedent for this project in the agreement mentioned in Gal 2:6–10. According to Acts, the church at Antioch had sent Saul and Barnabas to Jerusalem with relief (Acts 11:27–30). Subsequently Paul organized a project of relief for Jerusalem among his own churches. Our earliest evidence for it comes in 1 Cor 16:1–4—after it had already begun (see notes there); by the time Paul wrote Rom 15:25–28 the collection was completed and ready for delivery. 2 Cor 8–9 contain what appear to be two letters on the subject. In them Paul gives us his fullest exposition of the meaning he sees in the enterprise, presenting it as an act of Christian charity and as an expression of the unity of the church, both present and eschatological. These chapters are especially rich in the recurrence of key words, on which Paul plays; it is usually impossible to do justice to these wordplays in the translation.
* [8:1–24] This is a letter of recommendation for Titus and two unnamed companions, written from Macedonia probably at least a year later than 1 Cor 16. The recommendation proper is prefaced by remarks about the ideals of sharing and equality within the Christian community (2 Cor 8:1–15). Phil 4:10–20 shows that Paul has reflected on his personal experience of need and relief in his relations with the community at Philippi; he now develops his reflections on the larger scale of relations between his Gentile churches and the mother church in Jerusalem.
* [8:1–5] The example of the Macedonians, a model of what ought to be happening at Corinth, provides Paul with the occasion for expounding his theology of “giving.”
* [8:1] The grace of God: the fundamental theme is expressed by the Greek noun charis, which will be variously translated throughout these chapters as “grace” (2 Cor 8:1; 9:8, 14), “favor” (2 Cor 8:4), “gracious act” (2 Cor 8:6, 7, 9) or “gracious work” (2 Cor 8:19), to be compared to “gracious gift” (1 Cor 16:3). The related term, eucharistia, “thanksgiving,” also occurs at 2 Cor 9:11, 12. The wordplay is not superficial; various mutations of the same root signal inner connection between aspects of a single reality, and Paul consciously exploits the similarities in vocabulary to highlight that connection.
* [8:2] Three more terms are now introduced. Test (dokimē): the same root is translated as “to test” (2 Cor 8:8) and “evidence” (2 Cor 9:13); it means to be tried and found genuine. Abundance: variations on the same root lie behind “overflow” (2 Cor 8:2; 9:12), “excel” (2 Cor 8:7), “surplus” (2 Cor 8:14), “superfluous” (2 Cor 9:1) “make abundant” and “have an abundance” (2 Cor 9:8). These expressions of fullness contrast with references to need (2 Cor 8:14; 9:12). Generosity: the word haplotēs has nuances of both simplicity and sincerity; here and in 2 Cor 9:11, 13 it designates the singleness of purpose that manifests itself in generous giving.
* [8:3–4] Paul emphasizes the spontaneity of the Macedonians and the nature of their action. They begged us insistently: the same root is translated as “urge,” “appeal,” “encourage” (2 Cor 8:6, 17; 9:5). Taking part: the same word is translated “contribution” in 2 Cor 9:13 and a related term as “partner” in 2 Cor 8:23. Service (diakonia): this word occurs also in 2 Cor 9:1, 13 as “service”; in 2 Cor 9:12 it is translated “administration,” and in 2 Cor 8:19, 20 the corresponding verb is rendered “administer.”
* [8:5] They gave themselves…to the Lord and to us: on its deepest level their attitude is one of self-giving.
* [8:6] Titus: 1 Cor 16 seemed to leave the organization up to the Corinthians, but apparently Paul has sent Titus to initiate the collection as well; 2 Cor 8:16–17 will describe Titus’ attitude as one of shared concern and cooperation.
* [8:7] The charitable service Paul is promoting is seen briefly and in passing within the perspective of Paul’s theology of the charisms. Earnestness (spoudē): this or related terms occur also in 2 Cor 8:22 (“earnest”) and 2 Cor 8:8, 16, 17 (“concern”).
* [8:9] The dialectic of Jesus’ experience, expressed earlier in terms of life and death (2 Cor 5:15), sin and righteousness (2 Cor 5:21), is now rephrased in terms of poverty and wealth. Many scholars think this is a reference to Jesus’ preexistence with God (his “wealth”) and to his incarnation and death (his “poverty”), and they point to the similarity between this verse and Phil 2:6–8. Others interpret the wealth and poverty as succeeding phases of Jesus’ earthly existence, e.g., his sense of intimacy with God and then the desolation and the feeling of abandonment by God in his death (cf. Mk 15:34).
* [8:11] Eager: the word prothymia also occurs in 2 Cor 8:12, 19; 9:2.
* [8:12–15] Paul introduces the principle of equality into the discussion. The goal is not impoverishment but sharing of resources; balance is achieved at least over the course of time. In 2 Cor 8:15 Paul grounds his argument unexpectedly in the experience of Israel gathering manna in the desert: equality was achieved, independently of personal exertion, by God, who gave with an even hand according to need. Paul touches briefly here on the theme of “living from God.”
* [8:16–24] In recommending Titus and his companions, Paul stresses their personal and apostolic qualities, their good dispositions toward the Corinthians, and their authority as messengers of the churches and representatives of Christ.
* [8:18] The brother: we do not know the identity of this co-worker of Paul, nor of the third companion mentioned below in 2 Cor 8:22.
* [8:20–22] That anyone blame us: 2 Cor 12:16–18 suggests that misunderstandings may indeed have arisen concerning Paul’s management of the collection through the messengers mentioned here, but those same verses seem to imply that the Corinthians by and large would recognize the honesty of Paul’s conduct in this area as in others (cf. 2 Cor 6:3).
* [8:24] As Paul began by holding up the Macedonians as examples to be imitated, he closes by exhorting the Corinthians to show their love (by accepting the envoys and by cooperating as the Macedonians do), thus justifying the pride Paul demonstrates because of them before other churches.
b. [8:4] Acts 24:17; Rom 15:31.
c. [8:6] 2:13; 7:6–7, 13–14; 8:16, 23; 12:18.
f. [8:10] 9:2; 1 Cor 16:1–4.
i. [8:19] 1 Cor 16:3–4.