2 Corinthians 4-9

Good morning! If the ancient Olympic games had been held in Corinth rather than Olympia, Paul would have won a medal in the category of (conceptual) gymnastics. I say this for what he tries to pull off with today’s passage. In 2 Corinthians 4-9, Paul reflects on human impermanence, exhorts reconciliation, justifies his prior angry letter to the Corinthians, redirects attention to the more popular Titus, and then boldly asks the Corinthians to fulfill their pledge of funds to support the Jerusalem mission! I’m curious to know what catches your attention in all of that, but to limit my comments and not add to what there is to read, I’ll just focus on the final two chapters, concerning generosity.

Evidently, before their conflict with Paul the Corinthians had made a sizable pledge of financial support to the new Christian movement. (Recall that Paul told the Romans he thought it right for Gentiles to support the largely-Jewish community in Rome because Gentiles had been “let in” to salvation.) That pledge would have encouraged Paul greatly among the other churches he was going to see, and with the disciples among whom he ministered. But now, since the bitter conflict with the Corinthians, the size or existence of their pledge is in doubt. Therefore, Paul sends this letter in anticipation of (or along with) a visit by the popular apostle Titus, trying to make amends and salvage the relationship, which will also hopefully secure the original pledge. Paul praises Titus up one side and down the other, as well as several disciples who accompany him. He encourages them to gather their individual collections together (as generously as possible) and make sure that time spent collecting this money will not delay Titus and the others on their travels.

Paul uses flattery and some guilt-tripping in his attempt to secure this donation, but he’s also not above some competition with the neighbors! Note how much he mentions the Macedonian churches in chapters eight and nine. He praises (just because “we want you to know”) the churches of the Macedonian region north of Greece for the ways they felt inspired to generously fund the Christian mission and the Jerusalem church. He says that the Macedonians positively begged for “the privilege of sharing in this ministry”, and he praises their sacrificial giving. It’s then part shame and part dare when Paul remarks how much he praised the Corinthians in Macedonia, which is a more rural region, less urbane and successful than wealthy Corinth. Paul thereby implies that the Corinthians must certainly feel emboldened to meet or surpass the enthusiasm of Macedonia, preparing their gift for Jerusalem right away! Before the end of chapter nine, Paul closes with promises that good things will come from their giving, and a reminder of God’s generosity in giving salvation and life itself.

Do you suppose that Paul was successful with all these ways of inspiring Corinthian generosity? How I would *love* the chance to be among the crowd when this letter was first read to them…. Happy reading!

Read 2 Corinthians 4-9.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Corinthians 10-13. Thanks for reading!

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