Reading through the Bible together
This chapter is all about generosity. Now that Paul has finished defending his ministry, as well as affirming the believers in Corinth, he now challenges them to contribute to a relief fund for poor believers in Jerusalem (see 1 Cor. 16:1-4; Rom. 15:22-23).
The situation becomes a little more complicated because the Apostle Paul is doing ministry in Macedonia (what is now northern Greece), most likely with the churches in Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi. He begins by telling them about the “grace of God” that was given to the churches of Macedonia. This word “grace” can also be translated as “privilege” or “thanks” (see 8:4, 16). The challenge to the members in Corinth is clear. Because the Macedonians showed generosity in the midst of extreme poverty, the Corinthians have no excuse not to contribute from “their surplus” (vs. 14). It may be that the Corinthian believers were not much better off than those in Macedonia. Some historians estimate that more than 90 percent of the general population of the Roman Empire lived at, near, or below subsistence level (the necessary calories in order to survive).
From verses 7 to 12 Paul affirms the Corinthians for their Spirit-empowered faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and love. Rather than commanding them, he seeks to encourage their voluntary willingness to assist. Ultimately any contributions in helping others fall vastly short of the infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “He became poor for our sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty” (vs. 9).
To sum everything up: the Apostle Paul reminds them that “it’s a matter of equality.” By helping others they help maintain “equality.” Despite the social, economic, and many other inequalities that may exist in the world, as Christians we are given a responsibility to strive for God’s original ideal of equality.
In the final section (vs. 16-24) Paul recommends three delegates: Titus (vs. 16, 23) and two unnamed individuals (vs. 18-19, 22-23) to coordinate the fundraising effort. He expresses concern to “avoid being blamed by anyone for the way we take care of this large amount of money” (vs. 20). As church members we have a sacred responsibility to be vigilant in how we go about our financial matters, particularly within the church, so that all that is done can rest beyond any reproach.