Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 26

Here’s the Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 26, written by James R. Strange, professor of Biblical and Religious studies, Samford University in Birmingham.

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 26

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By James R. Strange, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical and Religious studies, Samford University

THE JOY OF GIVING

2 Corinthians 9:6–15

Last week we completed the series “Being an Authentic Church,” but this week’s lesson on the joy of giving carries forward that theme, for we are still discussing a church that does what God wants it to do.

In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul and Timothy solicit funds from believers in Corinth — who are mostly Gentiles — to support the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. (Compare Rom. 15:25–27, 1 Cor. 16:1–4 and Gal. 2:10). In Chapter 8, the Macedonian Christians were examples of generosity. In Chapter 9, Paul and Timothy say that they have also boasted to the Macedonians about the Corinthians’ generosity.

Read chapters 8 and 9.

God gives freely and loves a cheerful giver. (6–9)

The word translated as “gift” twice in verse 5 is “eulogia,” meaning “a good word.” In some uses it comes to mean “a blessing” and therefore “a gift,” and this is how it is often used in the Septuagint. In verse 6, Paul and Timothy use it twice in an adverbial construction (“generously”).

This association of “gift” and “blessing” highlights an idea found in Jewish writings. By giving, the Church behaves like God, who is the source of all blessings.

Paul and Timothy continue to work with this idea in verse 8, but they use the word “grace.” “God,” they say, “is able to make every grace overflow to you.”

There are three important implications of this idea.

First, God’s generosity supplies the model. Because God makes grace abound to the Corinthians, they should in turn give generously to the Jerusalem Christians.

Second, it is God who makes the Corinthians’ generosity possible, for God gives them “all sufficiency in all things at all times” (ESV).

Finally, this isn’t the well-known Stoic idea of self-sufficiency. Rather, the Corinthians’ sufficiency comes from God. By giving to the collection, therefore, they take up God’s work as their own.

God multiplies your gift. (10–11)

In verse 9, Paul and Timothy rework Psalm 112:9, in which the person who fears the Lord gives to the poor. In the letter, Paul and Timothy apply this Psalm to what God does. It is He who scatters abroad, and it is His righteousness that endures forever. How so? It is God who supplies both seed to the farmer (the Corinthians) and bread made from that seed to the hungry (the Jerusalemites).

Verse 10, therefore, refers not to God increasing the Corinthians’ wealth, but to God increasing their gifts.

God is glorified when you are generous. (12–15)

The other benefit of the Corinthians’ generosity is thanksgiving for God. Nowhere do Paul and Timothy say that the church in Jerusalem will thank the Corinthians. Rather, for their act of generosity, God will receive gratitude.

The Greek word “glorify” really means to “think” or “imagine,” and thence to “form an opinion.” When used of God in the Septuagint, it means to hold God in the highest esteem and to call others to do so.

For Paul and Timothy, when the Corinthians give to the collection for the Jerusalem church, they glorify God by obeying the gospel that they confess. If the Corinthians declare that Christ died, was buried and was raised to break the powers of sin and death, Paul and Timothy expect them to obey that confession, to do what God wants the Church to do.