The traditional teaching of 2Corinthians chapters eight and nine is used to get believers to give money to religious institutions’ needy causes. The Macedonians, who gave in the midst of affliction and poverty, is the standard to duplicate.
But searching through the verses of this passage in light of Greek meanings reveal a different point.
Here are a couple of key words from previous posts about this passage that help reveal the fullness of what Paul was saying.
(2Cor 8:2 2Cor 9:11,13 – BTW liberality is not about giving money)
liberal/liberality in the Greek means
- not compounded or over complicated
(Liberality is not about giving money.)
(2Cor 9:7 BTW – a cheerful giver loves God, not God loves a cheerful giver)
cheerful in the Greek means
- propitious (favorably disposed toward someone)
- disposed because satisfied – describing someone who is cheerfully ready to act because already approving (“already persuaded”)
- won over
- already inclined
(Cheerful in this context is not about smiling or laughing when giving.)
We will see that grace is the source of of the Macedonians’ liberality and cheerful giving.
More Than One Grace
In the Greek there is more than just one word for grace. They are cognates of the same root word, but their individual meanings are important to apply.
In this passage (2Cor chapters 8 and 9) several cognates of ‘grace’ are used NINE times.
Now this is curious. Any Greek words for money or offering are NOT used in these two chapters!
Grace is such a big deal that Macedonian story (chapters 8-9) is book-ended with grace.
Beginning of story –
“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God given to the churches in Macedonia.” (2Cor 8:1)
End of story –
“… who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:14,15)
It is grace, grace, grace! It is not about money, money, money. In fact, there are no Greek words that mean ‘money’ or even ‘offering’ in this story.
In fact let me back the grace focus with a few examples.
“…to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of God” (2Cor 8:19)
Now, we would automatically think this gift is money. Some translations even say ‘offering’. So it must be money, right? Nope.
The Greek word for gift in this verse is
- xáris (charis)- favor, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit”) – properly, grace. xáris preeminently used of the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is “always leaning toward them”)
“…prepare your generous gift beforehand…” (2Cor 9:5)
Looks like a big offering of money! Ah but, ‘generous’ is not even in the Greek, and ‘gift’ is eulogia – adulation, praise, blessing. Of course ‘blessing’ can be money, but I am deconstructing the religious mindset that this passage is all about giving money.
- In verse 20 Paul continues – “avoiding that anyone blame us in the lavish gift…” Sounds like a lot of money. But, ‘gift’ is NOT in the Greek. “Lavish’ means thickness, abundance, lavish generosity. It seems there could be an abundance of something else going on.
- Verse 21 – “providing honorable things…”. The translation ‘honorable things’ in the Greek means beautiful, good, worthy; beautiful, as an outward sign of the inward good, noble, honorable character. ‘Providing’ means – I take thought for beforehand, provide for, practice; to think, plan before. There is thought and practice of things beautiful, worthy, and of honorable character. Again, more than about the wallet.
Looking up some of these words in the Greek can certainly get one to reconsider what is really being said!
What Is Thanks
It is the GRACES theme that overwhelms Paul at the end.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2Cor 9:15)
Now, Is this a usual “thanks”?
When we say thanks, it generally means we are expressing gratitude for a pleasant experience, kindness, or help.
Is this what Paul was doing, but was just super thankful to God? No.
Paul is not thanking God. Say what?!
Check out the actual Greek meanings in this verse:
xáris ‘charis’ (khar’-ece) – grace, favor, kindness, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit; sometimes rendered ‘thanks’, but the core-idea is “favor, grace“, “extension towards“.
[Please note it is NOT the cognate euxáristos – prop. thankfulness (thanksgiving) – literally, “the giving of thanks for God’s grace – e.g. 2Cor 9:11,12.]
epí (a preposition) – upon – naturally looks to the response (effect) that goes with the envisioned contact, i.e. its apt result (“spin-offs,” effects).
anekdiḗgētos – indescribable, that cannot be thoroughly related, inexpressible, impossible to estimate
autos – an intensive pronoun (1) self (emphatic) (2) he, she, it (used for the third pers. pron.)
dōreá – a gift, freely given and hence not acquired by merit or entitlement. It expresses a brand of giving that highlights the beneficent desire of the giver. (Note: this word comes from dídōmi – to put, place. It is used in 2Cor 8:1 – “…the grace of God put/placed on the churches. So when God ‘puts/places’ something or Someone on or in someone it is actually connected with being a free gift!).
Paul, in other words, is ecstatically shouting – “Grace to God upon the indescribable of him, Jesus, His free gift to all of us. ”
Angel Announcement Precursor to the Macedonians
Speaking of Paul’s loud pronouncement, how about –
The angel shocked the shepherds and said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy to all the people…” and then suddenly a multitude of heavenly host filled the skies with praise to God in response to Grace becoming flesh and the goodwill it meant toward men! (Lk 2:10-14)
Paul, in a way, was joyfully echoing this angelic raving, besides boasting how the Macedonians couldn’t help but display the fruit of true grace!
It is not about money. It is about GRACE GRACE GRACE. And the essence of grace is about joy! The Macedonians got that. Talk about fullness!
- “I bring you tidings of great joy.” ‘Joy’ (xará) comes from the root word for grace (xar). Xará means – grace recognized, joy because of grace. Now this angel is talkin’ GREAT joy. Greek ‘great’ means – large, great, in the widest sense. To parallel that, the Macedonians had an “abundance of joy (xará)”! (2Cor 8:2) Their “abundance” (GR superfluity, excessively large amount, an abundance that exceeds normal expectations) was noticeable too. Hmm, is the grace you experience noticeable?
- The heavenly host were actually saying (in the Greek meanings) – “Glory to God, namely upon (upon – that causes an effect) the physical earth peace (peace – from a word that means to join, tie together into a whole; properly, wholeness) in (in – inside, within – as in the condition (state) in which something operates from the inside) the human race, with whom He is pleased (pleased – good-will, good-pleasure, satisfaction, happiness, delight of men). Hey, is something wonderful going on IN each human, but we can’t see it because we really do not understand grace nor what Grace completed?
- The story of the Macedonians is truly about being enriched in all ‘liberality’ – simplicity, purity, sincerity, singleness. This caused euxáristos (giving thanks for God’s grace). (2Cor 9:11) Gosh, to grasp that the coming of Jesus – His glory, full of grace and truth, revealed in flesh (because He really does enjoy our likeness of Him) – brought excessive enrichment to all mankind.
Oh, the exceeding grace of God in you!!!