In II Corinthians 8 and 9, the Apostle Paul develops ten principles of Christian giving. In this installment, John Stott explains Principles 4 through 7.

4. Christian giving is proportionate giving.

 

"And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter:  Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have." ~ II Corinthians 8:10-12 (NIV)

 

During the previous year, the Corinthian Christians had been the first not only in giving but in desiring to give (v.10).  So now Paul urges them to finish the task they had begun, so that their doing will keep pace with their desiring.  And this must be according to their means (v11).

Thus, Christian giving is proportionate giving.  The eager willingness comes first.  So long as that is there, the gift is acceptable according to what the giver has, not according to what he has not (v.12).

 

This expression 'according to his means' reminds us of two similar expressions which occur in Acts.  In Acts 11:29 members of the church in Antioch gave to the famine-stricken Judean Christians 'each according to his ability'.  In Acts 2 and 4 members of the church in Jerusalem gave 'to each according to his need'.

 

Does this ring a bell in our memories?  In his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) Karl Marx called for a society that could "inscribe on its banners 'from each according to his ability' and 'to each according to his need'". 

 

I have often wondered if Marx knew these two verses in Acts and if he deliberately borrowed them.  Whatever our politics and economics may be, these are certainly biblical principles to which we should hold fast.  Christian giving is proportionate giving.

 

5. Christian giving contributes to equality.

 

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.  Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little'." ~ II Corinthians 8:13-15 (NIV)

 

Paul's desire, he explains to his Corinthian readers, is not that others may be relieved while they are hard pressed, for that would merely reverse the situation, solving one problem by creating another, but rather that there might be equality (v.13).  He goes on to repeat his argument. 

For now, Corinthian plenty will supply the needs of others. Here, Paul illustrates this principle from the supply of manna in the desert.  God provided enough for everybody.  Larger families gathered a lot, but not too much, for nothing was left over.  Smaller families gathered little, but not too little, for they had no lack (v.15).