For an Informed Love of God
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The Concordance of Grace (2 Cor 8:4)
It is interesting to trace the use of “grace” (χάρις) through 2 Cor 8:1-9. Paul is making use of the semantic domain of χάρις to mean “grace” and “kindness,” and it is the use of the same Greek word that ties the entire argument together.
The giving of the Macedonian church was the result of God’s grace at work in their midst (v 1). The Corinthians were to complete their act of gracious giving (v 6). They were in fact to excel in this grace of giving (v 7), just as Jesus graciously, though he was rich, became poor, so the Corinthians could become rich (v 8).
Given the role of χάρις in Paul’s argument, it is a bit surprising that the translations don’t keep the concordance in v 4. In speaking of the Macedonian church, he says, “they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege (χάριν) of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (NIV, cf. the NRSV, HCSB). Other translations speak of “favor” (ESV) and “blessing” (NET).
While there is nothing wrong in these translations (given the fact of semantic range), the point is that the Macedonian church understood the grace of God in their own midst, and they wanted to extend this same grace to the Jewish Christians. Giving is an act of grace that is done in response to the gift of grace we ourselves have experienced. Why not say something like, “the gracious privilege” so pastors don’t’ have to point out that the translations are missing a key point?
This is the key passage to the New Testament doctrine of giving, and is quite an indictment of the American church. The statistic that keeps coming up is that the average American evangelical gives 2.2% of their income to the work of the ministry. Online ministries on average receive financial support from less than 1% of the people who use their services. Hardy gracious, wouldn’t you think? The Old Testament tithe is anywhere from 10% to 28%, and we are told to “excel” in our giving (v 7). Hmmm.
Do you think it is truly possible to have experienced God’s grace but yet not respond to others with grace? This question goes far beyond the grace of giving.