Excelling Grace

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment 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. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have to much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’

‘In the time of my favour I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.’

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling-block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.

Friends, they say ‘money talks’. But I can tell you, talking about money in the church is hard. We Lutherans seem to avoid it at all costs. People say, “The church is always after your money”. We are never after your money!

It is tricky. On the one hand we need money because mission costs money. On the other, we are really turned off with the whole guilt tripping or high-pressure selling techniques that we sometime see from Christian organisations.

Paul talks about money here in his letter.

Paul had two driving convictions as he gets back into active mission after two years of prison. One is to urge the Corinthians to practice the gift of God’s reconciling love at every level. It is their hope and our joy for God’s new community in God’s new economy of grace.

The other burning conviction is to complete a project of gathering a substantial amount of money from Christian communities all over the region to take back to the Christian communities who were suffering greatly back where it all began – in Jerusalem and surrounding Judea region. They are under famine conditions and probably some serious persecution too.

Paul now takes up this project of raising money with the Corinthians. You can tell he does not find this whole ‘raising money’ thing easy.

There are least least three reasons for this unease.

  1. He and the Corinthians are still recovering from the conflict they have experienced. Money has been a bit of an issue. Paul did not take any money from them. They took that as a bit of an afront. It is risky. Even though things are better between them, speaking of money and giving etc might infame things again.
  2. These Gentile communities are not that connected the Jewish community where they live, let alone a thousand miles away in Judea.
  3. The Jewish community is probably not that connected to Gentiles still. Back in Jerusalem, the old divisions might still have their place, even for Jewish Christians there. They may not even receive any offering money from gentile people

Paul enters the walk on egg shells …

Throughout this whole part of the letter, Paul never actually uses the standard Greek word for ‘money’! He uses all kinds of other terms as he urges generous giving.

A big word he uses is ‘grace’.

1… we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:

But as you abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – see that you abound in this grace also.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

By God’s grace we stand and in his grace we give. Grace leads to generous giving, joyful giving: fast, often and freely from both hands …

This is the person who just loves to pay for your lunch when you go out, or pay the bill for the group after dinner before anyone can get up to pay for themselves, or who gives you open access to their home with all the food in the fridge anytime and every time, or a community that is actually looking for opportunity to give to others because they know God is giving to them.

Generous joyful giving goes with the generous gospel of Jesus, according to Paul.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Jesus entered our much lower more limited and troubled place to take our place on the chopping block so that we have a place of grace in which to thrive.

Jesus entered the lowest place in our place – no fortune, home, property, rights, justice or safety, so that we live under his fortune, inheritance new heaven and earth, restoring justice and secure future beyond any poverty or death.

Grace and giving are two peas in a pod. Grace is God’s way with us, and now it is our way for him with others.

Paul plays the coach. He is like the swimming coach just ‘mentioning’ how good that other Olympic swimmer did last week in the pool as his young charger gets ready to race!

Paul mentions the inspiring giving of the Macedonian Christians.

1 … we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency [a]that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)

Those Christians in Macedonia practiced the grace they had received from Jesus. They gave; even beyond what they could afford.

I have heard of this kind of giving. I have seen it from individuals who do unseen and untold generous acts of giving to all kinds of people and causes.

I have also seen it community wide. Like us, a local church I know of saw the need to re-develop their buildings. They needed to raise a large sum of money for a church their size. I think 4 million dollars for a congregation half our size. It took a few years.

At several times there were big pressure points they just had to make to get this project up. Some of the community actually proposed to re-mortgage their own homes to get this project completed. The LLL said no. They do not allow people to do that!

These people were willing to ‘give beyond their means’, like the Macedonians. They got there in the end and the place has given them a whole new list of opportunities to love and care for others.

Well, you can tell God has a sense of humour with us! We agreed last Sunday to call for a month of giving in July to see what we can raise toward getting this building into more useable/effective shape for our mission in Christ.

Is the Holy Spirit being the coach today, just ‘mentioning’ the example of grace giving that those first Christians lived out to get us motivated? Maybe ….

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 

Is the Spirit ‘testing the sincerity of our love by comparing it with the earnestness of others’? Probably.

This is the spirit of giving for us – nothing ‘commanded’. No heavy law placed on each other. No guilt if you do not or do give, or how little or how much you give. Guilt free gracious giving – and with joy.

Joyful givers or no givers. Either way is OK. We are all different. We all have different means.

No tricky techniques either. No fake promises or hidden details. No fear-mongering or over-stating the need.

Only freedom in Jesus in how you give yourself to others and the Lord every day. Only freedom in this church as we give to this major project in God’s mission in our town.

And yes, this project will indeed ‘test the sincerity of our love’. Love for who?

Three people:

  1. Each other
  2. The Lord Jesus
  3. Acquaintances and strangers around here


  • Each other – AN opportunity to care for each other and support each other in our calling.
  • Jesus and his grace poured out into our lives everyday in multiple ways – from shelter over our heads and beautiful trees in our streets, to cool pets on our laps and forgiveness and acceptance shaping us daily.
  • And others – newer people, people we don’t yet know well, people who have not come our way yet, people who may be different to us, people in whom the Holy Spirit working.


Friend, receive the grace of God in Jesus today. He gave it all so you could have it all. Enjoy him in all parts of your life.


Take on his call to a lifestyle of generous giving in time, effort, skills, time and also money


Take this call to generous giving as an opportunity to test your love for people, your church community and Jesus’ mission among strangers. Rise to the occasion and know his joy.

Give what you can, not what you can’t, as Paul says;

12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.