Studies in 1 & 2 Corinthians
21. 2 Corinthians 8:16-24 - Organizing the Collection
Three trustworthy men
To help the Corinthians be confident that their offering would be used in the right way, Paul put in a few good words for Titus, who would accompany the offering: “Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative” (8:16-17).
Titus was concerned not only for the offering, but for the Corinthians themselves. He volunteered to travel to Corinth and serve as a security guard for the collection.
Paul then mentions a second person, whom he does not name: “And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help” (8:18-19).
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians also served as a letter of commendation for the couriers he sent. He expresses his confidence in them, so that the Corinthians can also be confident that these people were trustworthy. Here, Paul mentions that the churches chose this man to accompany the offering to Jerusalem — and Paul reminds them that his own motivation is to serve the Lord and to help his people.
“We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man” (8:20-21). Paul had been accused of improper motives when he preached the gospel; he was even more likely to be accused when taking up a collection. So he took precautions, much as we today might use an auditor to verify that the offerings are being used for the purpose for which they were collected.
Paul then mentions a third man: “In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you” (8:22). Paul commends this man in terms of his attitude to God and in his attitude toward the Corinthians; both are important in this offering.
Paul closed this chapter by praising the men again: “As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it” (8:23-24).
We are proud of you, Paul says, so please give the kind of generous offering we know you are capable of. This will show the sincerity of your love not only to these three men, but will also be an example to other churches. Just as we told you of the Macedonians’ generosity, we will tell others about you.
Fund-raising is often a thankless job, but it is essential. In order for the people who have an abundance to share with those who have need, church leaders must communicate those needs, and must encourage people to be generous. Paul used several methods of persuasion: his own relationship with the givers, their relationship with God, their reputation with others, their desire to excel and prove themselves, the example of Christ, the example of others, and assurances of faithful handling of the offering.
Why would Paul, who focused on the cross of Christ, use so much of his letter asking for donations? Because he understood that there is a logical and spiritual connection between the cross and Christian behavior.
Jesus’ willingness to give is an example that believers are to follow. Our priority in life is not our own comfort — it is service, and we are to serve Christ by serving others. His grace toward us should be reflected in our grace toward others — grace not only in forgiveness, but also in the material blessings we have been given and should share.
Our attitude about offerings has spiritual significance. Paul says it is evidence of our love — our concern for others. We all need to excel in the grace of giving.
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD