Malawi is the third-poorest country in the world, and the churches there are in great need. Recently, a group of American congregations gave generously to support the work of training pastors and meeting the physical needs of the Malawian people. Upon receiving that gift, one Malawian pastor visited the United States and movingly sang “Amazing Grace” in the native language of Chichewa, offering his praise to God.
Just as the American gift prompted a response from the Malawian churches, so too Paul anticipated similar results from the Corinthian gifts. First, Christian giving results in thanksgiving to God. Because real needs are met, the recipients respond with an overflow of thanks to God. By giving generously to the Jerusalem churches, the Corinthians provided a living demonstration of their confession of faith. Although some in Jerusalem may have doubted the authenticity of Gentile inclusion into God’s people, the Corinthians’ generosity would prove their genuineness and would result in God being glorified.
In both of these results, Christian giving finds its ultimate purpose, which is not our glory but God’s. But there is an important result for us as well, for Christian giving further unites the body of Christ. Paul saw that the recipient churches would respond to the Corinthian gift by praying for them and growing in affection toward them. Sharing and generosity in the body of Christ enriches the fellowship of Christ’s church.
In the end, as Paul makes clear from the final verse of today’s reading, true Christian giving is nothing less than a tangible expression of thanksgiving for God’s initial gift to us in Christ. As one commentator puts it, this is “the divine gift that inspires all gifts.” Thanks be to God!