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The Inspiration and Results of Giving

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!

Apply the Word

God’s initial gift to us should prompt our response of praise and thanksgiving to God. The Christmas season and gift-giving will soon be here. As you are making shopping lists and thinking about gifts for others, consider how you can give God the gift of praise throughout the rest of this year.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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