The intimate tone of Paul’s letter in 2 Corinthians 8 crescendos to a loud finale in verses 19 through 21. First, he makes a case for the generous giving of the churches in Macedonia in verses 1 through 8. In the following section (verses 9 through 15), he details the model par excellence of generous giving, namely Jesus Christ Himself. Then, he encourages the church in Corinth to take both these models to heart and begin a life of generous giving themselves. Finally, now in 2 Corinthians 8:19–21, we see Paul himself and his travel companions acting out the very commands they had given their fellow believers. These are men who model what they themselves teach, traveling even now as they write to bring the money from the churches in Macedonia to the povertized believers in Jerusalem.
In these few verses, Paul first summarizes their mission before preceding to the particulars of their giving. Beginning in verse 19, he states, “we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.” Paul connects the language of “grace” from earlier now to his own life, thereby painting a beautiful picture of the life of generous Christians: they are “act(s) of grace.” Whether it is the givers themselves or, in the case of Paul here, the ambassadors of monetary gifts, both roles perform “acts of grace”, and both roles give glory to God as well as show good will, the latter being generally defined as a kind, helpful and friendly attitude toward others.
Now, in order to address the more specific details of his cash journey, Paul continues, “that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (verses 20 through 21). What does he mean here? What could people blame him for? In short, Paul is talking about his blamelessness in the redistribution of monetary goods. Money holders, i.e., middlemen between the rich and the poor, are often tempted to corruption, such as stealing money for themselves (see John 12:6 for a poignant example of this). But Paul is adamant that, in his responsibility for the charitable gift to the poor believers of Jerusalem, he has been “honorable.” The proof is in his honorable companions (these men are discussed in 2 Corinthians 8:16–19, 22–24 and will be the focus of tomorrow’s blog post). But what we can say about these men, as it pertains to Paul’s act of redistribution, is that they held him accountable. Paul recognized the great responsibility and burden that financial safekeeping involves, and refused to isolate himself in this task lest he be tempted to sin. The result is financial integrity upheld in the midst of Christian fellowship. For any of us, either us financial givers or financial ambassadors and safekeepers, this is a good model to live by.