A sheriff on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast was rowing through a flooded neighborhood when he spotted a man sitting on the very peak of his roof.
Rushing water several feet deep surrounded his house. The sheriff rowed over to the house and climbed up on the roof to rescue the man, who was sitting there calmly, watching a hat float by on the other side of his house.
Just as the sheriff was about to introduce himself, the hat stopped floating and started moving upstream in the opposite direction.
Mesmerized, the sheriff sat down next to the man. He watched the hat move upstream for about forty yards, then suddenly reverse course again, and begin flowing back downstream. The sheriff turned to the man and said, “Strangest thing I’ve ever seen!”
The man on the roof replied, “Oh, that’s just my cousin Fred. He said he’d mow my lawn come hell or high water.”
We need to keep our word….
And this exact stream of thought—pun intended—runs through the Bible. Our integrity is evident when we follow through on what we say we’ll do and when we keep our words and actions consistent.
We are to live in a way that reflects the character of our God who always keeps His promises:
God is not human, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19 NASB)
Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. (Joshua 23:14 NASB)
He has remembered His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:8 NASB)
God remembers and keeps His promises, and we are to do the same.
In fact, as we saw in our chapter 4 study of Leviticus 27, following through on giving commitments was a key aspect of giving in the Old Testament.
When people can’t trust our word, enormous relational dissonance can result. Having worked with children for over forty years, I have seen the relational damage that a parent’s unfulfilled commitments and broken promises have done.
On the road well-traveled, the concern is closing the deal and securing the gift.
On the road less traveled, we are concerned that people live with integrity before God by following through on their giving commitments.
Why Did Paul Write This Letter?
Some Bible scholars maintain that one of the primary reasons Paul wrote 2 Corinthians was to encourage the collection of the offering for the church in Jerusalem.
We can’t confirm or completely dismiss that possibility, but 2 Corinthians does indicate how important the collection and offering were to Paul.
I would suggest that Paul had several motives for wanting the Jerusalem offering completed and delivered.
One of the primary motives was the spiritual well-being of the Corinthian Christians who had made that commitment before God.
As we noted earlier, the first reference to the collection comes at the end of 1 Corinthians:
Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:1-3 NIV)
Paul’s next correspondence—which we know as 2 Corinthians—was his follow-up to this original request. When we read 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, we find among its several themes the call to follow through on their commitment to give.
Paul seemed genuinely concerned that the Corinthians finished what they started by honoring the commitment they had made to support the Jerusalem church.
Consider this evidence of Paul’s concern:
The fact that Paul wrote the letter and sent a team—led by Titus—to deliver it indicates the apostle’s concern that the Corinthians follow through on their commitment.
Within the letter (2 Corinthians 9:1-3), Paul provided a brief history of the collection process, noting that the Corinthians were eager to help (v. 2), ready to give (v. 2), and enthusiastic (v. 2). He also reminded them that they had made a promise to give (v. 5), and he encouraged them to be ready to give when Titus and his companions arrived (v. 3).
Paul also made clear his desire that they finish what they started:
So, we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. (2 Corinthians 8:6 NIV)
Here is my advice 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. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:10-11 NIV)
There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So, I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. (2 Corinthians 9:1-5 NIV)
Paul stated—and then reiterated—the importance of the Corinthians following through on their commitments.
Why Does Following Through Matter?
Paul didn’t specify exactly why he was emphasizing the issue of commitment and follow-through, but there are four likely reasons. We’ll look at one today and the others next week.
Giving is a matter of the heart. When we make a commitment with our lips or in writing on a pledge card, we need to follow through for our own good.
If we don’t, we’ll be left with an unsettled, conflicted heart that may hinder our relationship with God. This pastoral concern for the Corinthians may be one of Paul’s principal motivations.
Next week we will look at three other reasons for Paul’s concern about following through on our giving commitments. One thing is for certain; when we make a commitment to give, it is a commitment to God and should not be taken lightly.
Check in next week as we dig deeper.