November 17

The Follow Through (II Corinthians 9)

Daniel Watts

My birthday falls on Christmas day and as a result I had two common experiences.

First, people would give me a gift for Christmas and then tell me it was for my birthday also, kind of a twofer.’ Others would give me a Christmas gift and then tell me that they were going to get me something later for my birthday.

They never did! It is a statement about my fallenness that I still remember those commitments that were dropped.

For years, in my petty mind, I had the faces of those who did not follow through on that commitment. Following through on giving commitments is apparently a big deal in the Bible.

We studied them in previous blogs/podcasts and we see Paul return to that theme in last week's blog.

Last week we looked at Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 9, on following through on your giving commitments. We noted that Paul does not make it clear why this was so important.

We concluded last week's blog with one suggestion promising to look at others this week. So here goes:

  • Paul was steeped in rabbinical teachings about giving, and an early Levitical teaching addresses integrity in giving. Integrity is defined as doing what you say, so you are careful about what you say because you know you will have to follow through. Leviticus 27:30-34 taught the Israelites that they should be careful about what and how they give because the vows and commitments they make, they are making directly to God. Integrity is also evident when you live with congruity between your words and your actions. In the context of this blog, for instance, I would lack integrity if I teach that it’s important for believers to give—and then don’t give generously and cheerfully myself.
  • Paul deeply desired a unity in the church that would send a message of reconciliation to the world. For Paul, the collection was a way of presenting the gospel to the world. Though Jews and Gentiles had long been two distinct groups—separated in part by God’s declaration to Israel that they were His people and were to remain distinct—that barrier was removed in Christ (Ephesians 2:14). Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are reconciled with God and to each other. The Corinthians’ follow-through on the offering they had promised would be a tangible example of the love of Christ: God’s people who had a Gentile heritage were giving a financial gift to God’s people who had a Jewish heritage. The offering was a tangible act that went hand-in-hand with the gospel message of our reconciliation with God and with each other.
  • Paul was a man of integrity and vigilant about following through on commitments he made in his own ministry work. Paul had started the financial campaign to raise funds for the struggling Jerusalem church. He was understandably frustrated with the Corinthians’ apparent lack of follow-through. But Paul was not a quitter, so he wrote this second letter. He not only drafted a letter, but he also sent Titus and a team ahead of him to work on raising finances, so that when he himself arrived in Corinth, the offering would be ready (2 Corinthians 9:5).

Paul wanted the Corinthians to experience the joy of giving by joining God’s work of relieving the economic distress the Jerusalem church was experiencing.

The Corinthians had made the commitment to give, but it was not a commitment to the Jerusalem church or even to Paul. The Corinthians’ commitment to give was a commitment they made to God.

It was therefore crucial that they followed through on that commitment and thereby protected their relationship with God.

In our ministry leadership roles, we need to have this same attitude toward making commitments and following through on them.

Which Road?

Which Road

The approach on the road well-traveled focuses on the giving itself. The church or ministry has prepared a budget and is counting on the gifts that people promised. 

In some churches, pledge campaigns are launched each year, and the church develops its financial plan based on those commitments.

While this process is completely understandable and, some would say, absolutely necessary, often the giver’s heart and motive for giving have not been addressed.

In addition, we would do well to be a little less concerned about the financial implications of not following through on commitments and instead be more focused on the spiritual implications for the person who made that commitment to God and didn’t fulfill it.

The road less traveled focuses on the spiritual issue in two ways.

First, we encourage people to give from what they have, not focus on what they don’t have. Paul put it this way at the end of verse 12:

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:11-12 NIV)

The road less traveled is not as concerned about the amount given; the priority is the spiritual life of the giver and our need to be careful when we make a commitment to God.

At the same time—as Paul mentioned in the same letter—we are to be generous and cheerful givers. When we travel on this less traveled road, we remember that God has more than enough in terms of financial resources.

As leaders, our primary concern is for the spiritual growth of His people, not whether or not we meet the organization’s financial target.

Second, when leaders are on this road less traveled, we help people understand and remember that they are making a commitment to God.

He is inviting them to join Him in His work in this world, and they are choosing to say yes. We cannot be cavalier about our commitments to God.

Following Through

Following Through

When God called Marla and me to serve as missionaries in Poland, one crucial aspect of the work at the beginning was fundraising and gathering a group of financial supporters for the work we would do in Poland.

Marla and I met with couples, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, and businesspeople, and God assembled an amazing group of people, many of whom still support Every Generation Ministries.

In one of our meetings with a young couple, their youngest boy joined us. He was five years old and as ornery as I was at that age. Because of that similarity, I always loved being around Christopher. He was mischievous, he was fun, and he had a great heart—which we were about to see.

When Marla and I finished our ministry presentation—and Christopher had seemed to track with all of it—the couple agreed to think and pray about being part of our support team.

At the end of the month a few weeks later, the finance office sent us a list of the monthly supporters and amounts so that we could send out thank-you notes. We saw on the list a gift from the couple and a gift from Christopher in the amount of $1.57. I called the couple, and they told me that Christopher had felt led by God to give, and this $1.57 was from his monthly allowance.

Every month, for years, we received a gift from Christopher, always in some odd amount of $2.31 or $1.92. He had made the commitment, and he followed through.

Today Chris is a husband and a father, and I’m sure he is teaching his children the importance of following through on their commitments. And Chris himself is still walking the road less traveled.

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