Chapters 8 and 9 give the principles and promises of Christian giving. New Testament giving is church giving. Paul uses the churches as examples, not individual Christians. In chapter 8:18,19,23,24, it is the churches that are emphasized. Christian giving is church giving, bringing tithes and offerings to the local church, which is god's storehouse. The phrase "storehouse tithing" does not appear in the Bible, but God's plan for Christian giving today is through the local church. This was the very same direction Paul gave the church at Corinth in I Corinthians 16:2. On the first day of the week (the Lord's Day) the believers (the Lord's people) were to bring tithes and offerings to the church (the Lord's house). The words "lay by him in store" in I Corinthians 16:2 have the same meaning as "storehouse" in Malachi 3:10.
Some Christians today say, "I don't bring my tithes to the church. I let the Spirit tell me where to send them." Does the Spirit instruct us apart from the Bible? These Christians are making two mistakes: (1) The tithe is the Lord's, not their own; and (2) the Spirit tells us in the Word that our giving should be done through the local New Testament church. Spiritual giving is Bible-based giving. If a Christian does not bring tithes and offerings to the local church, then his heart is not in the local church (Matthew 6:21). Individual giving outside the local church may exalt men and win recognition for them, but local church giving exalts the Lord and supports His work.
Christian giving does not depend on material circumstances so much as spiritual convictions. All giving should be done from the heart. We should never give with a grudging spirit, but rather out of a heart of love for what the Saviour has done for us. The Christian who gives grudgingly will not receive a reward for it; neither will he give consistently, because he does not have victory over his pocketbook. The church at Corinth looked upon their giving as a grace (note chapter 8:1,6,7,9,19 and chapter 9:8).
In chapter 8:10-15 Paul tells us that our gifts should be measured proportionately. Tithing is the only fair way to give. Paul gave the principle of proportionate giving in I Corinthians 16:2 and here he reemphasizes it. Tithing robs no man; it is fair to the rich and poor alike. It permits all men to give and receive God's blessing.
The tithe is 10% of all our income. This is already God's part. We do not really give back to Him until after the 10%, and we are robbing God if we do not give the tithe. A man can never be called spiritual if he does not tithe, because he is robbing God.
In chapter 9 Paul shares the promises the church at Corinth can claim if they are faithful in their giving to God. He tells us in verses 1-5 that our giving will bring blessing to others. In verses 6-11 he says giving will bring blessings to ourselves. Finally, in verses 12-15, Paul says giving will bring glory to God. We cannot read these verses without gaining a new attitude toward giving. In the Christian life, there is no such thing as "material" and "spiritual," in the final analysis. All that we have comes from God, and all that we have must be used for spiritual ends. Paul teaches that giving is not a burden, but a blessing; he shows us that true Christian giving enriches the life and opens the fountains of God's blessings.
In chapter 12 Paul gives at least four proofs of his apostleship. His revelations from Christ are given in verses 1-6. His thorn in the flesh is seen in verses 7-10. We do not know what this thorn was, but the best suggestion is an eye ailment. Paul was supernaturally blinded when converted (Acts 9:9), and it is possible that some weakness remained even in later years. Galatians 4:15 and 6:11 ("with what large letters") suggest eye trouble. This would have been a trial to Paul both physically and emotionally, and could honestly be called a "thorn in the flesh.".
There are several practical lessons to be learned from Paul's thorn experiences. Spiritual blessings are more important than physical blessings. Paul thought he could be a better Christian if he were relieved of his weakness, but just the opposite was true. People today who preach that sickness is a sin, or a result of sin, would have a hard time explaining this chapter. It was Paul's infirmity that caused him to be strong spiritually.
The second practical lesson we learn is that unanswered prayer does not always mean the need is not met. Sometimes we get a greater blessing when God does not answer our prayers. God always answers the need, even though it may seem He is not answering the prayer.
The third lesson is that weakness is strength if Christ is in it. Take time to read I Corinthians 1:26-31 for proof. Remember David's small sling and Moses' rod.
The fourth lesson to be learned is that there is grace to meet every need. Grace enabled Paul to accept his weakness and to glory in it. Paul knew that his weakness would bring glory to Christ. That is all that mattered to him (see II Corinthians 4:7).
Index of Daily Devotions