Sunday, December 9, 2012

Paul Barnett on Raising Financial Support (2 Corinthians 9)

I was thinking recently about how we should approach fundraising for ministry and took a look at Paul Barnett's commentary on 2 Corinthians. The apostle has a lot to say about this matter in chapters 8 and 9, and there is much in Paul Barnett's commentary that is helpful in understanding the context and the issues. (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997)

While the apostle urges (and cajoles?) the Corinthians to give generously - including using the example of the Macedonian 'beggars' in 8:1-9 - he gives an important rider in 9:7: 

 'Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.'

Paul Barnett comments:
But what criteria does Paul give to assist the Corinthian contributor in deciding the level of his gifts? Paul's guiding principle is that such giving is not made "reluctantly or under compulsion." Here the latter element would contribute to the former; contributions given "under compulsion" would be made "reluctantly". (This would be to "sow reluctantly," as in v. 6.) Such a compulsory contribution would indeed be an "exaction" (v. 5), which to preserve the precious doctrine of grace is the very thing Paul seeks to avoid. God's grace is to be reciprocated "voluntarily" (8:3), "freely" (9:5) and "generously" (9:6); any legalistic impost is inimical to this principle.  (Italics added)
It is interesting that Paul Barnett sees the issue of compulsion in giving as something which can undermine the doctrine of grace and is therefore to be avoided.

What this means in our local situation is that all appeals are voluntary (and anonymous), allowing each individual to respond to God's grace and the particular need as they are able and as they are moved by the Spirit.

I suspect that at the diocesan level we ought to apply the same principles - vigorously promoting the need yet allowing individuals (and churches) to respond as they are moved.

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