Gratitude Prompted by Grace.

What is invaluable to you? Usually the greatest blessings in our life are given to us without being earned or deserved. As treasured as some possessions are to us, no material gift can change a heart and mind forever. This is something that God's grace does, and only it can do.

Believers' lives are changed for eternity with the divine gift of faith given by heavenly grace. God can never be out-given or paid back for this gift. 2 Corinthians 8-9 discusses a particular way believers demonstrate their thankfulness.

This gratitude is expressed to God and others in various ways. Macedonian believers were demonstrating the work of grace in their lives by giving generously to other believers (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Being overwhelmed by grace causes one to be gracious.

Believers give to the body of Christ for the cause of Christ, resulting in unceasing thanks to God (2 Corinthians 9:10-15).


Paul has been gathering gifts for 5 years for the church in Jerusalem, which had planted many other churches but was now on hard times. Poverty threatened not only this church's progress, but their existence.

One Bible commentator lists 8 reasons for this collection:

  • an expression of brotherly love (Romans 8, 12, 15, Galatians 6)
  • an expression of interdependence, churches encouraging each other so the Gospel can go forward (1 Thessalonians 2)
  • equality of provision (2 Corinthians 8:13-14)
  • to show spiritual unity between Jew and Gentile
  • to persuade Jewish Christians to join Paul's mission of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18)
  • to dramatize in material terms the spiritual indebtedness to the church at Jerusalem
  • to mark the culmination of Paul's eastern ministry as he turned westward
  • to show Paul's life had been changed because of grace

Romans 15:30-33 record the human misgivings about this collection, and Acts 21:17 record how it was received. The recipients were poor Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem. "Poor" meant they were completely dependent on God alone for provision. They may have lost jobs and family for converting to Christianity. Some may have still been giving to other needy believers, and the church was supporting many teachers and visiting missionaries and apostles. History tells us there was a famine at this time and taxation was very high.

Paul brought several men along with him to carry out a well-planned follow-through (Acts 20:4).

The Motivation for Giving

Remember that Paul has just written about maintaining relationships for the cause of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 7). The motivation for giving material help is the same: for the cause of the Gospel, that grace would be gifted to more people. All Christians will stand accountable to God for how they supported this cause. However, our approval by God is not performance based; we are compelled by grace to live Christ's life.

Acts 20:35 contains the only saying of Christ recorded outside the Gospels. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" because giving reflects the character of God. He is a giver of eternal life in salvation and practical life-sustaining needs, even for the animals (Genesis 1:30). Christ practically served and gave for eternal reasons (Mark 10:45). As a result, His children also can't stop giving to practical needs for eternal reasons (Galatians 6:10).

Teaching of these chapters must never leave out the fact that our ability to give is sourced somewhere completely outside ourselves. Giving will be proportionate to how much a person is overwhelmed by the grace they have been shown. It is one test of a Christian's passion for the eternal cause.

Great God, 'tis from thy sovereign grace that all my blessings flow:
Whate'er I am or do possess, I to thy mercy owe.

Application Points

  • Those who have been changed by grace show their gratitude in many ways. Why do you live virtuously?
  • Are you amazed and overwhelmed by God's grace? How do you keep yourself amazed by grace? Pray about this.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • James 1:17, Romans 8:32, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 4:7, John 14:27 – God's generous nature