I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. (2 Corinthians 9:1-5, NLT)
In the previous chapter, Paul laid the foundation for the offering for famine relief in Jerusalem. Using the example of the Macedonian Christians, he provided tangible instructions for how the collection was to be conducted and provided guidelines for financial accountability.
In chapter 9, Paul transitions from the practical instructions to the spiritual principles of what he terms “the ministry of giving.” The first five verses address the elements of their attitudes and actions. In the text cited above, notice the attitudes of eagerness, willingness and enthusiasm, which are interwoven with the action of preparation.
The words eager and willing are similar concepts that refer to the same idea. The Corinthians’ response to the opportunity was not compulsory, nor was it reluctant. They were not begrudging the invitation to give. They were leaning into the opportunity to give generously. In other words, they didn’t leave their checkbooks at home!
The word enthusiasm here literally means, “to arouse” or “to provoke.” Their zeal for the offering was not an uninformed, empty emotion; it was purposeful and therefore produced tangible results.
Ready, used four times in five verses, describes their state of preparation. It’s not enough to be willing and excited. Willingness and enthusiasm must be coupled with preparation. Preparation is important because through it we are able to respond versus react to the needs around us.
For example, suppose you were going to invite friends to your home for dinner. You’re obviously willing to entertain, and if they are friends you haven’t seen for a while, you might have a sense of excitement at the prospect of spending an evening with them. But willingness and excitement is incomplete, for it must be coupled with menu planning, meal preparation, and even some house cleaning in order to bring the attitude into action. This feeble illustration captures Paul’s point to some degree.
The ministry of giving involves both the attitude of willingness and the action of preparation. Both elements come together to create a strong foundation for generosity.