Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2 Corinthians as a Fund-Raising Letter

At the beginning of the second letter to the Corinthians we have a hint that it's a fund-raising letter: "help us by your prayers" - 1:11, and "help us to go on to Macedonia; give us a start" - v. 15.

He then spends the next few chapters focusing on spiritual matters, pointing out that we do not focus on the seen but on the unseen (4:18), that we walk by faith and not by sight (5:7).

He then more fully leads into the fund-raising in chapter 8, saying that they need to finish the task of donations to the ministry which they had started a year earlier (8:10-11; cf 1 Cor 16:1-2), and that the Have's should give to the Have-Not's (8:13-15), assuring them that the donated money will be safe-guarded to its intended destination (8:19-21).

Chapter 9 is, as a whole, a fund-raising appeal, starting from the first line ("Now concerning the ministry to the saints"), going through the middle ("The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly"), all the way to the end ("They (the needy saints) will glorify God ... for your generosity in sharing with them.").

Chapter 10 is a defense of the methodology of Paul and his companions ("Just as [you] belong to Christ, so do we." - v 7 ; "We don't dare classify or compare ourselves with [others]." - v 12 ; "we" - v 13 ; "we" - v 14 ; "we", "we", "our", "we" - vv 15, 16). Paul essentially says, "Don't accuse us of being unspiritual; for indeed, our warfare is not fought with force, but with persuasion. Nevertheless, we live in the body, which has unspiritual needs".

Chapter 11 continues the defense, as well as the fund-raising effort. "I am in no way inferior to the 'super-apostles'" - v 5. "I preached to you free of charge." - v. 7. "Other churches were 'robbed' to provide that service to you." - v 8. "I've sacrificed a lot - I'm not seeking a material reward; I'm not unspiritual like many." - v 22-33.

He continues that line of thought in Chapter 12 - "I've had visions; Christ speaks to me personally; I've shown you the signs of an apostle."  He then adds in verse 14, "Now I'm ready to come to you a third time; in the meanwhile I urged Titus to come, and the brother with him", which we see in 8:16-24 was for the purpose of collecting their donations.

Yes, there's an emphasis on being spiritual in this letter, on not being focused on the material. Paul warns that when he comes, he's afraid they won't be what he wants, that they'll be caught up in material, fleshly issues like quarreling and promiscuity (12:20ff). But what he wants is for them to be focused on spiritual matters, which includes letting go of their money for the sake of others and for the sake of funding Paul's ministerial travels. This does not make Paul unspiritual; indeed, his focus is on fighting spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. But that statement has nothing to do with fighting physical battles as we go about living in our bodies, needs which can not be ignored, else the Corinthians would be justified in ignoring his plea for donations to take care of such needs. Paul makes it clear that although our battle is not worldly, we live in the world, and need to take care of worldly issues. Even in Romans 15:26-27, Paul makes it clear that the Corinthian donation is for wordly needs ("For if the [Corinthians] have been made partakers of [the Jews'] spiritual things, their duty is also to [pay them back] in carnal things").

We tend to think of Paul's writings as being focused on spiritual things, but it seems to me that the core purpose of 2 Corinthians is to be a fund-raising letter.


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