The word of the day is “grace.” We usually think of grace as the unmerited favor of God that saves us despite our sinfulness. But today, we learn another sense of the essential term “grace.” We will study how Paul uses the word to appeal to the generosity of his flock in Corinth. And we will discover the logic behind the apostle’s teaching that we should be “grace-full” as God is gracious.
The Grace of Generosity
In today’s reading of 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Paul asks the congregation in Corinth to support his pet project, the relief of the poor in Jerusalem who are suffering from a famine. The apostle states, “As you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us [see] that you abound in this grace also” (vs. 7). The word “grace,” as Paul uses it here, expresses the sense of inclining toward someone’s benefit. It is the disposition of favor, acceptance, and kindness (Strong’s #5485).
In our passage, Paul applies this term to the Macedonian churches who have received divine lovingkindness. That favor has motivated them to contribute generously to Paul’s collection for the poor in Jerusalem. The apostle also notes that the believers in Macedonia have shown this grace even though they were poor and afflicted (2 Cor. 8:2). Consequently, Paul points out that it is the Corinthian’s turn to excel in this grace (vs. 7-8) of compassionate generosity.
In Ephesians, Paul writes, “Be imitators of God as beloved children” (OSB Ephesians 5:1). By grace, the Almighty has made those who believe in Christ His children (OSB John 1:12). As small children copy everything their parents say and do, so Paul teaches that we should emulate the Lord.
Our Imitation of God’s Grace
This is the logic of the apostle’s appeal to the generosity of the Corinthians. Since we are “imitators of God,” we should show the same graciousness that He extended to us. Thus, Paul reminds his flock of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who in His divine kindness and mercy became poor for our sakes so that we might become rich with the blessings of salvation (vs. 9; OSB fn. 8:9). We who have received grace should therefore become exemplars of graciousness to the world.