10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 8:10–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Stewardship with Integrity Calls for Faithfulness to Complete the Commitment
But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it (8:11a)
One of the most vexing aspects of the ministry is dealing with those who make a good beginning but never finish what they start. It is not easy to carry things through to completion; it takes discipline, devotion, and faithfulness. There are many who start, even make promises to give, but fail to complete that promise. All the Corinthians’ good intentions would have meant little had they failed to complete the collection, so Paul urged them to finish doing it. Their readiness to desire to give was meaningless apart from the completion of the project. The apostle was concerned that, though they were willing, they might fail to perform. At the end of 1 Corinthians (16:2) Paul instructed the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” The giving was to be done in a systematic, orderly, routine manner on the Lord’s Day; Paul did not want hasty collections to be taken only when he arrived.
As noted above, the Corinthians’ giving was not halted by apathy or selfishness, but by the rebellion against Paul incited by the false apostles. One of their most devious lies about him was that he was in the ministry for the money; that he was “walking in craftiness” (2 Cor. 4:2). But unlike the false apostles, Paul was not guilty of “peddling the word of God” (2:17). Nevertheless, the false accusations against him had raised doubts about his integrity among the Corinthians, effectively halting the collection. Nothing cripples people’s willingness to give as much as a loss of confidence in their leaders. But since the relationship between the apostle and the Corinthians had been restored, it was time for them to complete what they had started.
Stewardship with Integrity Calls for Amounts That Are Proportionate to What One Has
by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. (8:11b–12)
Though Paul expected the Corinthians to give generously, he did not expect them to give beyond their means. The Greek phrase translated by your ability literally reads, “out of what you have.” As the apostle wrote in his first inspired letter to them, “Each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2). Even the exemplary giving of the Macedonians was “according to their ability, and beyond their ability” (2 Cor. 8:3); that is, they gave out of what they had, but in sacrificial amounts, using money needed for the basic necessities of life. But if the readiness (prothumia; “willingness”; “eagerness”; “zeal”) to give sacrificially with unique generosity is present, it is acceptable to God for believers to give beyond what would be expected. But God expects giving according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. Believers should not, however, borrow to give. Going into debt to give with no ability to repay is foolish.
When believers are moved to give beyond their ability, and make sacrifices to increase their ability to give, they are following the example of the poor widow, of whom Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44).
Some of the Corinthians may have been using their lack of resources as an excuse not to give. It is true that those who, like the poor widow, have minimal resources can only give a little, while those with more substantial resources can give larger amounts. But with God the amount is not the issue but the attitude of the heart. He expects believers to give in pr proportion to their resources, not more, but also not less. Any ministry that attempts to pressure people to give beyond their resources is operating outside the bounds of biblical stewardship. So also are those who fail to give in proportion to their resources.
11. Now what ye have begun to do. It is probable, that the ardour of the Corinthians had quickly cooled down: otherwise they would, without any delay, have prosecuted their purpose. The Apostle, however, as though no fault had as yet been committed, gently admonishes them to complete, what had been well begun.
When he adds—from what you have, he anticipates an objection; for the flesh is always ingenious in finding out subterfuges. Some plead that they have families, which it were inhuman to neglect; others, on the ground that they cannot give much, make use of this as a pretext for entire exemption. Could I give so small a sum? All excuses of this nature Paul removes, when he commands every one to contribute according to the measure of his ability. He adds, also, the reason: that God looks to the heart—not to what is given, for when he says, that readiness of mind is acceptable to God, according to the individual’s ability, his meaning is this—“If from slender resources you present some small sum, your disposition is not less esteemed in the sight of God, than in the case of a rich man’s giving a large sum from his abundance. (Mark 12:44.) For the disposition is not estimated according to what you have not, that is, God does by no means require of thee, that thou shouldst contribute more than thy resources allow.” In this way none are excused; for the rich, on the one hand, owe to God a larger offering, and the poor, on the other hand, ought not to be ashamed of their slender resources.
10–11 Again Paul emphasizes that he is not giving orders but offering advice (cf. v. 8a), though an imperative follows in v. 11! It is clear from 1 Corinthians 7:25, 40, however, that such a considered opinion came from one who regarded himself as trustworthy.
The apostle hints at several reasons why the Corinthians should bring their contribution to a speedy completion: (1) A considerable time (cf. “last year,” v. 10) had elapsed since they had expressed an “eager willingness” (v. 11) to help. (2) Since their enthusiastic intention had already been partially translated into action (v. 10b), it was incumbent on them, having put their hands to the plow, not to look back but to bring the project to a successful completion. “Completion” needed to match intention (v. 11; cf. Php 1:6). (3) They enjoyed a twofold precedence over the Macedonians. In beginning a collection, and even before that in deciding to contribute, they were earlier (“the first,” v. 10b). But now the Macedonians themselves had completed their offering! (4) The Macedonians had contributed “even beyond their ability” (v. 3); now the Corinthians were being asked to contribute “according to … [their] means” (v. 11).
12 The phrase “according to your means” at the end of v. 11 is now explained. Provided a gift is willingly given, its acceptability is determined in relation to whatever people have at their disposal, not in relation to what someone does not have. God assesses the “value” of a monetary gift, not in terms of the actual amount given, but by comparing what is given with the total financial resources of the giver. This is the lesson of Mark 12:41–44 (the widow’s offering). No one is expected to give “according to what he does not have.” Far from championing the practice of giving by percentage, Paul here is advocating proportional giving. With that said, it seems that tithers tend to be better stewards of the nine-tenths than non-tithers are of the ten-tenths.
8:10–11 / Paul goes from making an appeal to giving an opinion. As in 1 Corinthians 7:12, the apostle provides his advice to help the Corinthians in their practice of godly living. The Corinthians had already begun the collection a year earlier. In the meantime, the weekly collection for Jerusalem as directed in 1 Corinthians 16:2 had apparently come to a halt. Now that at least partial reconciliation had taken place between the Corinthians and their founding apostle, they should, in Paul’s opinion, finish the work, that is, complete the collection. This advice is in the Corinthians’ best interest, for the collection is the will of God (cf. 2 Cor. 8:5).
The apostle considers the willingness to give to be more important than the actual accomplishment of giving itself. Against the background of the freewill offering for the building of the tabernacle (see above on v. 3a), the reason for this seems clear: The attitude of the heart and the willingness of the spirit are the crucial factors in proper giving (cf. Exod. 35:21). The Corinthians have the same fervent willingness as the ancient Israelites had (cf. Josephus, Ant. 3.106). Hence, the Corinthians had already begun to take the collection with the proper motivation of the heart; now they are encouraged to carry through their original intention.
Paul stipulates that the Corinthians should complete the task according to your means (lit., “out of what you have”). Seen in light of the freewill offering for building the tabernacle, Paul’s phrase suggests not so much that the Corinthians should follow the example of the Macedonians by giving beyond their means (cf. 2 Cor. 8:3a; Sir. 14:11), but rather that they should give according to what they happen to have on hand in their possessions, as did the Israelites in Exodus 35:23–24. In other words, the Corinthians are encouraged to offer gifts in kind, which could include a variety of commodities and not necessarily just money (see above on 2 Cor. 8:2; cf. Ezra 7:22). On the analogy of Ezra’s mission, however, we might expect that the offering consisted mainly of silver and gold (cf. Ezra 7:15–16; 8:25–30, 33–34; Sib. Or. 3:290–294).
8:12 / The explanation (For, gar) of Paul’s advice is that what counts is not the kind of offering but the heart of the offerer (the willingness). Giving sacrificially of one’s substance, no matter what it may be, makes the offering acceptable to God (cf. Mark 12:41–44).
8:11. The sequence of events behind this passage needs to be understood. After first informing the Corinthians of the need for contributions, Paul told them he would travel from Ephesus to Macedonia and then return to Corinth. After a delay, Paul visited Corinth briefly and sent a harsh letter to them through Titus. Later Titus met Paul in Macedonia with reports on the conditions at Corinth. At first the Corinthians were eager to contribute to the needs of Jerusalem believers, but troubles in the church had extinguished their eagerness. At this point Paul encouraged them to complete their commitment. Their willingness to do it needed to be matched by their completion of it.
As important as it was for the Corinthians to be willing to give at first, it was not enough. Recognizing the need to contribute and responding with commitments is easy. The true test is actually handing over the money. So Paul encouraged the Corinthians to fulfill their commitments.
Even so, Paul had no particular amount in mind. He left it up to the Corinthians to give according to their means. Many interpreters assume that these words reject the Old Testament practice of tithing (Deut. 12:6; Mal. 3:8–10), but this passage is not about money given to support the church. Rather, it is about charity for the poor above and beyond support for the church.
8:12. Paul justified proportional giving by appealing to a general principle: a gift is acceptable so long as it is according to what one has. Of course, Paul also accepted sacrificial giving; he praised the Macedonians for giving beyond their means. Yet, he felt free only to persuade the Corinthians to give as their means allowed. He fixed no particular amount, leaving this to their consciences.
11. But now also complete the work, so that your readiness to desire it may be matched by your completion of it, as your means allow.
The expanded repetition of verse 6 is evident at first sight. Paul again urges the Corinthian church to finish the task it once set out to do. He uses a compound verb in the imperative: “fully complete it once for all.” The contrast is between what happened the previous year and what should happen now.
The Corinthians have the desire to give, but fulfillment is lacking. Thus, they need encouragement to take up where they left off and finish the work without delay. Paul juxtaposes the verbs to desire and to complete and tells the readers: “what you desire in your hearts should also be completed with your hands.” He does not use the verb to do, because at one time the Corinthians were collecting funds to support the needy but never finished what they had begun. The time has come to complete the work, for the people show their readiness (see vv. 9, 12; 9:2).
To avoid any undue pressure in this matter Paul adds the phrase as your means allow. People should not be able to say that their resources are too scant. Calvin pertinently notes, “If you offer a small gift from your slender resources, your intention is just as valuable in God’s eyes as if a rich man had made a large gift out of his abundance.” Paul does not say that the Corinthians should give all they have to enrich the people in Jerusalem. Such advice would sow discord. Nor does he challenge the church in Corinth to follow the example of the churches in Macedonia: to give beyond their ability. That action would create unwanted rivalry. Instead, he advises them to give as much as their means allow.
At the temple treasury, rich people threw in large amounts of money, but the poor widow put in two copper coins. Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44).
12. For if the readiness is there, the gift is acceptable insofar as a person has it, not insofar as he does not have it.
This verse is incomplete when it is literally translated: “For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable insofar as he has, not insofar as he does not have.” Is the readiness of the Corinthians acceptable? Who is the subject of the verb to have? And what is the direct object of this verb?
The Corinthians demonstrated their continued readiness, and this fact pleased Paul. But their lack of action was unacceptable to him and to God (compare 6:2; Rom. 15:16, 31, where Paul uses the expression euprosdektos [acceptable, favor] with reference to God). It is not the readiness to give that is acceptable, for that is understood. The gift itself is the implied subject of the term acceptable and the direct object of the verb to have. We must also supply a subject for this verb in the singular, and do so with the word person. Hans Dieter Betz comments, “Though willingness is basic to the act of gift-giving, even more important is the matter of the gift’s acceptability to the recipient.”
Conclusively, Paul writes an abbreviated conditional sentence: “For if indeed the readiness is there, the gift is acceptable.” He continues and adds a stipulation: “Insofar as a person has the resources to give a gift, not insofar as he does not have any assets.” In the Apocrypha we find similar advice. Tobit instructs his son Tobias to be generous in giving alms, but to do so in accord with his means. Then he adds: “If you have little, do not he ashamed to give the little you can afford” (Tob. 4:8).
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 292–293). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 500). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 285–286). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.