Who is the miserable giver? It is the one who gives just a little, the smallest amount he can get away with, because he resents having to give even that. The generous giver taps into the characteristic of God so that something of the grace of God and the joy of God floods the soul. I never go around telling people how much they should give - though sometimes I come close.

The second characteristic of Christian giving is willingness. "Every man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion." Some years ago, I was preaching from Genesis chapter 22, about the obedience of Abraham. One of my points was that the obedience of Abraham was a willing obedience. I recall asking the question at that point - the same kind of question we might ask here: "How would it be possible for Abraham to obey and not be willing, because the argument would go: if he was not willing, he would not obey; and if he obeyed, he must be willing.

It is interesting how, in this great second letter of Paul's to the Corinthians, that he spends so much time on the subject of giving. This offering, which he was receiving from the Gentile churches and would eventually take to Jerusalem for the poor, was clearly very important to Paul. So, obviously, what the Corinthians did in this matter of giving would also be very important.

What Paul is really talking about is the character of Christ. In the brothers was found the love of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, the joy of Jesus, the kindness of Jesus, and so on for all the other fruits of the Spirit. Now, that is what he says about these brothers, these three men whom he trusted with this commission involving this large sum of money from the churches at Corinth.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:4 that he is sending these brothers in order that their boasting about the Corinthians in this matter should not prove hollow, for if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, I will be embarrassed and so will you. He is saying, "I am sending these men ahead to get everything ready because I have been boasting about you to the Macedonians. And if, when I come bringing the Macedonians with me, they should find you unprepared, I would be embarrassed." Now, if these men who went beforehand to make the preparation were Macedonians, the argument that Paul makes later would not make sense. So they cannot have been Macedonians, and therefore we have to rule that whole group out.