Paul’s critics were apparently people who had come in from outside, the same way Paul had come originally. These were the people who were stirring up trouble. Paul writes about them in quite a different way than he writes about the Corinthian church itself. He has very hard words for these people who were disrupting the church. Secondly, they came with great boasts of authority, presenting themselves as "super apostles" and claiming to have greater revelation and far more authority than even Paul.

It is a difficult thing to be a leader, I suppose, or to be prominent in any way because the more prominent you are, the more criticism you get of one sort or another. That is certainly true of politicians. They are criticized by their opponents. Then if they are elected to the office they are seeking, they are the butt of constant criticism until eventually somebody displaces them, and they return to a normal way of life.

The final aspect of this matter of motivation for giving comes at the very end of chapter 9, verse 15, where Paul says, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift." What Paul is doing here in this very last statement about this offering is to lift the eyes of those to whom he is writing up to God and his great gift of salvation to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the indescribable gift.

The third blessing Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 9:8 has to do with the example of God in his giving and our motivation. The very fact that God multiplies back our gifts is to motivate us. We spoke about these three marks of giving - generous, willing, and cheerful. When you begin to think of that in terms of God, it obviously applies. We speak of generous giving, but God is generous - abundantly generous. We talk of willingness - God does not give reluctantly or under compulsion. We talk of cheerfulness - God gives cheerfully.

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.