2 Corinthians 8:16-24
16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. 22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men. 
Jesus flatly stated in Luke 6:24 that salvation and the love of money are mutually-exclusive things. He said, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”  Jesus was preaching against self-sufficiency because he came to save the last, the lost, the least, the little, and the dead.
The Lord announced this at the beginning of his earthly ministry pictured in Luke 4:18, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke records Jesus’ parable about those who trust in money as a self-salvation project. In Luke 12:20-21, Jesus tells of the rich man who looked forward to a long and happy retirement of eating, drinking, and merriment. But God comes to him in a dream, “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” 
Luke also includes Jesus’ famous statement (Lk. 16:13), “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 
Finally, Luke records Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler’s refusal to give away all his money. “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus is clear that it is pointless for us to speak of loving and trusting into him if our hearts are trusting into our own human resources for our peace and well-being. Paul and Jesus share the same theology, as does the rest of scripture.
Chapters 8 and 9 of 2nd Corinthians are the Apostle Paul’s plea for the congregation to practice gracious giving as a work demonstrating their repentance for rejecting Paul and, by so doing, God himself. Their rejection was because of their self-focus. Their repentance would demonstrate they were becoming others-focused. But Paul still had his doubts about the Corinthian commitment to the great Jerusalem Relief Project.
For one thing, Paul’s enemies in Corinth were still active there and they had accused him of financial abuse. They suggested Paul took no money from the congregation because he was going to fleece them out of their contributions to the Jerusalem Relief Project (12:14-18; 2:17; 7:2; 11:7-12). He must set the highest principles of money management to encourage the Corinthians to complete their offering for Jerusalem poverty relief. He wanted them to know that, even though the collection was his idea, he would not be laying a finger on the money.
Sadly, this is not the way that many in public ministry choose to deal with money. One commentator tells this story as an example:
It is said that Thomas Aquinas once called on the Pope while the Pope was counting a large sum of money. “You see, Thomas,” said the Pontiff, “the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” “True, Holy Father,” said Thomas, “and neither can she now say, ‘Arise and walk.’”
There is a story of an old miser who summoned his doctor, lawyer, and minister to his deathbed. He told them, despite the old saying, that he intended to take his money with him. He gave the three men envelopes with $100,000 in cash stuffed in each one and instructed them to slip their envelope into his casket right before burial. The three men promised to do so. At the end of the funeral, they each put in their envelopes.
Leaving the services, the doctor confessed he had taken $50,000 and put the rest in the coffin because he was building a new medical clinic. Then the lawyer confessed that he kept $75,000 for a legal defense fund and put $25,000 in the coffin. The preacher was shocked and expressed his shame over the other two. “I put in a check for the full amount!” he proudly proclaimed. That is NOT the ministerial integrity Paul commends here.
Paul takes money and ministry very seriously. Because the Holy Spirit is changing us from self-focused people into others-focused people, it is easy for others to take advantage of us with some sob story. Recently, another wave of fake text messages using my name went out to some of you claiming that I needed gift cards to distribute to cancer patients in the hospital. So, let me tell you all again plainly, I do not handle any money in the church, and I will never ask any individual members for charity funds. Such matters are overseen through our deacons acting as a whole.
Paul understood the problem of lack of integrity and had no doubt witnessed financial abuse. In his culture, speakers collected fees from their audiences. We expect there were a great many false charities and religious frauds in his day even as there are in our own day. Paul took great care with the offerings for the Jerusalem relief project. In doing so, he has given us wisdom we would do well to heed.
THREE BROTHERS (16-22)
The first thing we notice is that Paul put a distance between himself and the actual gathering of the donations. His enemies couldn’t accuse him of extorting money from the congregation by personally twisting the arms of individuals to give suggested amounts. Also, they could not say Paul had his hand in the offering plates.
Verses 16 through 22 are a letter of recommendation for three believers who would collect the Corinthian offering without Paul even being present. Only one brother’s name is given: Titus. Another brother was famous to the Corinthians and the third was described as “earnest.” Of Titus, Pal writes, “16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.”
Titus was Paul’s close brother. The Holy Spirit had given Titus the same love and concern for the Corinthians as Paul had – once Titus arrived, and the Severe Letter did its work of repentance. Prior to that, Titus was surely apprehensive about taking such a letter and the sour reception he expected to receive. But whatever fears Titus had evaporated with the Corinthian response and Titus found himself staying far longer than he expected, causing Paul much worry.
What a relief it was for Paul to discover that Titus was not only refreshed by his visit to Corinth, but that he had developed a deep love for the congregation (7:7, 13-16). Titus’ experience in that city made him just as eager and sincere as Paul in his care for the Corinthian believers. We see the same thing today when God raises up missionaries and gives them a heart for a particular place or a particular people with whom they earnestly desire to share the gospel. In both instances, it is God who creates the heart for a particular ministry.
“16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus….” God made Titus’ heart and soul just like Paul’s others-focused heart. Both Titus and Paul now shared a special love for the Corinthians. Both were earnest for the congregation. Specifically, they both wanted the congregation to excel in the graciousness of giving (v. 7), demonstrating their faith was growing in others-focus. Titus was so earnest to see this great transformation, Paul didn’t have to ask him to go back to Corinth. He was returning “of his own accord” (v. 17). Since Titus is the only brother named, he would assume leadership of the group of three.
Ironically, the second brother of the trio remains anonymous to us even though he was famous among the churches and appointed by the churches:
18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.
Paul literally describes the famous brother as “the brother whose praise in the gospel is among the churches.” In earlier times, this description was thought to refer to Luke. But there is no solid evidence that Luke is the brother listed here. Others have guessed Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Aristarchus, Sopater, Secondus, Trophimus, or Tychicus. The speculation is utterly pointless. Whoever this person was, Paul could think of no greater honor than that this man was highly praised for his gospel work. The only fame this brother truly needed he already had, for he was known by God and Christ Jesus and had a fire in his heart for others to know the Messiah as well.
We note that this brother was “appointed by the churches.” He was elected by a show of hands if we take the Greek word literally. “Here we see a similar pattern to that in the First Letter: Paul will send to Jerusalem those whom the local church has approved (1 Cor 16:3). The assemblies will elect their delegates, but the apostle will send them, thereby providing external and apostolic sanction of those chosen by the churches.”
That means this famous brother and his unnamed companion were not Paul’s personal choices, but only the elected representatives of the Macedonian churches. In this way, none of Paul’s detractors could claim the apostle had handpicked them. In fact, Paul writes:
20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.
Paul’s words indicate this was a very large amount of money. Considering the distance and danger of the journey by both land and sea, and the possibilities of theft from within the group or robbery from outside the group, Paul was being sensitive to the fact that his enemies would cut him no slack if something went wrong. We get a better understanding of his opposition from 11:7-9 where he will write:
7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
Paul understood there were few things that would destroy his ministry more than doubts cast upon his integrity in money matters. In verse 21, he further emphasized the extreme care taken: “for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” Paul was always scrupulous to do what was right in God’s sight. But here, his driving interest was to do what was honorable in the sight of this congregation, both friends and enemies. As Calvin wrote of this section:
[Paul] was not so self-complacent, as to think it beneath his station to provide against [slanders]. Hence, he prudently shunned dangers and used great care not to furnish any wicked person with a handle against him. And, certainly, nothing is more apt to give rise to unfavorable surmises, than the management of public money.
Paul, who could write like a lyric poet and think like a theologian could also, when necessary, act with the meticulous accuracy and care of a CPA. He had no problems performing the little things and the practical things with as much excellence as he performed his preaching, teaching, and discipling. It is certainly possible for congregations and Christian organizations to become lax in financial matters.
We can assume that simply because someone is a Christian, there’s no need to be vigilant with the people’s money graciously offered to Christ. Some believe it is sufficient to pray and trust our brothers and sisters rather than taking exacting care with what God provides through his peoples’ graciousness. Paul saw such lax attitudes as folly and disdain for Christ and his Church. It places too much trust in our own honesty and fails to account for the fact that all earthly Jesus-followers still wrestle with a sin nature.
Next in our text, Paul mentions another unnamed brother whom he describes as “earnest.” He writes in verse 22: “22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you.”
Being mentioned last may suggest this person is the least senior among the trio. Yet, Paul’s calling him “our brother” suggests Paul knew him and they had labored in ministry together. He may have been chosen personally by Paul or also could have been an elected representative of one of the Macedonian congregations, since verse 23 calls both nameless men “apostles.” They were little “a” apostles, elected and sent by their congregations and commissioned by the big “A” Apostle Paul.
What Paul mentions about the third man is that he is “earnest,” sincere and eager to minister with his God-given zeal and energy. More than that, he was confident of the Spirit’s work to make the Corinthians more others-focused. Paul Barnett notes:
Possibly a measure of the Macedonians’ diplomacy—as well as Paul’s—is to be read between these lines. It would not have helped the Corinthians to complete their contributions if the Macedonians and Paul had sent one who was skeptical of even the possibility that the Corinthians might do so. Apparently, this man was one of a number who accepted Paul’s presentation to the Macedonians that Corinth was, in principle, “eager,” “ready,” and “enthusiastic” to complete the collection….
This was quite a trio. They were headed by one of Paul’s trusted co-workers and disciple, Titus. Both Titus and the third brother are noted for their eagerness, sincerity, and zeal – their earnestness. In between these two, there was a person famous for his commitment to the gospel message.
CONCLUDING CALL (23-24)
Paul sums up his commendation for the three men in verse 23: “23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers [lit. “apostles”] of the churches, the glory of Christ.” Titus had been a colleague of Paul’s at least since the time of the Jerusalem Council (Gal. 2:1). He had traveled on difficult journeys with Paul and for Paul. The Apostle even uses a word to describe their friendship he uses nowhere else in his writings “my partner” (koinonos).
The unnamed brothers were “messengers” of the poverty-stricken, oppressed congregations of Macedonia. As such, they were “the glory of Christ.” Think about that. These poor “nobodies” to those of the world, the flesh, and the devil were manifestations of Messiah’s glory. These nameless men were vessels of God’s splendor. So are you all! That’s something to consider when life is beating you up: you are a vessel of the glory of Christ.
But Paul is not merely speaking of them individually. He is referring to the entirety of the Macedonian Church, to all the struggling and oppressed believers who gave generously out of their earthly poverty because of their heavenly wealth. When Paul looked at these two men, he saw the blinding brightness that once took away his sight on the Damascus Road. Your congregation is a vessel of the glory of Christ. It is a collective glory, not merely individual – which is what drives Paul toward this offering for the poor of the Jerusalem congregation.
Closing out his commendation of these anonymous messengers from Macedonia who radiated the glory of Christ that resided in those congregations, Paul writes an encouragement for the Corinthians toward graciousness. “24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.”
What we do with our money demonstrates who or what we trust. Paul was calling on the relatively wealthy Corinthians to “walk through the eye of the needle,” to do the impossible precisely because nothing is impossible with God (Lk. 18:26b). How a congregation deals with its money reveals how dedicated they are to glorifying Christ. Our elders do not handle money. We strictly avoid looking at giving records so that we are not tempted to suck up to large doners and give short shrift to small doners. We want to treat all people equally and preach and teach with liberated abandon.
This was a profoundly serious project for Paul. He exercised exceeding caution to make sure there was enough fiscal accountability to make the Corinthians comfortable enough to give freely to his great Jerusalem Relief Project, He demonstrated his integrity and the integrity of the process. He believed his project had great spiritual and kingdom importance. It would demonstrate the miracle of the new covenant – that both Jew and Gentile are one in Christ Jesus whose glory resides in his Church.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 8:16–24.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 6:24.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 4:18–19.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 12:20–21.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 16:13.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 18:24–25.
 Hughes, R. Kent. 2 Corinthians. Crossway. Kindle Edition.
 Barnett, 421.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 11:7–9.
 John Calvin, 2 Corinthians, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 2 Co 8:20.
 Barnett, 425.