This is a very common weakness. I’ve been guilty and you have. We know that something should be done, that we have the capacity to do it, that God approves of it. All the good intentions are in place. With every review of the matter, we conclude we should act. But the good intentions just sit there, until finally we act.
In the case of the Corinthians (as described in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9), there was no doubt – Christians were in need of help (8:4; 9:1). That Christians ought to help was not in question (“see that you excel in this act of grace,” v.7). Others with great generosity of heart had done their part (8:1-4). The saints in Corinth had said they would help (v.10). The only step left to take was to do it!
This can be called procrastination, slackness of duty, wrong priorities, negligence or a dozen other terms. But whatever it is called, Paul was now calling upon the Corinthians to do what they had said they would do.
“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. 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.”
Their desire and decision to contribute to the relief of the saints was necessary, but the desire and decision needed to produce action. Paul said to them, “…now finish the doing it!”
There is very simple wisdom here, from God written by Paul. Activate your good intentions as soon as possible after the intention is formed! Do what you promise. Provide the help you are able to give, in a timely fashion.
While the context in Second Corinthians is benevolence for needy saints, the principle under consideration in these verses should find good application in other areas of duty. For examples…
1. Going to worship God is a simple duty every child of God ought to be interested in – enough to “do it.” Assembling with the saints should never be marked off the calendar, with the flippant, “maybe next week.” After granting all legitimate hindrances or exceptions – the rule must not be snubbed. Those with a heart attuned toward their Maker will just do it, love it and repeat it.
2. Taking the gospel to the lost just needs to be done. Nobody argues against doing it. Everybody knows the pressing need. That people are lost in sin, there is no question. That “love your neighbor thing” certainly includes evangelism. We even study ways to do it. Paul would say to us, “now finish the doing of it!” Or, “what are you waiting for?”
3. Encouraging each other is also without debate. We are family, and one of the most valuable functions of family is encouragement. We know this. We read this in Scripture. We may even admire people who are great encouragers. The desire and readiness must find expression in the actual doing of it.
Readiness and desire must be matched up with completion, in all the aspects of discipleship, so that as we “excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness,” (v.7) we are active, beyond just making promises.
Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.11; November 2013