“Paying it forward” is the idea of doing good to others, usually unknown, because you have been blessed, perhaps in some unexpected way. Someone pays for your morning coffee in the drive thru; you “pay it forward” to the car behind you or at some other time. It is similar in intent as one being “blessed to be a blessing.”
In verse 3 of today’s text, we find that God is the God of all comfort. Verse 4 instructs us that God comforts us in all our tribulations, and we are told the purpose. We are comforted by God “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort we ourselves are comforted by God.” In other words, we take the comfort received from God and “pay it forward.”
From the time that God called Abraham, this has always been God’s plan for his people, “I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Gen 12:2). Ultimately, the blessings of God upon Abraham led to the blessing of the entire world through Jesus Christ.
Israel was a blessing to the peaceful peoples surrounding them. As God blessed Israel, Israel blessed her neighbors. Solomon and King Hiram made a treaty and Hiram and his people were blessed through Solomon (cf 1 Kings 5).
This principle found its way into the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13-16, wherein God’s people are called both salt and light. Salt is a preserving element and light drives away darkness. Letting one’s light shine exposes God’s love to the world and ultimately leads to His increased glorification.
The same is seen in 2 Corinthians 8-9, in the benevolence of God’s people to those saints in need. The people in Achaia and Macedonia had been blessed with the gospel through the efforts of brethren in Judea. Now, these brethren were in need. Recognizing the blessing they had received, these brethren gave “beyond their ability” for the saints. But we find that not only were the needs of the saints met, but also the needs of all men, leading to the abounding of thanksgivings to God through the administration. It appears that not only was God receiving glory through the work of His people, but that men were being brought to Jesus.
Perhaps by “paying forward” comfort to those in need, people will see Christ in us, the hope of glory, ultimately leading them to obedience to Christ.