From Jason Hood
The Apostle Paul is famous for his church planting, “frontier” evangelism, and letter writing. He reminds the Romans of the power and passion of this ministry in verses 15:15-21. At the end of today’s reading, we see that he hopes to be supported by the Romans on a mission to those who had not heard the gospel at the edge of the world in Spain. So we can think of Romans as a sort of world-class missionary fundraising letter. But he also was passionately concerned about caring for the needs of those in the church. Paul’s collection and other teaching on possessions and generosity occupy more space in his letters than his teaching on justification by faith. Yet Pauline scholars, contemporary church leaders, and regular readers of the Word often fail to give the collection the attention it deserves.
For Paul, care for the poor cannot be pitted against “gospel ministry.” The return to Judea to deliver the collection takes priority over Paul’s visit to Rome. As he explains to the Romans (Rom. 15:22-32), this visit was to be the great launch of gospel ministry in the western half of the Empire all the way to Spain. We do not know if Paul achieved this mission, but we do know that he delivered the collection. The collection was so vital that its delivery was at that moment a more urgent matter for Paul than his desire to evangelize and plant churches on the missionary frontier.
(The exact opposite paradigm occurs in 1 Kings 15: among other things, the unrighteousness of God’s people and their lack of trust in Yahweh leads to the loss of their wealth, which is sucked away by the oppressive king of Assyria.) (Also, a bit off topic: let's all remember there's a Proverbs 31 man, not just a Proverbs 31 woman.)