2 CORINTHIANS 8
The next couple of days feature two great chapters on ‘Generosity’ (8 and 9); everything is based on the grace of God shown in the life of Jesus: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (8:9). Even though the example of Jesus in this verse is primarily about money, Paul turns it around to show that it includes money and extends to everything good.
Generosity is about our money, our time, our gifts, our relationships, and our entire lives. Not only does God pour out his grace into our lives through his Son Jesus, but he also expects us to be a similar channel of grace to the world: “You will be made rich in every way, so that you can be generous on every occasion…” resulting in thanksgiving to God. (9:11).
The churches of Macedonia – including Philippi – showed extraordinary generosity in financial giving. We know that it was the result of the grace of God, since they gave ‘beyond their means’, trusting God to make good the deficit. Paul details a very simple, but profound equation: Joy (from God) + Poverty = Generosity. The practice of ‘Giving’ is a fruit of God’s grace, but it is something that we need to refine and excel in (see verse 7b).
How did this work? Paul shows us: “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God, also to us”. (v5). Church leaders would do well to note this sequence! An overbearing leadership will insist on God’s people’s prime allegiance and obedience; a wise leadership will encourage whole-hearted devotion to the Lord Jesus – and He will then direct the hearts of the people to their leaders also.
Paul commends the Corinthians in their zeal to begin to give, but he points out that they have not yet completed the task (vv10-11). How many tasks and projects have we begun and never completed? How many times have we done the hard work, and yet seen little benefit for it? Some of us perhaps need to revisit and finish some incomplete jobs, and some of us need to count the cost before starting tasks in the first place!
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time, your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need” (vv13-14). This sounds like a phrase from the Communist Manifesto, but with several differences:
- It comes from voluntary giving, not centralised taxation;
- It relies upon generosity of heart, rather than external political imposition; and
- It works when we see one another as children of the King, rather than citizens of a human society.
So the pure aims of Communism are probably laudable, but their methods just do not work when combined with fallen human nature. In the Community of the King, however, his grace turns theory into reality.