“Without the blood where would I be, without Your love where would I be?” It seems as I ponder those words, that the whole of our relationship is initiated by You and at Your invitation.
“ You are right – from the moment of creation where I created to make a home for the pinnacle of my creation – who would become a kingdom of priests for Me – it was My initiative. I have reached out so that you would seek Me, I have sought the lost sheep, I have been the Father waiting with open arms for the lost son to return. I took the initiative at the cross to demonstrate My love to you and all creation. All I ask is for you and the rest of My chosen ones to respond and turn to me – recognize My love and seek Me – to make that your priority in your life – if you do that all the rest will fall into place.”
After a long introduction in 2 Corinthians, from ch 8 we now come to the main body of the letter. We will hear what Paul has on his heart to share with these people whom he has made such an issue of reaching out to. It seems the main thing is about a collection which he has been organized. Is that all, many would ask?
We first need to stand back and answer the question, why the big fuss about a simple collection? We need to transport ourselves back to that time. There was a need, a huge need. The Christians in Jerusalem were being persecuted and were suffering extreme poverty. There was no telephone, internet or easy way of communication. All communication had to happen by personal messenger. Travel was slow and awkward and often took months. Paul had obviously made it his purpose to try and relieve this poverty while he was on his apostolic trips and had tasked people, Titus and others, to be involved in this collection.
He first starts off by praising the Macedonian church to them, holding them up as an example of generosity. Where the people of Macedonia had given “even beyond their ability”. He holds this up as a sign of God’s grace vs 1. He then urges the Corinthians to follow suit by praising them for the other signs of God’s grace – faith, knowledge, complete earnestness and in their love for Paul and co. (vs7). Then in vs 8 he gives the motivation for them to respond.
Now let us stop here and look at this whole question of giving and generosity in general.
When true regeneration takes place in an individual a number of things happen. As God’s grace comes to bear, the person starts to become other people centred, rather than self-centred, which is the default state of the unbeliever. The true trigger that precipitates our regeneration is the realization of God’s generosity, His infinite love and grace towards one. This is really the basis of the gospel. The realization of the fact that God has reached out to us first. That He has bestowed gift upon gift onto us. As this realization takes hold of us we become aware that He seeks to reach others through the love He has shared with us. One of those things we are to share is His generosity. Both in time, love and in more concrete ways like giving financially.
I have often said that one of the surest signs that a person has been genuinely converted is that their wallet also becomes converted. However, as we all know, these positive changes in the new believer are often moderated by the draw to return to our previous lost state. So not everyone is equally changed in various respects and we therefore need to be reminded and encouraged in the path we should go.
This is what Paul is doing with the Corinthians, as he uses various methods to persuade them.
Firstly he holds up the example of the Macedonian Christians. He then reminds the readers of the fact that when we become Christians we first of all give ourselves to God and flowing from that obviously is the fact that we also give all we have to God. (vs 5). He then reminds them of all the other signs of change they have shown (vs 7) and urges them to add to that the grace of giving.
He then points out the true aim of the Christian church is to have equality among all the believers v 13 ff.
Having done all this he shares the practical arrangements he has made through Titus to fetch the collection and finally ends the chapter with the appeal “Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it”8:24
So what do I make of this? What do I hear Jesus saying? I have been convinced for most of my life as a Christian of the importance of this teaching on generosity. However there have often been times, I must admit that I felt rather reluctant to give what I felt the Lord was expecting of me. In retrospect, however the Lord has always more than come up with His promise that He will provide all I need. At times this has happened almost miraculously. So my testimony is, as hard as it is to give that last cent, like the widow’s mite, if that is what you believe the Lord is calling you to do He will never leave you stranded.
Te story on generosity goes on in Corinthians so let us explore further next week. Meanwhile have a blessed week in the Lord.