Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, September 1

2 Corinthians, chapter 8:
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches in Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. Consequently we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. And I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. But now, finish doing it also; that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the the completion of it by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality -- at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality; as it is written, "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack."

But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord. And we have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the curches; and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness, taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent, because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. Therefore openly before the churches show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
This isn't the appeal for giving that we modern American churchgoers are accustomed to hearing. The solicitaion is from one church to another; a particular set of people are being asked to give to another particular set of people. I suppose they have not physically met, at least for the most part; but the appeal is personal nonetheless.

We notice also that to give material support to fellow believers is not presented as a painful duty, but rather as a privilege, for which the Macedonian church, poor though it was, actually begged. Not very similar to "Stewardship Emphasis Month," is it? So, too, do we see Titus being positively eager to work among the Corinthians and minister to them. Not very much like working on the church Nominating Committee, hmmmm? One might think that perhaps the Spirit is at work here, among and within all concerned.

Finally, notice the sources of the Macedonians' liberality in giving. Paul cites "their abundance of joy and their deep poverty," which "overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." Their deep poverty is a resource? So it says here, but that's certainly very foreign to the way we think. But then, Christianity often seems to be largely an exercise in turning our habitual thoughts and ways on their heads. It shouldn't be surprising, I guess, but it always is.

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1 comment:

akaGaGa said...

We notice also that to give material support to fellow believers is not presented as a painful duty, but rather as a privilege, for which the Macedonian church, poor though it was, actually begged.

Another subject from last night's Bible study. A mother and daughter had gone for the first time to visit a local Messianic Jewish congregation in the area. When they announced it was time for people to bring tithes and offerings to the front, the whole place exploded in shouts and laughter and applause, as everyone made their way to the various offering containers.

Could it be that the Spirit is still at work?