Poverty and generosity

420 poverty and generosityIn Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he gave an excellent account of how the wonderful gift of joy touches the lives of the faithful in a practical way. "But we announce to you, dear brothers, the grace of God given in the churches of Macedonia" (2 Kor 8,1). Paul did not just give an insignificant account - he wanted the siblings in Corinth to respond in a similar way to the grace of God as the church in Thessalonica. He wanted to give them a proper and fruitful answer to God's generosity. Paul notes that the Macedonians had "much distress" and were "very poor" - but they also had "exuberant joy" (V. 2). Their joy did not come from a health and prosperity gospel. Their great joy came not to have a lot of money and goods, but despite the fact that they had very little!

Their reaction shows something "of the other world," something supernatural, something completely beyond the natural world of selfish humanity, something that can not be explained by the values ​​of this world: "For their joy was effusive as it proved by much distress Although they are very poor, they have given abundantly in all simplicity "(v. 2). That is amazing! Combine poverty and joy, and what do you get? Generous giving! This was not her percent-based giving. "For the best of my strength, I testify, and even through their powers they have willingly given" (v. 3). They gave more than "reasonable" was. They gave sacrificially. Well, as if that was not enough, "and asked us with much persuasion that they might help in the blessing and communion of the ministry of the saints" (v. 4). In their poverty, they asked Paul for an opportunity to give more than is reasonable!

That is the way the grace of God worked in the faithful in Macedonia. It was a testimony to her great faith in Jesus Christ. It was a testimony to their Spirit-endowed love for other people-a testimony Paul wanted the Corinthians to know and imitate. And it is also something for us today if we can allow the Holy Spirit to work unhindered in us.

First the Lord

Why did the Macedonians do something that was "out of this world"? Paul says, "But they gave themselves, first to the Lord and then to us, according to the will of God" (v. 5). They did it in the service of the Lord. Her sacrifice was first and foremost for the Lord. It was a work of grace, of God's work in their lives, and they discovered that they were happy to do it. By responding to the Holy Spirit in them, they knew, believed, and acted so, because life is not measured by the abundance of material things.

As we continue to read in this chapter, we see that Paul wanted the Corinthians to do the same: "So we told Titus that, as he had done before, he was now fully accomplishing that blessing among you. But as you are rich in all things, in the faith and in the word, and in the knowledge, and in all zeal, and in the love that we have raised in you, give abundantly in this goodness "(v. 6-7).

The Corinthians had bragged about their spiritual wealth. They had a lot to give, but they did not give it! Paul wanted them to excel in generosity, because that's an expression of divine love, and love is the most important thing.

And yet, Paul knows that no matter how much a person gives, it does not help the person if the attitude is grudging rather than generous (1 Kor 13,3). Thus, he does not want to intimidate the Corinthians into giving offense, but he wants to exert a little pressure because the Corinthians were less than expected in their behavior, and they had to be told that this was the case. "I do not say that as an order; but because others are so zealous, I also test your love to see if it is the right kind "(2 Kor 8,8).

Jesus, our pacemaker

Real spirituality is not found in the things that the Corinthians bragged about - it is measured by the perfect standard of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for all. Therefore, Paul presents the attitude of Jesus Christ as a theological proof of the generosity he wanted to see in the Corinthian church: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: though he is rich, yet he became poor for your sake, that ye may pass away his poverty would be rich "(V. 9).

The riches to which Paul refers are not physical riches. Our treasures are infinitely greater than physical treasures. They are in heaven, reserved for us. But even now we can already get a taste of those eternal riches, if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.

Right now God's faithful people are going through trials, even poverty - and yet, because Jesus lives in us, we can be rich in generosity. We can surpass ourselves in giving. We can go beyond the minimum, because even now our joy in Christ can overflow to help others.

Much could be said about the example of Jesus, who often spoke about the right use of riches. In this section, Paul sums it up with "poverty." Jesus was ready to make himself poor for our sake. When we follow Him, we are also called to give up the things of this world, to live and serve others by serving others.

Joy and generosity

Paul continued his appeal to the Corinthians: "And in that I say my opinion; because this is useful to you, which you have started since last year, not only with doing, but also with willing. And do what you do, so that you may be inclined to do what you are inclined to do according to the measure of what you have "(v. 10-11).

"For if the good will is there" - if the attitude of generosity is given -, "he is welcome after what one has, not after what he has not" (v. 12). Paul did not ask that the Corinthians give as much as the Macedonians did. The Macedonians had already given over their assets; Paul only asked the Corinthians to give according to their ability - but the main thing is that he wanted generous giving to be something voluntary.

Paul continues with some exhortations in chapter 9: "For I know of your good will, which I glory to you from those of Macedonia, when I say: Achaia was ready last year! And your example inspired most of them "(V. 2).

Just as Paul used the example of the Macedonians to incite the Corinthians to generosity, so he had previously used the example of the Corinthians to spur on the Macedonians, apparently with great success. The Macedonians were so generous that Paul realized that the Corinthians could do much more than they had done before. But he had boasted in Macedonia that the Corinthians were generous. Now he wanted the Corinthians to finish it off. He wants to exhort again. He wants to put some pressure, but he wants the victim to be given voluntarily.

"But I have sent the brethren, lest our praising of you should be destroyed in this play, and that ye may be prepared, as I have said of you, not if those from Macedonia come with me and find you unprepared We, not to say, you, will be crushed with our confidence. So I have now considered it necessary to exhort the brethren to advance to you, to finish the blessing that you have announced, so that it is ready as a gift of blessing, not of avarice "(v. 3). 5).

Then follows a verse that we have heard many times before. "Everyone, as he has in mind, not with indignation or coercion; God loves a happy giver "(v. 7). This happiness does not mean exuberance or laughter - it means that we enjoy sharing our goods with others because Christ is in us. Give us a good feeling. Love and grace work in our hearts in such a way that a life of giving gradually becomes a greater joy for us.

The greater blessing

In this section, Paul also talks about rewards. If we give freely and generously, then God will give us too. Paul does not hesitate to remind the Corinthians, "God can do that all grace be abundant among you, that you may always have fullness in all things, and are still rich in every good work" (v. 8).

Paul promises that God will be generous to us. Sometimes God gives us material things, but that's not what Paul is talking about here. He talks about grace - not the grace of forgiveness (we receive this wonderful grace through faith in Christ, not through works of generosity) - Paul talks about many other kinds of grace that God can give.

If God gives Extra Grace to the churches in Macedonia, they have had less money than before - but much more joy! Any rational person, if she had to choose, would rather have poverty with joy than wealth without joy. Joy is the greater blessing, and God gives us the greater blessing. Some Christians even get both - but they also have the responsibility to use both to serve others.

Paul then quotes from the Old Testament: "He scattered and gave to the poor" (v. 9). What kind of gifts does he speak? "His righteousness will last forever". The gift of justice outweighs them all. The gift of being considered just in God's sight - this is the gift that lasts forever.

God rewards a generous heart

"But he who gives seed to the sower and bread, he will also give you seeds, and multiply and grow the fruit of your righteousness" (v. 10). This last formulation about the harvest of justice shows us that Paul uses imagery. He does not promise literal seeds, but he says that God rewards generous people. He gives them that they can still give more.

He will give more to the person who uses God's gifts to serve. Sometimes he returns in the same way, grain by grain, money by money, but not always. Sometimes he blesses us in return for sacrificial giving with immeasurable joy. He always gives the best.

Paul said that the Corinthians would have everything they needed. For what purpose? So that they are "rich for every good work". He says the same thing in verse 12: "Because the ministry of this collection does not only help the saints' lack, but also works so effusively that many thank God." God's gifts come with editions, we might say. We have to use them, not hide them in a cupboard.

Those who are rich should be rich in good works. "The rich in this world command that they are not proud, nor hope for insecure wealth, but God, who abundantly offers us all to enjoy it; that they do good, get rich in good works, like to give, to help "(1 Tim 6,17-18).

True life

What is the reward for such unusual behavior, for people who are not wealthy, as something to hold on to, but who give it away voluntarily? "By doing so, they gather a treasure as a good reason for the future, so that they can take the real life" (V. 19). When we trust God, we seize life, which is real life.

Friends, faith is not an easy life. The new covenant does not promise us a comfortable life. It offers infinitely more than one 1 million: 1 for our investment - but it can include some significant victims in this temporary life.

And yet there are big rewards in this life too. God gives rich grace in the way (and in his infinite wisdom), as he knows that it is best for us. In our trials and blessings, we can entrust our lives to him. We can entrust all things to Him, and when we do, our lives become a witness to the faith.

God loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us even when we were still sinners and enemies. Since God has already shown us such a love, we can confidently trust Him to care for us, for our long-term good, now that we are His children and friends. We do not need to worry about "our" money.

The harvest of thanksgiving

Let's go back to 2. Corinthians 9 and note what Paul teaches the Corinthians about their financial and material generosity. "So you will be rich in all things, to give in all simplicity that works through us thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this collection does not only help the saints' lack, but is also effusive in that many thank God "(v. 11-12).

Paul reminds the Corinthians that their generosity is not just a humanitarian effort - it has theological results. People will thank God for understanding God works through people. God gives it to those who give, to give to the heart. In this way God's work is done. "For in this faithful service, they praise God for their obedience in their confession of the gospel of Christ and in the simplicity of their fellowship with them and all" (v. 13). There are several notable points on this point. First, the Corinthians were able to prove themselves through their actions. They showed in their actions that their faith was real. Second, generosity does not only bring thanks, but also thanksgiving [praise] to God. It is a way of worship. Third, accepting the gospel of grace also requires some obedience, and that obedience involves sharing physical resources.

Giving for the gospel

Paul wrote about generous giving in the context of efforts to alleviate famine. But the same principle applies to the financial gatherings we have today in the Church to support the Gospel and the ministry of the Church. We continue to support an important work. It allows workers who preach the gospel to make their living from the gospel as well as we can distribute the resources.

God still rewards generosity. He still promises treasures in heaven and eternal pleasures. The gospel still made demands on our finances. Our attitude to money still reflects our belief in what God is doing now and forever. People will still thank and praise God for the sacrifices we bring today.

We receive blessings from the money we give to the church - the donations help us to pay the rent for a meeting room, for pastoral care, for publications. But our donations also help others to provide for other literature, to provide a place where people get to know a community of believers who love sinners; to spend money on a group of believers who create and maintain a climate in which new visitors can be taught about salvation.

These people do not (yet) know you, but they will be grateful to you - or at least thank God for your living sacrifices. It is indeed an important work. The most important thing we can do in this life, having accepted Christ as our Savior, is to help the Kingdom grow, to make a difference by allowing God to work in our lives.

I would like to conclude with the words of Paul in verses 14-15: "And in their prayer for you, they long for you because of the exuberant grace of God in you. Thank God for his unspeakable gift! "

by Joseph Tkach

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