Sunday, 1 July 2018: Fifth Sunday after Trinity/Proper 8 2 Corinthians 8.7-24
2 Cor. 8.7 But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 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. 10 And here is my judgement about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’ 16 Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honour the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. 22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honour to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.
Have you ever thought, “Why does it take 5 business days to refund my money when it took 5 seconds to take it our of my account?”
Someone said, “Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it.”
I am going to change this by talking about money and leaving it to you to do something about it.
We are looking at today’s epistle 2 Corinthians 8.7.
I would like us to notice some points before we think about our money, which is actually not ours, but loaned to us by God.
W. Graham Scroggie, a Baptist minister and author, said, “There are two ways in which a Christian may view his money--"How much of my money shall I use for God?" or "How much of God's money shall I use for myself?"
Giving is about love not legality. Paul talks about the grace of giving in verse 7. You will know that I define grace as “underserved favour”. By giving money Christians are reflecting the grace of God, and giving because they want to, not because of law. The Old Testament commands a 10% tithe, a percentage of income to be given to God. But Christians are living under the New Testament, were they are free from the law. Their giving should be voluntary, the fruit of love. Paul mentions love in each of verses 7 & 8. Having said that, 10% is a good place to start, when it comes to giving.
As well as love, Giving should be inspired by Jesus’ generosity & example. In our gospel reading Jesus was generous by not just in healing the woman and raising Jairus’ daughter from death, he also took time and related to each of them, drawing out their faith.
In verse 9 of 2 Corinthians 8 tells us that Jesus became poor so Christians can be rich. This is not just talking about material possessions. Jesus left the glory and splendour of heaven to be born in a manger, become a refugee from a mad, murderous King, grow up in the despised North of the country, and be a Messiah who would not establish a prosperous earthly kingdom.
Jesus humbled himself to be poor materially but also poor spiritually. He who never sinned received the punishment for the sins of the world, enduring separation from God. This was so that those who are spiritually poor and separated from God might become spiritually rich, having a right relationship with God forever. Receiving God’s blessings, both materially and spiritually, brings a responsibility to give because of God’s generosity.
Money was not important to Jesus per se. He talked about it a lot because it can be an idol. Something that people are devoted to and that they rely upon, when they should be committed to God and trust in Him.
Money is a tool. It is only worth anything to those who think it is worth something. So, the old £10 notes were worth £10 before the new polymer ones came in. But today you can’t buy anything with them.
We live in a different kingdom with a different King. We should use our money to further God’s rule. The Macedonian Christian were going through trials and were materially poor, yet they gave generously to believers in Jerusalem, verse 2 of Chapter 8. Though they had started their collection after the Corinthians they gave abundantly in a way that Paul uses to challenge the Corinthian believers.
The collection was for poorer Christians in Jerusalem. This poverty could have been due to persecution and/or a famine in Judea. The motivation for the collection was equality amongst God’s people. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality,
This is linked to a point Paul made in his first letter, 16.2 “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”
This equality is found in the context of community. We are all part of God’s worldwide family. The Corinthian church is over 800 miles from Jerusalem as the bird flies but Paul couldn’t fly so it meant a journey of over 1200 miles. There would have been more local needs in Corinth that the church and individual Christians would have met, too.
So, in Knebworth we can be involved in giving to the church, supporting individuals practically and financially, helping people locally as we collect for the food bank and donating for people abroad through Christian Aid and the Bishop of St Albans’ Harvest appeal.
The gift was administered with transparency.
19 What is more, he (Titus) was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honour the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. 22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.
Money was not normally collected and distributed to poor people in the way Paul was organising it, which is the way it is usually collected today. So he was a pioneer in this. The idea of a large collection contributed to by many people over a large area was not done then and, therefore, would have aroused suspicion. Some probably suggested Paul was using some of the money for himself. This is probably why the distribution of the collection did not include Paul but involved Titus & two others, vs 18f, & 22.
In a similar way, we, as a church we are a registered charity and have rules that we adhere to so that the money people give goes to the church. We are also very careful how we spend the money entrusted to us.
We have so much that God has given us. Spiritually & materially.
Looking at today’s passage I would like to
Encourage you to review your giving. As Christians we will want to give some money to support our church and some to support charities that the Lord has placed on our hearts.
Encourage you to to give in proportion to what you have regularly so it if fair to you, God, and others per 1 Cor 16.2, 2 Cor. 8.13-15.
Encourage you to be wise in how you handle your money. Can you make more of your donations by gift aiding if you pay tax? Can you commit to giving a fixed amount regularly? Can you join the Parish Giving Scheme that allows us to reclaim our Gift Aid money more quickly and saves in administration? Perhaps you haven’t got round to giving regularly and wish to.
“Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” John Wesley