Today’s reading takes us into the dangerous territory of giving. Are you brave enough? 🙂 Let’s dive right in.
Repentance without regret — 2 Cor. 7:8-13
It is never easy to confront, correct, or discipline. There are fears that the one who needs correction will be pushed away, perhaps offended, perhaps embarrassed — all of which may serve as a stumbling block in the road to a return. So, leaders often hesitate to correct only to see the one who needs correct drift farther and farther away from the Lord and His church. Paul understood the pain and says so in this passage; he didn’t want to cause sorrow. But he also notes for us that the only hope is in the sorrow, in hopes that it would ultimate lead to repentance and save the person from the huge spiritual loss of salvation and Heaven.
Leaders (and I speak to myself as well), we must correct the erring; it is their only hope. We must risk their offense — which won’t be so great if we’ll make sure that we express our love for them and the reason we are correcting. These are brothers or sisters, after all; we can’t just let them drift away without saying anything! And if they return, which is the purpose of correction, the sorrow will turn to joy — a repentance without regret.
They first gave themselves — 2 Cor. 8:1-5
Paul now turns to his major project of the moment, the collection for the saints in Judea. Before Paul’s corrective letters, the prospects of Corinthian generosity were quite good, but there are obviously difficulties involved in asking for generosity while at the same time you’re correcting them. To complicate things even more, Paul was going to be bringing brethren from Macedonia with him to pick up the Corinthian gift — brethren to whom Paul had bragged about the promise of a generous gift from Corinth, These Macedonian brethren would now see whether Corinth’s gift was “brag” or “fact”.
So, to motivate the Corinthian church he tells them about the generosity of the Macedonian church, not as prosperous a region as the rich port city of Corinth could be expected to be. The Macedonians had given much, much more than Paul had expected, and Paul give us (and the Corinthians) the secret of real generosity: they first gave themselves. When we truly love — give ourselves — no gift is too “over the top”, no sacrifice is too dear, no possession is really mine, no amount is too much. And it applies to much more than mere money — it includes time, talents, efforts, and “blood, sweat, and tears”. Have you given yourself?
According to what a person has — 2 Cor. 8:12
God isn’t concerned about the actual dollar amount of our giving. Like the widow who gave two copper coins, about who Jesus said that she had given more than anyone else had given that day, its really much more about what you’re doing with what you have. I may not be quoting this poem perfectly, but there is one that goes along this line…
It’s not what you’d do
With a million dollars,
If riches should be your lot;
It’s more what you do,
Right here and right now,
With the dollar and quarter you’ve got.
Principle of the open conduit — 2 Cor. 9:8-15
It’s an interesting principle that Paul talks about here. In essence he is telling us that God prefers using wide-open conduits for spreading His blessings around. It makes sense: if I want to water my lawn I’m going to find and use the hose without the leaks, breaks, or blockages. That’s the one that I’ll hook up to my spigot. If God wants to bless people, He’ll look for people without “leaks” or “blockages” (i.e., irresponsible stewardship, greed, or self-interest). It is those people that He’ll bless, because He knows that those blessings will be passed along. This is not to promote any form of the “health and wealth gospel”. That’s not the way it works — it is just to say that God does take care of those who are appropriately generous with the His blessings. Generosity is all about faith — if I give this, will I have enough for myself? From Genesis through Revelation God encourages generosity and the faith in Him that it demonstrates. Christianity is about being open-handed rather than tight-fisted — just like the God we serve.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.