“Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” (II Corinthians 8:7)
The writer of II Corinthians wants money – not for himself, but for another faith circle that the writer of II Corinthians has establish. That faith group is undergoing some hardships, and a gift from another faith group would not only relief their suffering but prove to them that they are not alone in this new faith.
“I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (Verses 8-9)
It seems that material possessions and position/stature are being intermingled in the writer of II Corinthian’s mind. I do not think that Jesus Christ had sacks of gold, nor would something like that appeal to the Divine. And I suspect if I think about this theological/philosophical issue that the writer of II Corinthians is setting up, I will get more and more stirred up, so let us move on.
“And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
“The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
Abundance and need, sufficiency and deficiency, are very subjective terms. What might be little for one is wealth for another – depending on one’s point of view and relative position in society. Maybe the reader’s of II Corinthians had in mind “wealth” that is in heaven, and were humbled that Jesus left that for their sake. And so perhaps sharing what they had above and beyond what they needed to sustain themselves would seem like imitating Christ. The writer of II Corinthians was not above playing one group against another, engendering benevolence and philanthropy to tie two geographically distant groups.
We do the same thing in our modern day, sending help to other parts of the world and going to help them. So my criticism of the writer of II Corinthians (yes, Paul) is not severe or deep. He was, after all, a good “arranger” of ideas, philosophies, and people. I have been known to exhibit that trait myself. Maybe that is why it catches my attention when I see it in others!
We all, beloved reader, must make sure our actions and outcomes support the mission of Christ and our Lord God. We must examine both our means and motivations. It is part of being in ministry and leadership for Christ’s sake. May you beloved reader take care in what you plan to do and in how you accomplish your plans. Selah!