For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:12)
This is the last post in our series on 2nd Corinthians. It has been a helpful journey with the Apostle Paul.
When many of us were younger, giving to the church was assumed to be the right thing to do. You loved God and God loved the church so give to the church and God must be happy. It seemed so simple!
Today the world has changed and things seem a bit more complex. First, as we see the many ways that God works in the world, it is clear that God works in the church but also in a lot of other places as well. Pluralism reminds us that God is even at work in Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and people of other faiths. Luther’s teaching reminds us that God works in some ways through anyone – even people of no religious commitments. God is not limited by our categories!
At the same time, as the body of Christ, the church is clearly called to be a place where God is at work. The church is to be intentional about doing what God wants us to do and enthusiastic and persistent in working for it. In the lesson above, the Apostle Paul is talking about needs of other Christians in a place far from Corinth. But because they are sisters and brothers in Christ, we are committed to being connected to them and helping when we can. The real key is, “Do we want to?” Paul says, “When the eagerness is there…” He knows that when people are excited about how they are part of what God is up to, whatever they do will make a difference and be acceptable (even pleasing) to God.
Likewise, the call is not an unreasonable one. God wants us to give according to what we have – not what we don’t have. Each of us is asked to ask a few simple questions of ourselves and then give accordingly:
- How eager am I to give to what God is up to?
- How do I see God being up to something in the thing that is asking for my gift?
- How capable am I of giving to that?
- What is God asking me to do/give as a result?
These simple questions are why we give to anything we give to. They have to do with our passions, our commitments, and our sense of what God is up to. They have to do with how we participate and support the work of God. And they call us to look deep inside ourselves and see what God is doing in our lives and wanting to have us do as well.