Corinthians – Belief and Behavior
Many years ago God invited me to His work with a denomination. Part of that work was to plan at least four mission trips each year for older youth and college age adults. It was a great undertaking to plan and implement the meaningful trips to Haiti, Brazil, Navajo nation, and other places in need for help. It also meant raising funds for the cost of travel and the ministry itself. God provided where He guided. Every time.
There is one particular memory of generous giving that will stay with me forever. I am still blessed by that memory and driven in my own giving by it. I was sitting at my desk, going through the mail that had stacked up between trips out of town. There it was. It was a letter from a Haitian pastor. As you know, Haitians are not known for “wealth” as we Americans see it. This pastor had made a generous donation to the mission ministry because he was blessed because of the ministry. Wow. I sat in my chair for a while tearfully praising God for this man and for how God touches hearts. I then shared his giving with the office staff that day, giving praise to God.
This memory jumps to mind as we read about the generous outpouring of offerings to those in need. Paul is amazed that he can’t wait to tell others, like me, that day. Troubles came to the Macedonian churches. How did they respond? The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. Paul describes the people as “incredibly happy, though desperately poor.” “They gave offerings of whatever they could–far more than they could afford!–pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.”
Wow. Do we plead for the privilege to help?
Then Paul explains well where this joy in authentic, no strings attached generosity comes from… “FIRST they had given themselves unreservedly to God and to us (the ministry).” (bold print mine) “The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.”
Authentic giving, wanting nothing in return for self, flows from a heart completely committed to God. This puts a smile on God’s face. Oh how He must love it when we help each other because of our love for Him. All that we have is God’s. He trusts us to manage His “wealth” given to us. How are we doing?
“So here’s what I think,” says Paul to the church gone wild but is coming back to God’s ways, “The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands.”
2 Corinthians 8, The Message
8 1-4 Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.
5-7 This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. That’s what prompted us to ask Titus to bring the relief offering to your attention, so that what was so well begun could be finished up. You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too.
8-9 I’m not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians’ enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you. You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.
10-20 So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,
Nothing left over to the one with the most,
Nothing lacking to the one with the least.
I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. We’re sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there’s far more to him than popularity. He’s rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God’s gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal.
20-22 We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God. That’s why we’re sending another trusted friend along. He’s proved his dependability many times over, and carries on as energetically as the day he started. He’s heard much about you, and liked what he’s heard—so much so that he can’t wait to get there.
23-24 I don’t need to say anything further about Titus. We’ve been close associates in this work of serving you for a long time. The brothers who travel with him are delegates from churches, a real credit to Christ. Show them what you’re made of, the love I’ve been talking up in the churches. Let them see it for themselves!
Think about it…
Paul talks about the integrity of Titus like we talk about the true integrity in all ways of Billy Graham today. The world sees the difference in integrity, authentic generosity and what is fake. Where are our hearts? Where does our generosity flow from? God first? Does it come from a heart committed to God and His purposes? Mm. I am meditating and evaluating my own heart over this…join me.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We repent of giving our tithes and offerings for less than stellar attitudes of the heart. May our generosity come from a heart that has first been with You, led by Your Holy Spirit. Thank you, Lord for memories and examples of hearts that make you smile.
Transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, Amen