Going Deeper 06.24.2021

The second reading for Pentecost 5... 2 Corinthians 8:7-15‚Äč
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. 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. 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.”

The Greek word perisseuein, which the NRSV translates as “to excel,” literally means to abound or to overflow.  This is at the heart of good stewardship, which is one of the themes of Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth.  A special collection was underway throughout the Gentile congregations Paul had founded, one which was responding to a desperate situation among the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, where poverty was spreading and worsening quickly.  The idea is that the core motive for giving was (and still is) compassionate love.  God's grace was (and still is) to abound and overflow through the followers of Jesus.

In the next chapter, Paul will write these words: "Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."  The practice of generousity ought to flow from a grateful heart which is moved by compassion to give from "what one has—not according to what one does not have."  That is the ideal.

Yet Paul will also do a bit of pushing against reluctant stewardship, pointing out that this is a calling to see that this involves "a fair balance between your present abundance and their need."  This echoes what Jesus taught in Luke 12: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded."  In other words, we must learn that God blesses us in order for us to become blessings to others.

I guess we who are saints and sinners simultaneously need to hear both a calling to see stewardship as a love-based overflowing generosity, and as a discipline... epecially those of us who have been entrusted with much!

Together in His Service,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"