This past Sunday kicked off a sermon series on the theme of generosity at church. I sort of got ready to tune it out, thinking I wouldn’t really learn anything new (sorry, Pastor Mandy). Instead I found myself engaged and inspired. Here’s a short reflection on what I’ve been pondering since then.
In Second Corinthians 8, Paul is excitedly telling the Corinthian church about the church in Macedonia.
“for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”
Let’s highlight a few of those phrases. They were afflicted + had abundant joy + extreme poverty = wealth of generosity. Generosity has nothing to do with income. If anything, the relationship is inverted. Crazy right?
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.
I say that I love God. I’m being challenged to prove it! And not in a mean way, but in a gentle encouragement that love isn’t just words. It’s actions. It’s taking care of people.
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.”
We work so hard for what we have, it’s true. But getting more for myself isn’t and shouldn’t be the goal. Equality is the goal.
Thankfully, Paul isn’t talking about sharing what we don’t have, but we are urged to meet one another’s needs. The fear is that when I give away the resources that I have, I might not have enough for later, when I have little. But somehow, I’m not supposed to be afraid. It’s about trust. While I allow God to work through me in providing for the needs of others now, I trust that God will also take care of my needs when I have them.
Perhaps coincidentally (but probably not), there were two songs in worship in which we asked God to bind us to him. For me, that’s probably what it will take to stay generous. It’s easy for me to sit here and write about how and why I need to be generous and even to really believe that it’s necessary and what I’m called to do. But to actually follow through and sustain it I will need to keep trusting that God will continue to care for me. That’s hard! I need to commit myself to generosity. I need to constantly realign myself to God and the way that he’s asking me to live. I need to bind myself to him, because I know that I’m going to get off track. I need to bind myself to the joyful, peaceful, loving person of God. I think I can handle that. There’s such freedom in being bound to God.
I feel like I need to add here that I don’t think it’s wrong to prepare for the future. We need to, it’s good stewardship to use our resources wisely. But while we are doing so, we must also be looking out for our neighbors. We can’t just stay in a bubble of taking care of ourselves and hoping our neighbor will pick themselves up by the bootstraps and make it. No. That’s just wrong, but it is what I find myself doing all too often. We have to make generosity a priority. It’s how we can “test the genuineness” of our love. If we don’t, our words and intentions are empty.
Let’s find that overwhelming joy in the grace and goodness of God. Let’s voluntarily give according to our means, and even beyond our means, and earnestly seek the privilege of sharing in this ministry of generosity.
I’m excited to hear the next couple sermons.
Credit to Pastor Amanda Olson for the graphic. And for making a sermon about money inspiring.