(This is a guest post from Scott Rim!)
So the subtitle under 2 Corinthians, Chapter 8 reads, “Encouragement to Give Generously”. And that’s pretty much what this passage is about. But why? When? And How? Paul starts off by informing the readers of his letter that the churches in Macedonia are in a “severe test of affliction” and “extreme poverty” (v.2).
When I read that, I couldn’t help but think of images from the tsunami that rocked eastern Japan (in contrast to the toppled lawn chair of the recent earthquake in the East Coast. JK!). Something like a tsunami makes me think that’s what the church could be going through. And in that state of turmoil and hardship, Paul emphasizes that the Macedonian church was still generous in their help to others, “they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (v.3). That is CRAZY! Crazy… without an understanding of how grace can motivate one’s heart and actions.
I started asking myself, what is grace exactly? Is it singing “Grace unmeasured, vast and free…” on Sunday mornings? Maybe more like the FREE (I like free) and undeserved favor and blessing upon others in need of help. “What? You need my help? Uh, I’m sorry but I’m kinda busy right now? TTYL?” Human nature will dictate that to be a very difficult thing to do because why shouldn’t we keep what we have, including our time and attention, only for ourselves and our loved ones?
Uh, maybe because Jesus gave it ALL for us. (v.9) This may be a poor example, but though he was like Steve Jobs (x infinity) and we were like a broke Lindsay Lohan, yet for our sake, he became poor, so that you, broke Lindsay Lohan, by his poverty might become rich. Grace is pretty freaking awesome.
And he’s not even asking us to give it all in order to cause guilt or burden (v.13). Only that if we are in abundance, supply others in need (v.14-15). “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack” (v.15). I think this is asking us how much we value the things of this temporal world in contrast to how much we are investing in the everlasting next.
“So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men” (v.24). Give proof. Not to promote legalism, but it can also be a challenge to prove it to yourself. If we carry the name of Christ, we better be able to back it up. Like if you step up to the mic on American Idol, you better be ready to sing yo! If you’re in the Super Bowl, you better be 6’5″, 250lbs, built like a tank and ready to play! And we are! With the GRACE of God through Christ, we are like 8’1″, 500lb, Andre the Giant! We are the baby of a fire-breathing Godzilla and angry King Kong!