Rev. L. Althouse
August 13, 2006
Background Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. Devotional Reading: Luke 20:45 through 21:4.
During The Great Depression churchgoing Christians gave a higher percentage of their available income than churchgoers do today. So, whatever financial crunches congregations and denominations are currently facing, it is not so much a matter of prosperity as it is generosity.
John Wesley preached a sermon in which he said: First, “Get all you can,” to which a well-to-do man said aloud, “Amen!” Second, “Keep all you can,” and the man answered even more enthusiastically, “Amen!!” Third, “Give all you can.” There was a moment of silence until the man was heard to remark, “What a shame to spoil a good sermon.” The subject of money has “spoiled” lot of sermons. It even “spoils” some the most explicit teachings of Jesus and Paul.
In 2 Corinthian 8, Paul commends the churches of Macedonia, “for in severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part.” (8:2,3)
Who would have thought that the Macedonian Christians would respond so generously? Paul said that their poverty is “extreme.” The casual observer would have concluded that these people had no means to share. And if the Macedonians had been so minded, what an excuse they would have had: Sorry, Paul, we’re really in a bind.
Poverty & wealth
But there was a counterbalance to their poverty: “their abundance of joy.” Despite the fact they had so little, they were thankful to God for what they had. Instead of focusing on their own plight, they concentrated on the plight of those for whom the collection was being made. In fact, Paul says: “For they gave…beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…” (8:3,4)
The attitude of the Macedonians was not one of grudging obligation; they saw their participation as a privilege.
In the next few verses (6-8), we can assume that Paul was prodding the Corinthian Christians to conclude what they had started (and stopped?). Apparently the Corinthians were proud of their other accomplishments. So, Paul says, “Now as you excel in everything - in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, And in your love for us - see that you also excel in this gracious work.” (8:8)
Stewardship is what we do after we say, “I believe…” Our generosity or lack of it is the proof of the pudding.
Where the heart is
Philip Guedella, the biographer of the Duke of Wellington, spent considerable time in reviewing the Duke’s financial records, “Find out how a man spends his money,” he wrote, “and you will find our what kind of man he is.” Our checkbooks or credit card statements record what we hold to be necessary and worthwhile in life. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Lu. 12:34)
Our stewardship, or lack of it, indicates the depth of our commitment to Christ, the reality of the love and faith we profess. I agree with Richard Braunstein who said, “It is possible to give without love, but it is impossible to love without giving.”
Jesus also warned against addiction to wealth and indicated how difficult it would be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Lu.18:25)
A preacher was handed this note one day as he entered the pulpit: “Please offer special prayers for a member of this congregation who is growing wealthy.” That is why John Wesley said “When I have any money, I get rid of it as quickly as possible, lest it should find a way into my heart.”
A small boy had been given two quarters - one for Sunday school and the other for himself. On the way to church he accidentally dropped one of the quarters. As he watched it roll down the gutter and into a storm drain, he said: “Well, there goes God’s quarter!”
This farm news was published in the August 9, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.