(2 Cor. 5:17)
Studies in Second Corinthians
This Grace Of Giving
Please read chapter 8 of Second Corinthians. It is about taking an offering. A refreshing surprise for people who have been dulled in spirit by the countless pleas for funds that assail us. The new creature in Christ is drawn to it with joy. Weren’t you? Didn’t you yearn to be part of such a splendid exercise of Christian love and concern?
It’s so different from the usual fund raising which leaves one cold even though it may get results (the quarter pitched at the aggressive demands of a professional panhandler). This is so special in manner, method, and purpose that giving actually becomes a grace!
More Privilege Than Duty
The Corinthian Christians were lagging in the synod-wide effort to get help to the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem who were desperately impoverished (no doubt largely because they were confessing Christ in a hostile situation). A year earlier they had been leaders in this. Now their willingness had wilted (v. 10-11) as their own house was divided by controversies.
The Macedonian Miracle
The first thing the Apostle does is to report what the Spirit of Christ had accomplished in Philippi and other neighboring churches. These people were themselves extremely poor (v. 2). Yet their “poverty welled up in rich generosity.” A dramatic expression of the fact that they had first given themselves to the Lord and to the saints (v. 4).
“Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee!” The first step to gracious giving. When someone sees himself and all that he has as redeemed by Christ, something follows: my life and my goods are at my Lord’s disposal. I am honored to be in His service. In Macedonia “they urgently pleaded . . . for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (v. 4).
Is it our duty to give liberally for the work of the gospel? Of course. But Paul is more interested in fruits of faith than what we might feel obliged to do. “Duty may get something done, but love will do it better.” In the Apostle’s example, they gave beyond their ability. More than could ever be reasonably expected. And this without promotion, entirely on their own (v. 3).
In contemporary church life we see the same spirit of gracious giving. One of our CLC churches had its beginning in the 60’s when a nucleus of 11 adults committed themselves to provide at least one half the cost of a resident ministry if the synod’s mission program (meager as its resources were) would be responsible for the rest. This bilateral “beyond ability” zeal bore beautiful fruit. Also as a stimulating example of “gracious giving.” Something for the churches to see (v. 24).
The Grace Of Our Lord
What is the motive, the driving power, of gracious giving? It is simply the image of Christ in whom this new kind of benevolence is realized.
We are urged to know what we easily forget: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 9). Let that image be vivid to the eyes of faith! “We are rich, for He was poor. Is not this a wonder?” That we might be enriched with forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation He impoverished Himself, leaving behind His glory as God. “He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Php. 2). This led Him to death on a cross.
All this giving that we might be rich! No wonder that image continues to give birth to gracious giving, the kind of giving that glorifies Jesus and His grace.
Some Practical Advice
Lofty as the gospel is when it comes to giving, the Spirit’s spokesman has down to earth advice that reckons with human need and nature.
1) Gracious giving is well keyed to what one has (even though some,
like the Macedonians, gave “beyond their ability” — v. 12).
2) The goal is equalizing the burden among the saints. When you are
prospering you are able to carry more. When you are “in need” others
will relieve you (vv. 13-15). (We hear of a church that passed the
plate with the instruction: “Put in what you can share; take out what
you need.” No report on how it worked.)
3) Let the churches take great care as they administer the offerings
(vv. 16-24). Failure in this has put some televangelists in jail. The
fruits of gracious giving are too precious to lose to the greed of
those who carry them in trust. Auditing the books is good.
In another issue of the Spokesman you will find the continuation of this heart-warming subject as it appears in chapter 9.
–Rollin A. Reim
NOTE: At the 1965 Convention of the CLC there was a paper called “The Macedonian Miracle.” Written by Robert A. Reim. It deals with this aspect of our sanctification in its vital relationship to the gospel widely distributed at that time, it might be due for re-issue. Contact the Spokesman if you would like a copy for personal or Bible class use.