A bumper sticker proclaimed, “Tithe if you love Jesus. Any fool can honk!” It has been said that when we encounter Jesus that three conversions take place. The first one is the conversion of our hearts. We have a new allegiance and a new object of our love. The second conversion is that of our heads. We learn more and more what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and we conform our lives to our new knowledge. The last conversion is our wallet. We are amazed and humbled by God’s steadfast love and overwhelming grace; by God’s generosity toward us. Responding to God’s generosity we become generous.
Paul encourages the Corinthians in their giving by both complimenting them on their faith and revealing a need. The Christians in Corinth have been blessed with abundance, the Christians in Jerusalem are in need. In Paul’s eyes it is wrong for some brothers and sisters in Christ to live in comfort when other Christians suffer. There is no unity in this. Paul also knows that life is uncertain. Abundance may turn into need and roles may be reversed. Those who receive will give and those who give receive.
We are surrounded by people in need and by a bruised and broken world. We who have been richly blessed have the ability to meet some of those needs and minister to some of the hurts. To do so is one way that we reflect God’s love and grace and shine it into the lives of others.
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of 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. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.
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.”