Daily Devotion – June 21, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
8:7 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.
8:8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others.
8:9 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.
8:10 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–
8:11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means.
8:12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have.
8:13 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
8:14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.
8:15 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.”
How do you convince snug people to open up and be generous? This was Paul’s impossible task.
The Corinthians were cosmopolitan people with great education and wealth and position in their lively city. They certainly did not “need” the church. They were just fine without it. They knew everything, owned everything, and had no future likelihood of ever needing anything from anyone.
In a 30 year career of working with congregations, I have gotten to know from the inside out many local churches. They come in all shapes and sizes, all types of history, all types of class backgrounds. And oddly enough, it doesn’t matter a bit where in the world they are located: prosperous churches behave the same as other prosperous churches, missional churches behave the same as other missional churches, spiritual discerning churches behave the same as other spiritual discerning churches, whether they are in Africa, Denmark, Norway, Germany, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, or the good old USA. Smugness will keep a congregation happily asleep through everything, including their own death.
Paul keeps trying to wake the Corinthians by saying they know a lot, they are talented, they are eager – they need to hear Paul’s credit of them before they will wake up and listen to him. They need to be complimented before they will entertain any requests. But he DOES get to the requests. He asks them to give money, money he knows they have, and money they have already promised (pledged) to give to underwrite his ministry in poorer places. Don’t you wonder what they ended up giving after this letter?
It is nearly impossible to get a smug person to change anything – s/he is so happy to be right and comfortable and not needing anything from anyone that s/he will never open up to the wider world. So how did Paul appeal to a smug congregation? By appealing to something else the church wants: a reputation for fairness and kindness. If by chance you or I were smug, what would he have had to use to appeal to us? What does the Lord have to say to us today to get us to open our eyes to share our abundance of time and energy with others?
Gracious God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for giving us so much to be happy with. Remind us in the most effective ways that we are to share, to expand our experience, to get out of our shells and get to know the rest of the world you have placed us in the midst of. Amen.