Summary: We are blessed to be a blessing. One of the ways we are a blessing to others is to share our riches with them.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 “Shared Blessings”
We like to see results. When we’re children, we like to see that we have grown over the past year. Parents like to see good grades. Those of us who are constantly dieting like to see the dial swing down, and when we exercise we like to see an increase in the weights that we can lift or a longer distance that we can run.
When it comes to things spiritual and our walk with God, it is difficult to determine if we are growing or not. Have we grown if we spend more time in prayer or worship more often? Can growth be measured by the number of Bible verses that we memorize, or by the number of times we don’t let a swear word escape from our lips? Can our Christian walk only be measured in years?
Paul’s main intent in writing this letter to the Corinthians is not to help them determine how much they have matured in their walk with God. In today’s lesson, though, he does mention a method that he uses to determine Christian growth.
STRIVE TO EXCELL
Paul opens this passage by commenting that the Corinthians excel. They excel in their faith, speech, knowledge, and enthusiasm. The Christian life is a life in which we can strive to excel.
There are a few passages in the Scriptures where God challenges his people to be perfect. We are to be perfect because God is perfect. Most scholars, however, believe that though the Holy Spirit does move in each and everyone of our lives to mold us and sanctify us, our perfection will come only when we see Jesus face to face.
Thankfully we don’t need to be perfect. We’d never make it if we did. But, we can strive for excellence.
Most of us strive for excellence in many areas of our lives. We want to be the best parent that we can be, the best student, and to excel in our vocation. We might strive for excellence in our golf game or some other sport, or in our health. Excellence is not limited to these areas. We can strive for excellence in our Christian lives.
AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
If we are going to strive to excel we need something to shoot for. Paul holds up the person of Jesus Christ. His life is what we should be emulating.
Specifically, Paul instructs his readers to follow Jesus’ example in the way he emptied himself and became poor for our sakes. Jesus had everything, after all Jesus was God, but he gave it all up for us. In Philippians, Paul writes that though he was God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and took on human form. Being found in human form he became obedient even to death on a cross. Jesus’ actions are the epitome of giving.
We are challenged to follow Jesus’ example in many ways, such as how he includes the excluded, puts love over rules, and talks about love rather than judgment. Giving and sharing are other ways that we can follow the example of Jesus.
A TRUE MEASUREMENT
Paul talks to the Christians in Corinth about a need. The area of Israel and Judah had been hit by a drought. The Christians in that area were lacking many of the necessities of life because of the drought. Paul challenges the Corinthians to give from their abundance in order to meet a need—so that the one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.
What is really surprising about what Paul writes is that he says that he is issuing this challenge to give to the Christians in Israel as a test of the Corinthian’s faith. For Paul, the most accurate measurement for the depth of a person’s faith is the level of their giving. I’m reminded of a bumper sticker that I once read, “Tithe if you love Jesus, any fool can honk.”
The measurement is not how much we give, but rather our giving in relation to what we have.
There are many reasons why giving is a good measurement of our faith.
• It follows the example of Jesus.
• It reflects our basic understanding as Christians that we are blessed to be a blessing.
• It changes our focus off ourselves and on to others.
• It is a statement of faith saying that we believe God will continue to provide for us even when we share his gifts to us.
The message of Jesus and of Paul is directly opposed to what you and I hear day in and day out. That message tells us to accumulate. Jesus and Paul encourage us to give, knowing that the true riches of life do not come from what we have but rather from what we share. Amen