Summary: The paradox of wealth is that no matter what we own; the Lord is the source of it all! First fruits are the Lord’s
The Paradox of Wealth, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
In today’s Scripture reading, we pick up on a similar theme. This is only once complete chapter away from the passage we examined last week. Now we pick up on the Apostle Paul instructing the Corinthian Church with regard to generosity and giving. As always, the Holy Spirit uses the Apostle not only to teach of surface matters; generosity and giving, but to move to the deeper matters which drive our generosity; namely, the nature of true wealth and the heart’s attitude of the genuine giver. What is the right attitude toward giving an offering to the Church, a donation to missions, or a charitable gift to someone in need? It occurs to me that there is no better way to gauge where a person’s heart is than to look how that person spends their money. It also occurs to me that for many people there are few subjects which make them less uncomfortable than money. For me, money is not something that I enjoy talking about very much. Money is a tool for living; it is a means and not an end in and of itself. As such, I am not very well inclined to discuss it much, not because I am uncomfortable with such dialogue, but because I am not overly concerned with it.
But for some people, the pursuit of money, the clinging to money, the seeking after ways to make more and more of it is a very serious ailment. Indeed, it has been my experience that it is not, as some have supposed, necessarily those with the most money who tend to be the most consumed buy it, though certainly greed without bounds is a common theme in our day. Often it is those who have the least money who are the most consumed by the quest for more of it; as many of these folks live under the false assumption that if they had more money they would have more peace, security, and be altogether happier. This is not always the case. Today, we will talk about money but even more than that we will talk on matters of generosity and what it means to have the heart of a giver.
The story is told of three preachers who were having lunch together one afternoon. As often happens in such settings, the subject of church finances came up in conversation and each man told of how he handled the offering plates at his church on Sunday mornings. The first man said that what he did was to take all of the money out of the offering plate and gather it together in his hands, after having drawn a straight line on the floor in front of the place where he stood.
He said that he would throw all of the money in to the air and whatever money fell on the left side of the line was his and whatever fell on the right side of the line was Gods. The second preacher said, well that is a pretty good system but what I do is to draw a circle on the floor. Then I take all of the money and throw it into the air. Whatever money lands inside the circle is God’s and the rest is mine. The third preacher, not to be outdone said, well, what I do is very similar to what both of you do; only I don’t draw any line. I take all of the money and throw it up into the air and I figure that whatever of the money God wants He can reach down and grab and whatever is left over on the floor I keep for myself!
Before moving on, allow me to assure you that we do not use any of these systems of caring for the offering in the Church! As this story illustrates, in its own way, a lot of us do have false thinking about giving to God don’t we?
Some of us give but aren’t sure how much we should give or we aren’t sure if there is any kind of a standard of what is the right amount to give. Others give so much that it becomes a great burden; giving more than perhaps they should as their compassion compels them to give even what they don’t have to give. There are many healthy and unhealthy attitudes which drive our giving. It is not always the one with the most who gives the most. Let’s look at our text for today to see what we can learn from the word of God with regard to giving.
In verse seven the Apostle Paul opens his admonishment toward generosity by commending the Corinthian Church with regard to their spiritual fruits. He writes, “But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV)