2 Corinthians 8:7-15

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.” 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

How do you hear the word “test”? Whether we’re talking about earning a passing grade on a test at school, or testing the internal structural integrity of steel (a very complicated business), isn’t there something about the word “test” that makes our stomachs churn? Why is that?

Maybe it is about accountability. I like how Rick Warren plays with that word. He says that accountability means that others “have the ability to count on me.” Accountability means keeping promises. Delivering the goods. Aligning our words and our actions. Paul challenges the Corinthians to do what they have said they were going to do. To follow through in following Jesus.

Paul tells the Corinthians that his invitation for them to give cheerfully, sacrificially, and proportionately to the cause of the church in Jerusalem is a test. He isn’t testing their generosity, he is “testing the genuineness of your love.”

On the one hand, being generous with our money isn’t necessarily an outgrowth of our love. We could be courting the favor of others. We could be buying ourselves a seat at the head table. We could be covering up our guilt over how we acquired our money.

On the other hand, our generosity is a visible action that results in gratitude on behalf of both the receiver and the giver. One is grateful for the support, the other is grateful to be in the position of offering their support. Giving and receiving lies at the heart of love.

We love, because God first loved us. We give, because God first gave to us. This is the way it is supposed to work.

When our love compels us to give, Paul reminds us that the measure of our gift isn’t how much we give, it is how much we have left. This is why Christians cannot be legalist about tithing, about giving a flat 10% of our income. It might be equal but it isn’t equitable. It might be simple but it isn’t fair. Tithing takes food out of the mouth of someone living in poverty. Those few on the other hand could give 90% of their income and still have plenty left for very upscale necessities of life.

Paul’s invitation to the Corinthians – and to us – isn’t about the balance of our bank accounts, it is about balance within the life of a Christian community.

Let us pray: Loving God, we want to be accountable to the promises of our identity as your children. To show up with what we have, doing our part as we are able, to further your work in the world. In all things, keep us mindful that we follow Jesus. That his way of being in the world is the model for how we are to be in the world. Let all things in our lives flow from love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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