“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.” (II Corinthians 8:7 – 9)
The types of “rich” and “poor” that Paul is talking about are not interchangeable. The Lord Jesus Christ’s wealth was not materialistic but spiritual wealth. And his poverty was not loss of resources or status, but becoming human. How to explain that though to “young” believers. Better, I imagine he thought, to let the image of physical resources and assets stand.
And the “undertaking” that Paul was encouraging them towards was the giving of resources and supplies as relief for believers in other cities/churches. Paul hoped by this mutual exchange of gifting that the groups would feel some connection to one another. This subtle subterfuge has always made me a little uneasy.
“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.” (Verses 10 – 12)
There is a saying – the best gifts comes in small packages. Beloved reader, there are many possible interpretations for that adage. The first that springs to mind is sparkly items in a jewelry box. But that is giving the define of the word “best” monetary value that was not the original intent. There is a host and plethora of stories of small packages being sent to far away places where there is need. What to one person in one location maybe easy and inexpensive to buy off the shelf – maybe to another person in another location a highly sought, hard to find, and pricey item. You just never know!
“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.” (Verses 13 – 15)
The adage that Paul quoted takes some of the sting out the exhortation. And set against the tremendous need and the over abundance of abundance in current society, maybe a little reciprocity between two groups is not such a bad thing. That is, however, fit the “haves” and “have nots” can come to a middle ground understanding that each might have something that the other would value, and be willing to share. The more I think about this, the less wily Paul’s ploy seems to be.
May you beloved reader heed the lessons of giving and sharing so that everyone might feel grateful and elevated in esteem. Shalom & Selah!