Lectionary reading for 12/10/2021: Isaiah 12:2-6; Amos 8:4-12; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15
Selected passage for reflection: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15
2 Corinthians 9:1-15
The Collection for Christians at Jerusalem
9 Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints, 2 for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you may not prove to have been empty in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; 4 otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—in this undertaking. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion.
6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Several years ago, a coworker of mine had a stress-induced health issue that sent her to the hospital. While her children were staying with a relative, another friend and I assumed the role of caring for her home, so that when she returned she would be comfortable and not worry about cleaning. When we entered the home, we found it in complete disorder. The weight of all that she had been carrying was immediately evident to us—a single mother of two young boys working in an emotionally draining ministry and struggling to make ends meet. No wonder her health had faltered. The two of us cried together on the couch before we could begin to pick up the pieces. Other coworkers later joined the efforts. The director set to giving the space a fresh coat of paint. People donated to fill the family’s refrigerator. Her colleagues and friends entered into the messiness of her situation and gave of themselves when she was in need.
In this passage, Paul is reaching out to the church of Achaia, reminding them of their commitment to raise money for the needs of the church in Jerusalem. For Paul, giving from their hearts—not because they are coerced or guilted into giving—means participation in God’s economy of sharing and interdependence. It not only provides resources to those who need them, the act of giving is also a thank offering to God. It is an opportunity for the church to witness to the resurrection of Christ.
“Give as you have made up your mind,” Paul states. Sometimes our early commitments wane with time. Other times we make our decisions out of fear rather than love. We find ourselves acting in self-preservation or with a scarcity mentality. Remember the panic shopping of March 2020? The fear of not enough remains for many of us, but as Paul saw in the Jerusalem collection, by giving generously we have the opportunity to proclaim a counter narrative—that there is enough. God fulfills our needs and makes things right.
When our coworker returned from the hospital, she was overwhelmed by the gift. All who had participated were moved to tears. Together, we thanked God. The Advent season reminds us that God is with us, and that through Christ, God will bring injustice and suffering to an end. May we give as an act of righteousness, a testament to the gospel, a declaration of love and gratitude to God, an act of worship.
Have you ever been overwhelmed by another’s generosity? Take a moment to write out your gratitude to God for those who have helped you along the way. Is God calling you to address a need in your community? Take the first step.
Holy God, you are our provider. We thank you for your salvation history and for those who have been generous with us personally. Lead us to share with others out of your abundance.
About the Author
Alex Hofmann Macias serves as Director of Academic Programming at North Park Theological Seminary. A native of Tucson, AZ, she now lives just outside of Chicago with her husband and two children. Alex is a lover of foreign films, good food, novels, laughing, and singing really loud in the car.