Lectionary reading for 12/9/2021: Isaiah 12:2-6; Amos 6:1-8; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 12:2-6
2 Corinthians 2:8-15
The Collection for the Lord’s People
8 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”[b]
Fred Rogers’ famous quote about his mother has not grown old for me yet. When he was a boy and would see scary things in the news, she said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
In a society that seems to be increasingly individualistic, we can still look around and see stories of people helping one another and being generous with one another. I’ve been looking for these stories in the last year or so as the pandemic hit and poverty increased. I read the Good News Network and my daily newsfeed and learned of nurses and doctors that were going above and beyond and heard stories of people working extra hours at food banks and homeless shelters.
The spirit of generosity described by Paul in 2 Corinthians reminds us what it means to live in community. No one is an island here, all are made in the image of God, all deserve to be seen and heard and cared for out of the plenty that we have. This is especially important when we consider those on the margins, people who are vulnerable, those who have been forgotten by the medical community because they live too far away or don’t have insurance, or because they are victims of systemic injustice in a society that can hardly talk about these topics without sending alarms and buzz words flying in every direction.
“Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so,” (v. 10). Now finish the work… for it’s not about what we don’t have, but rather what we DO have! What if we increased our desire to be generous? What if we let it stretch to all areas of our lives? Not just financially, but including financially, emotionally, politically, physically as well as generous with our time? What if we looked at what we DO HAVE and gave abundantly and freely from that well?
I currently live in Lyon, France. French society is known for a lot of wonderful traits, but abundant giving is not one of them. The culture is skeptical and fearful of people who are not in your inner circle of friends and family. But the helpers are here, too! My husband’s pharmacist goes out of her way to find him everything he needs, even accepting his prescriptions when they’re in Portuguese. Our friend, Eve, has given us her girls’ used clothes that are in incredible condition and from stores that are more expensive than the ones where I shop. Valerie, our neighbor, gave us all her sons’ old legos for the girls to play with when we moved to our new neighborhood, and another neighbor gave us her grandchildren’s old books. Our friend, Catherine, goes out of her way to help blind people when she sees them struggling to find their way in the big city. And on and on. The Triune God is a community and has made us for community. Look for the helpers. And try to be one.
Think of the helpers you’ve seen lately. Notice the simplicity as they give of what they have. Take a moment to find a place where you can expand your generosity: emotionally, with your time, financially, your physical presence, spiritually, etc. If you feel maxed out in all areas, allow God’s abundant love to hold you just as you are.
Triune God who dances and shares abundantly within your Three Persons, and allows it to overflow to all of Creation, thank you for what I have at this moment. Lead me to share from what I have and not from what I don’t have so I can participate in this mystery called community where no one has too little or too much.
About the Author
Johnna Hayward Muniz grew up in Wisconsin, but resides in France with her Brazilian husband and two young girls where they run Meetup groups as cross-cultural bridge builders as global personnel serving with Serve Globally of the Covenant Church.