Devotions for 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
June 20-26, 2016
Monday, June 20, 2016
“We want you to know … about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 8:1).
Some congregations include a brief litany in their worship services. It begins with the leader proclaiming, “God is good!” The response by the congregation is, “All the time.” The phrase is then reversed with the leader saying, “All the time,” and the people responding, “God is good.” It would not be difficult to change the word, “good” to “gracious.” God’s graciousness is as prevalent and all-encompassing as God’s goodness. There isn’t a moment, breath or heartbeat when we don’t experience God’s grace.
Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians that we are saved–rescued from lives lived separated from God–by God’s gift of grace. In his explanation to the first article of the Apostles’ Creed Martin Luther teaches that God provides us with all we need for our daily lives because of God’s divine goodness and mercy–grace. Now in his second letter to the Corinthians Paul writes that it was God’s grace that gave the Christians in Macedonia the ability to be generous even when they were experiencing extreme poverty.
We are always grateful recipients of God. We praise the Lord for our lives lived in a relationship with God, for our call to serve God with our gifts and talents, for answered prayers and God’s steadfast love. Are we as thankful for God saving us from materialism, greed and selfishness? Do we praise God for God’s grace that enables us to be generous, to share our blessings and to help others even when we may not have all that we want? God graciously seeks to transform every area of our lives.
Generous God, we thank you for your abundant grace in our lives. Continue to move in our lives that we may reflect your grace and generosity. Amen.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
“Their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
At first glance these words appear to be an oxymoron. Abundant joy and extreme poverty are combined. All developed nations live by the creed that happiness and joy are found in “more.” We can only be really happy if we have more money, more things, more power, more, more, more. We rationalize to ourselves that when we have more and eventually enough then we will be able to be generous. Poverty is the absence of more. Poverty is living in less. Though poverty is usually thought to be the opposite of enough, the Macedonians in their joy and poverty had enough to give generously.
The Macedonians must have discovered that joy comes from being content with what one has. We experience joy when we share time and food with family and friends. Joy comes in working at what we love using the gifts and talents with which we have been blessed. The contentment that spawns joy and generosity rests in the faith that the Lord is a God of love who gives us our daily bread. We need nothing more than that.
Paul used the Macedonians to remind the Corinthians and us that generosity can be expressed in extreme poverty and abundant wealth. We do not become generous because we can be generous. Generosity is the expression of love–a love that sees a need and seeks to meet that need with whatever we have to give.
God of Abundance, in a word filled with discontent, enable us to be content in your love and your grace so that we can give you thanks and praise in all circumstances. Amen.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
“They voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).
A veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide after an unsuccessful battle with PTSD. The community responded with an outpouring of support for her husband and the family’s three small children. People wanted to give in order not only to help a family in need but also to honor a veteran who served her country so valiantly. The students of a grade school raised thousands of dollars for the Children’s Hospital where their classmate was treated for leukemia. The members of a congregation gave sacrificially to a family of the congregation whose home had been destroyed by fire.
People do amazing things when they are motivated by need and by love. The Macedonian congregations gave beyond their means because they saw the need that the Jerusalem brothers and sisters had because of the drought. Their gifts were a practical expression of their love.
Many things might motivate us to give. We might give out of a sense of duty or because of deep feelings of guilt. Gifts are often offered because the givers think they are supposed to or because they must. Need and love, though, are by far the stimulates that best enable us to accomplish great things.
Loving God, open our eyes that we may see the needs that are around us and open our hearts that we may respond in love. Amen.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
“They gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5).
It has been said that the easiest way to know what is most important in people’s lives is to look at their calendar and checkbook. We may say that serving the Lord is our greatest priority, but if our financial support for our congregations is less than money we spend at the ice cream parlor or coffee shop we might need to question that statement. Our calendars may put into question our claims that our families are number one in our lives, if they don’t include any time spent on our children’s activities or on date nights with our spouses. Knowing the truth that is contained in our check books and calendars is a beneficial exercise we periodically peruse each in order to see if they support what we claim to be our priorities.
When the Macedonians decided to become followers of the Way and members of the fellowship of people who called themselves “Christians,” that became the priority in their lives. Their sole desire was to be faithfully obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; to do only what God wanted them to do. The Macedonians’ generosity clearly demonstrated this. They wanted to give to the aid of their brother and sister Christians in Jerusalem, because they believed that was what God wanted them to do.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we have given ourselves to the Lord in response to God’s grace. Our lives then become reflections of this truth. The people around us, our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers are able to see our commitment in our words and actions.
Holy God, we are yours and we know that the purpose of our lives is to serve you. Move in our lives that our words and actions demonstrate this clearly to everyone around us. Amen.
Friday, June 24, 2016
“I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others” (2 Corinthians 8:8).
People have always wanted to gauge the validity of their Christian faith and that of others. They have done this in a number of ways. Sometimes people “prove” that they are Christians by what they don’t do. They don’t smoke, drink, swear, dance, gamble or have illicit sexual relations. The faith of those who do any of these activities is questionable. Other Christian groups measure faith by beliefs. For example, true Christians believe in the second coming, that abortion is always wrong and that same-sex marriages are evil. Other measurements are the number of hours spent on church activities, or the time spent in soup kitchens, food pantries and fund-raisers.
Paul has a method of determining the depth of people’s faith. It is one that may make many of us uncomfortable. Paul writes that the genuineness of our love can be seen by the level of our generosity. What does the level of our giving (time, treasures, and talents) reveal about our faith? Does it show that we are a generous people, or people who are still wrapped up in ourselves? We can argue about the accuracy of generosity in determining the depth of our faith, but Paul’s claim does give us pause to reflect on our generosity.
Lavish Lord, you have held nothing back in revealing your love for us. May we reflect your generosity in our lives. Amen.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
“For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12).
Karen had been a strong supporter of the Lord’s ministries through her congregation. It was difficult for her to tell the congregational treasurer that she needed to reduce her pledge because she had lost her job due to a merger. The treasurer nodded in an understanding way. Taking Karen’s hand and looking her in the eye he said, “It’s okay, Karen. The Lord never expects us to give what we don’t have.” Once he had said this he bowed his head and prayed for Karen asking that the Holy Spirit would open up a door for a new job.
Some people like to compare their giving with others. This usually happens when the people have good incomes and they don’t have to give much of their income in order to be one of the top givers. God never tells us to compare our giving with others. A more revealing measurement is the level of our giving when compared to the level of our income. Joyful generosity is not only what the Lord desires in our lives, but it is a blessing in itself. We have the privilege to be able to share from what we have in order to help someone who is in need.
Creator God, you have provided us with meaningful work that provides for our needs and allows us to serve you. Forbid us from keeping the fruit of our labors for only ourselves. Amen.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
“It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14).
The top eighty-five of the richest people in the world control more assets than the poorest fifty percent of the world’s population. During the presidential primary, much has been said about the growing gulf between the richest one percent of the United States’ population and the other ninety-nine percent. CEO’s in the United States make 325 times what hourly employees in their companies make. A small handful of people who caused the economic downturn prospered while millions of people lost jobs and homes. Enough food is produced each year to feed everyone, yet twenty percent of the world’s population go hungry while thirty person of the people in the United States are obese.
These facts and figures are not God’s plan for the people of the world. God envisioned a world where there was a fair balance; no one had too much and no one was in need. Our world is broken, though, and human greed and selfishness have created a great inequity that in turn created hunger, poverty, suffering and disease for billions of people. Obviously, we are not able to change the world, but we can change our part of the world. We can choose to live in such a way that we have enough and no one lacks. How might that be done?
Holy Lord, we pray for the rich and the not so rich that we may make changes in our lives and live in such a way that hunger, poverty, suffering and disease are eased. Amen.