Giving

Sermon by Wasihun Gutema (pastoral intern)

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

June 28, 2015

2 Corinthian 8: 7-15

Introduction: The text for today is connected to the section that preceded and that followed. In all sections, beginning from chapter 8: 1-24 to chapter 9, the main idea focuses on GIVING.

The apostle Paul was the founder of this congregation. He has been with this congregation for a year and a half.  It is very difficult to have a congregation fully grown with in this time span.  Yet the Corinthian church has grown in many ways despite some of the issues it was entangling with.   From sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5: 1-13) to conflict and from being remaining infant at the age to be a teacher (1 Cor. 3: 1-4) to not full filling their promises (2 Cor. 8:10). They failed to keep their promises.

Given their life situation, Paul the apostle could have abandoned them.  But he did not. He continued to be connected to them even after he departed from them. He was joyful that they repented (2 Cor. 7 5-13). He says that his heart was wide open to them which is a sign of welcoming and accepting them.   

Then Paul moved to warn them for being associated with the unbelievers (2 Cor. 6: 14 ff.)  The apostle then started to encourage them. He began his words by saying you excel in everything (v. 7). What does to excel mean? Excel (περισσεύω) means to overflow. The Greek NT word for excel is immense in definition. I will not be detailing the definitions but I am picking the word overflow. You overflew in many things. You excelled/overflew in speech. Your speeches were salty. Your speeches did not hurt people rather may have brought others to Christ. Your speeches taste Christ.

You also excel in knowledge and in faith.  Paul is speaking here that their excellence or overflowing is not something of seeking superiority. Their excellence was not in terms of making someone/somebody inferior or superior. Excelling in Christ does not make one inferior or superior. We all excel in Christ, for we have the same grace.  From a shoe shiner to a well-known person, we all have same place in Christ’s grace.

What Paul is speaking is something connected to God in terms of priorities. It is not about choosing between good or bad, for the priority for any Christian is Christ.

Good things may be obstacles in our Christian lives.  Even if they are good, if they obstacle me in my faith, I would get rid of them which is to excel in the grace of God which of course prioritizes Christ. .

Paul then moved to the area where they did not excel but also did not fail. He is not accusing them but he is pointing that they have to excel in GIVING too.  Their Giving is not up to his expectation.  Thus, he began saying that “You also excel in the grace of Giving (2 Cor. 8: 7). He actually started by taking about the Macedonian Christians who were not bound by their situations.

In 2 Cor. 8: 2 Paul speaks that the Macedonians had great afflictions and in extreme poverty but that did not bound them not to give.  They excelled in GIVING in spite of their poverty.  Poverty could not be an excuse for them not to GIVE.

You cannot use your situation as an excuse not to contribute to the lives of others and for the expansion of the kingdom of God.  Difficult situations cannot be a reason not to contribute. The lady in the Gospel of Mark 12 had nothing but she gave all.  We are called to contribute to others out of our poorness which in turn makes others rich (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Our contribution is not to be seen in terms of money only. We can contribute to the lives of others despite difficulties. Even if we are poor in one, we may be rich in others. We can touch the lives of others through prayer, love, and compassion.

There was a young girl in my uncle’s home in Addis Ababa. This young girl was not a Christian. No body also preached her to be but one night she started to cry. She said that her heart was touched by the love the family had. She was then converted. The grace of the Lord touched her. Love from the family attracted her to Christ.  Is there an area where we need to excel today? Yes, we can excel in speaking against racism. We can excel in speaking for the poor, etc.  We also can contribute out of poorness when it comes to money believing that the Lord is our provider.

But do we give because we have? We do not give because we have. We give because of the abundant grace bestowed on us. We give because we are saved. Salvation is not stagnant. It produces fruits. Out of the many fruits giving is one.  It does not mean I contribute to my salvation by giving. We are saved by grace alone (Sola Gracia).

We should not think that our giving impacts our salvation rather it is our salvation that impacts our giving.  My salvation took me out of myself. The grace that saves, also frees us.[1]  It frees us to GIVE.  I am no longer my own. I am of Christ and my decisions are all impacted by him from giving to any.[2] I have nothing but he has all. I give what is given to me. The more I am not my own, the more I give. When I am not my won, I give even in poverty.  I give out of poorness trusting the Lord that my poorness produces richness in others.

Look at the example of Macedonians (2 Cor. 8: 8)! They were poor yet making others rich.  This means I am not poor when I am making others rich.  I may be poor in one but not in all.  You may be rich but not in all.  That means their richness in all of us and there is a vacuum in all of us. Your vacuum does not mean, you are not valuable. Through your vacuum, you make others rich and through the richness of others you will be filled. You richness is not ultimate security (Mark 5: 21ff). The centurion in this text was a public figure. He was a man of position but that was not a guarantee nor a barrier for him. His position nor his back ground did not repel him from Christ.  His position did not avoid death in his family. They were not his securities.  He broke all his barriers in culture and then attracted to Christ.

The bleeding women was the very opposite. She was an outcast. She was economically poor and her health was deteriorating but she had rich hands that touched Christ.  Although both had different backgrounds, both excelled in one and failed in other. They had vacuums. They had also excels.  You may excel in many but you still need someone to fill your vacuum.  Thus, we need Christ and each other.

One can conclude from the Macedonian Christian’s that their giving was not circumstantial. It was sacrificial[3] (2 Cor. 8:9). Paul is shifting their eyes now. He has already set Macedonians as an example but the ultimate example is Christ who became poor while rich.

Paul is not talking a bare footed Christ walking in Judean desert nor around Galilean Sea.  Paul is talking about the Christ who left his heavenly glory to be in a cow pen and freed us through poorness so that we as Christians be rich.

Finally, Paul encourages them that they GIVE willingly (2.Cor. 8: 12) He also speaks of Sharing (2 Cor. 8: 13). I share out of my poverty while the situation is difficult. I do not see into my situation but I look to Christ and contribute so that other might be rich and the richness of others may flow to me. It is not a one way flow but it is a two but I do not expect anything in return to my GIVING.

As the followers of Christ, let us look ourselves carefully and ask Christ to excel today. Christ’s grace is here to help us excel. Let us also contribute to the finance of this congregations in the way we can beyond our situations but depending on the grace of Christ. Let us give ourselves without living any room.  When we leave no room, GIVING is easy by the grace of Christ. Let us give ourselves to Christ and to one another and to this congregation (2 Cor. 8: 5).  Amen!

[1] Taken from a sermon preached by my former pastor while I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2008.

[2] Taken from Faith 5 discussion. It is taken from a young girl by the name Madeline in May 2015.

[3] Taken from Oromo Evangelical Church annual training in Washington, DC in 2013. The training was on Tithing and was conducted by the church council and pastoral staff.

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