“Generosity goes far beyond finances; it is a condition of the heart.”
This is one of the things we glean from the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Although there was much division and sense of hurt feelings, it was towards the second part of this letter possible to encourage them towards being generous towards the Jerusalem congregation that was suffering a drought and subsequently a form of famine, which was leading towards poverty. (See 2 Corinthians 8:1-15)
It wasn’t hard for Paul to make this appeal, as his appeal was grounded in something way deeper. It was grounded in another church in their region that had responded to the life of Christ and become generous beyond their means own means.
It was based on the Macedonians’ response. What happens, is that Paul’s primary exemplar is Christ’s grace: “Though rich, he became poor for our sakes so that by his poverty we might become rich.” Wow, isn’t that profound! It’s not because of anything else. It’s due to the fact that Jesus “became poor for our sakes so that by his poverty we might become rich.”
There is often a multitude of ways to give towards dire needs. They are noble; make no mistake.
The Canadian government makes it possible to even receive a tax break on monies given to registered charities. That’s wonderful.
Oftentimes there are huge appeals to give generously towards a heart-wrenching painful incident. Without blinking an eye, we today are able to click on a link on the internet, give generously as we know we have lots to be thankful for.
The social media help along and there are an abundance of possibilities to give towards the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Haiti, Syria and Fort McMurray. These are of course plausible ways of helping, for example, the Red Cross to help on our behalf.
When the apostle Paul writes about this spirit of generosity, giving is first to be voluntarily and not done out of compulsion. Secondly, it is to be done on the basis of what one has and not on what one does not have; the point is not to be greedy with what one has. God’s overflow of grace not only grounds the possibility of our being reconciled with one another, but it also grounds the possibility of our being able to have genuine reciprocity with one another. Our current overflow meets another’s current need, so that at some other point in time their overflow may be there for us in our time of need. After all, is this not what koinonia or fellowship is all about? It’s not only sharing in one another’s pain and joy, but also sharing in one another’s poverty and wealth.
The apostle Paul wants the Corinthians to see whatever sacrifice they’re making for their fellow Christian believers in Jerusalem; in light of the sacrifice Jesus made for them when he left his home with Father God to live and die on earth. Paul frames the Jerusalem poverty relief fund as a matter of imitating Jesus. Jesus gave up the richness of life in heaven, in perfect union with Father God and the Spirit.
And he became a human. He didn’t become a king or nobleman or business tycoon. Jesus was no one rich or powerful or famous. He was just a human. He came as a poor kid, born to an unwed teenage mother. And he grew up in a backwater town in Galilee no one had ever heard of. And he died a shameful death reserved for outlaws, slaves, and other defeated people. That’s Jesus’ generosity!
As Paul calls it here, that’s “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus did this as a gift, for the benefit of all humanity. As Paul says here: “He became poor for our sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.” So Paul wants the Corinthians to imitate the generosity of Jesus. He wants them to know that they aren’t just giving money to help feed some hungry Judean Christians. They were doing that, of course. But they were doing something much deeper, too. They were sharing in the grace of Jesus Christ.
You may agree that there’s nothing so fundamentally wrong about being generous as such. To my mind, our lives as Christians simply shed a wonderful liberating reason to our generosity.
When we give again, let’s pause and reflect. Let’s pause deeply, remembering what Jesus Christ actually did for our sakes. Jesus’ death on a cross, and Jesus’ resurrection has enriched us immensely. When we are grateful for that, the spirit of generosity gets a new and richer meaning.
Homily presented by (The Rev.) Dr Heinrich Grosskopf
Copyright July 3, 2016