Rev. Katherine Todd
2 Corinthians 8:8-15
Luke 6:38, 49
…Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” …The one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”
2 Corinthians 8: 8-15
I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
“The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.”
The words of Jesus Christ continue to make us uncomfortable. Jesus’ words stopped folks in their tracks. They confounded. They compelled. They inspired. They shed light.
Have you ever felt the awkwardness of being in a large room with someone who knows you well and doesn’t have any inhibition sharing it with others? …like your mother?!? …hypothetically speaking. 😉
We can feel like the fluorescent lights have been turned on in the dressing room: it’s not a pretty sight! And this is part of the paradox of knowing Jesus. Jesus both comforted and disquieted, healed and afflicted. And in reality, it wasn’t that Jesus afflicted, so much as that he SHED LIGHT ON the afflictions of the afflicted. The brights were turned on, the veils of delusions lifted, the lies exposed…
And so for the seeker, Jesus was water in the desert…while for the comfortably indifferent, Jesus was a flashpoint, a lightning rod,…fluorescent lighting in a dressing room (no wonder they wanted him gone!).
And the lines aren’t so clear, as each of us is a mingled mix of light and dark, goodness and evil. And so God comes to each of us, in these dichotomous ways. Have you experienced this? THIS is the reality of encounters with the Holy One: we are at once soothed and agitated.
And when it comes to giving, Christ does this to all of us, does he not?
We all want to feel secure. We want to exercise wisdom and plan ahead. We stock up for a rainy day. We prepare for as many possible outcomes as we can.
And then Jesus tells us to share.
And we get defensive. We feel like the bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom to come get the party started: we tell our unplanning comrades to go get their own supplies! And this is another image given to us by Christ! Christ commends those who plan and live expectantly. But Christ also gives us other dichotomous stories, and we have instructions such as these from Paul – calling each of us to give according to our means “that the rich may not be too rich and the poor not too poor.
Doesn’t this feel a bit unfair?
After all, haven’t we earned what we have? Deserved it? Worked hard and planned ahead for it?
But God appears less concerned about our sensibilities of fairness and more concerned that everyone have enough.
Can we say the same?
Are we less concerned with fairness than that everyone have enough??
Again, Christ challenges our sensibilities – at once soothing and irritating.
Have you heard the reports that during Covid the super-rich have become even richer? Do you imagine this to be the case for most of us?
And how often do we see that these enormous proceeds return to the workers, the ordinary people? Do we ever??
Jesus Christ would likely have been quickly labeled a socialist. After all, he advises the rich man to sell everything he owns and to give it to the poor. That sounds pretty socialist – or even communist – to me.
But here in this scripture passage, we see that the goal is not for the rich to become poor and the poor to become rich. No. That is what we saw in most violent succession in Communist China. That is not what I hear Paul advocating.
What I hear is God’s concern for ALL – that each have enough, not too little nor too much.
And if we believe that God has our very best interest in mind – I mean truly believe it – then might we take a cue from this scripture? Might we gather that having too much can be as detrimental as having too little? Might we recall Jesus’ words that it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
It seems that having too much may in fact be even more detrimental to our well-being than having too little. And here we even have Paul lifting up the worldly impoverished faith community in Macedonia – for their exceeding generosity – giving according to their means, and then more-so, eager to take part in the life-giving work of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Is it not true that quite often those poorest in things are simultaneously those richest in faith?!
And so this command to give and to share of our wealth, time, and talents is not a call to pick our wallets or a call to communism.
No, this is a call to wellbeing,
a call to wholeness and fullness of life,
a call to “eternal” life = quality of life.
For the Kingdom comes, the Kindom of God comes, and is made present and real among us and in us, when we – like the Macedonians – eagerly join in the work of God around us, giving as we have means and in great joy.
Thus, is it any wonder that it is more blessed to give than to receive?! The proof – the blessing – is in the pudding!
May each one of us,
for the booming voice that comes in clouds on a mountaintop,
for that steady voice that quiets the storms ravaging our shores,
for that still small voice in the silent and solitary moments,
and may we choose
that in giving
in good measure,
You who are at home, deep in my heart,
Enable me to join you, deep in my heart.
As the rain hides the stars, as the autumn mist hides the hills, as the clouds veil the blue of the sky, so the dark happenings of my log hide the shining of your face from me. Yet, if I may hold your hand in the darkness, it is enough. Since I know that, though I may stumble in my going, you do not fall.