Today’s readings from the Daily Office offer an interesting juxtaposition. On the one hand, the epistle lesson — which comes from 2 Corinthians 8 — is one of the classic texts on financial stewardship, highlighting both the character of Christian giving and the rationale behind it, along with its ultimate goal:
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 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, 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.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 9, 13-15)
Of course, there’s plenty to chew on in those words, even for the most cheerful and most faithful of givers. For example, does our “overflowing joy” compel us to give “as much as we’re able — and even beyond our ability”? Is giving a privilege in which we “urgently plead” to participate? Do we appreciate the poverty that Jesus embraced so that we could share in His riches? Do we care enough about others that we would want our plenty to supply their need?
But on the other hand, today’s psalm (Psalm 50) underscores the reality that we can be faithful stewards of our financial resources and still fail to give God the offerings He truly desires. After telling His people, “I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices — or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me,” (v.8) the LORD goes on to delineate the best offering:
- Gratitude: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God” (v. 14)
- Obedience: “Fulfill your vows to the Most High” (v. 14)
- Trust: “Call on me in the day of trouble…and you will honor me.” (v.15)
I am blessed to pastor a church in which I rarely feel a need to preach about giving, because the members of the congregation are so generous — not only in their support of the church — but also in their support of ministries and causes beyond the church. However, what we do with our money is an issue frequently addressed in scripture — perhaps because it reveals so accurately what we’re doing with our hearts.
May God be honored in the way we use our resources today, and may our every act become an offering of gratitude, obedience and trust to the One who gave Himself for us.