Let us pray: Lord, give us courage to hear your Word well, with willing hearts. Give us courage to leave this place bearing your Word. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
As You Excel
Despite how beautiful our Gospel reading is this morning, I felt myself drawn to another passage to preach on this week. So, sorry.
Instead, I’m going to talk about money-which, obviously, is everyone’s favorite. Sorry again, everyone. I know no one wants to talk about money. We worry that we don’t know enough, or that we don’t handle our own money well enough. I know that I do. I’m insecure about all of that. Especially in the midst of our capital campaign, we don’t want to ask for money. It brings up all these insecurities and more. It’s uncomfortable.
More than that, even, there is fear involved in talking about money, and talking about giving money. We are afraid we don’t have enough money, or that we won’t have enough money later.
And yet here we are, talking about money. There are a few reasons I think it’s important. One is just that we should talk about it. Of course we should, even if it does make us uncomfortable. Church is a place to confront those things. And two, money is a part of life. That is undeniable. And God wants to be a part of all of our life, every piece of it.
And, finally, before I really jump in, I would also like to say that I didn’t pick this passage out because of the capital campaign or anything else. It was just the lectionary!
But Paul was in a similar situation. He is asking the church in Corinthia for money. He is raising money for the church in Jerusalem (probably-he never says, actually, but he mentions this fundraising effort in several other letters). And his solution to the problem of how to ask people for money is to remind them of Christ-of Christ’s giving and his love: “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.” (v. 9)
That is why we give: not to earn something, not because we feel guilty, but out of love. Christ has given everything to us; He has given out of love that overflows. Christ gives us so much, out of so much love, that it all overflows, to us and beyond us.
We who have been given much are also called to give, out of that abundance.
This is not Paul telling his hearers to give everything, to live in poverty so they can give a little bit more. He wrote: “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.” (vv. 13-14) That is, Paul does not want anyone to give and give until they have nothing left to give; instead, he is calling only for a world where all have enough, because those who have enough give to those who don’t.
This isn’t Paul’s idea; it’s one that’s woven through Israel’s history and the Old Testament writings. That’s why, for instance, the Israelites were instructed to let the poor practice gleaning (Leviticus 19:9-10). That is, when farmers harvested their fields, it was typical for farmers to go over the field twice, to make sure they harvested everything they possibly could, and to harvest to the very edges of the field. Israelites, however, were told to harvest only once and leave the edges unharvested, so that those who were poor could come and harvest it. This wasn’t the poor’s land, but still they were told to go and harvest. The concern wasn’t efficiency, but making sure that all had enough. And there was the year of Jubilee, where debts were forgiven (Leviticus 25) and the constant call to feed and care for those in need (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Isaiah 1:17).
We are asked to give out of love-our own, certainly, for one another and for God, but when our love falls short we also give of Christ’s love, which is abundant and overflowing. May we, then, give with love because Christ gave.