Wednesday, January 08, 2020
The Season of Epiphany
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Opening – (Collect for the Season of Epiphany)
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Morning Reading – 2 Corinthians 8:1-11:15 (NLT)
A Call to Generous Giving
Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.
So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.
I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say,
“Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”
Titus and His Companions
But thank God! He has given Titus the same enthusiasm for you that I have. Titus welcomed our request that he visit you again. In fact, he himself was very eager to go and see you. We are also sending another brother with Titus. All the churches praise him as a preacher of the Good News. He was appointed by the churches to accompany us as we take the offering to Jerusalem—a service that glorifies the Lord and shows our eagerness to help.
We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift. We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable.
We are also sending with them another of our brothers who has proven himself many times and has shown on many occasions how eager he is. He is now even more enthusiastic because of his great confidence in you. If anyone asks about Titus, say that he is my partner who works with me to help you. And the brothers with him have been sent by the churches, and they bring honor to Christ. So show them your love, and prove to all the churches that our boasting about you is justified.
The Collection for Christians in Jerusalem
I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.
But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
Paul Defends His Authority
Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ—though I realize you think I am timid in person and bold only when I write from far away. Well, I am begging you now so that when I come I won’t have to be bold with those who think we act from human motives.
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.
Look at the obvious facts. Those who say they belong to Christ must recognize that we belong to Christ as much as they do. I may seem to be boasting too much about the authority given to us by the Lord. But our authority builds you up; it doesn’t tear you down. So I will not be ashamed of using my authority.
I’m not trying to frighten you by my letters. For some say, “Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” Those people should realize that our actions when we arrive in person will be as forceful as what we say in our letters from far away.
Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!
We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you. We are not reaching beyond these boundaries when we claim authority over you, as if we had never visited you. For we were the first to travel all the way to Corinth with the Good News of Christ.
Nor do we boast and claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow so that the boundaries of our work among you will be extended. Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places far beyond you, where no one else is working. Then there will be no question of our boasting about work done in someone else’s territory. As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
Paul and the False Apostles
I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.
Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece] will ever stop me from boasting about this. Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do.
But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.
We continue our reading in 2 Corinthians during this Season of Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God incarnate in Jesus Christ.; and also commemorates Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles.
The Christ Child was God’s matchless gift to us. Our giving is a worship response (like that of the Magi) to God’s gracious gift to us. Or in Paul’s words – “He became poor, that we may become rich.”
excel in the gracious act of giving
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
– 2 Corinthians 8:9 –
So how can we excel in the gracious act of giving? Here are some principles from today’s reading –
- Gracious giving is directed to needy believers, especially those suffering from persecution or natural disaster.
- Gracious giving reflects the generosity of God, in spite of limited means or difficult circumstances.
- Gracious giving is free of outside pressure, motivated by extending friendship to the poorer believers.
- Gracious giving is measured by the attitude and sacrifice of the givers, not by the amount given.
- Gracious giving is an expression of a believer’s personal dedication to Christ and His servants.
- Gracious giving is an expression spiritual giftedness benefiting those outside the local congregation.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the greatest example of self-sacrificing liberality. He gave up the riches of glory in heaven when He became a man and died on the cross so that we might share His riches of glory in heaven. Gratitude to Him for His condescending grace should be the supreme motive for Christian giving.
Questions for consideration:
- How do you view your personal material resources, are you rich or poor? Please explain.
- How do you view your personal spiritual resources, are you rich or poor? Please explain.
- Do you view yourself as having kinship with other believers around the world? Please explain
- Do you believe that believers around the world have a responsibility to care for each other? Please explain.
- How does that work out in your stewardship of God’s resources? Please explain.
Prayer – for Generosity in Giving
Almighty God, whose generous love transforms all people –
+ Create in me a heart to seek your will, that formed in the image of your Son I may give myself and my possessions in response to the prompting of your Spirit.
+ Release in me that generosity of spirit that comes from you trusting you more, that I might become more aware of my needy brethren around the world.
+ Help me to trust in the true riches of your wisdom that I might rest in you and find contentment with my position in this materialistic world.
+ Shine the light of your Spirit upon the issues of the day. Keep me sensitive to the needs of others and aware of what practical steps I might take to love good and hate evil and to seek justice for all.
Lord Jesus, may your generosity of spirit so inhabit my mind and actions that it is second nature today and all the days of my life, I ask this in your Name, and for your glory. Amen.
“Offering” – Paul Baloche
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen