I am in the process of launching a congregation with my home church. Starting a new work is filled with challenges, struggles, and things to work through-—enough so that there are many books and conferences on the subject.
But the challenges most church planters in the West face today are nothing compared to what Paul had to navigate. Today’s reading in 2 Corinthians 8 focuses on a collection Paul was taking to assist believers who were suffering for their faith. Christian churches in those days were born through suffering and affliction. It was hard to be a Christian in public. Sometimes it could cost you your life. And yet, Paul says, though they suffered, the believers in Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) remained generous with their giving to the needs of others, though they had little to give.
Paul had been taking up a collection for believers in Jerusalem who were suffering persecution and famine. In this chapter, Paul is asking one group of believers who are suffering for their faith to contribute to the needs of another group of believers who are suffering for their faith.
This is about more than money. Paul is appealing to the Corinthians believers, and to us, to not cling too tightly to the things of this world. His argument is essentially this: “Think of what you’ve been given in Christ. Think of what His generosity gave others and cost Him. Walk in this way.” When it comes to money, let the generosity of Christ loosen your grip on material wealth, and let your boast be in how much you’ve been given in Christ, not in how much you’ve given away to others, or in how much you’ve built up for yourself.
This applies to so many other areas of life too, doesn’t it? Church planting. Reputation. Esteem in the eyes of the world. Relationships. How we go about our work. Generosity. Service to others. For the believer, because of what Christ has given us, we should live generous lives, seeking the good of others, even when we have needs of our own.
The irony here is that the biblical principle of generosity can seem limiting when, in reality, it’s freeing. We become great by becoming the servant of all. May the Lord give us generous hearts and open hands when it comes to our labors together in Christ.
Written by Russ Ramsey