“It’s a matter of equality”

Posted Nov 25, 2020

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Daily Scripture

2 Corinthians 8:9, 12-15

9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.

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12 A gift is appreciated because of what a person can afford, not because of what that person can’t afford, if it’s apparent that it’s done willingly. 13 It isn’t that we want others to have financial ease and you financial difficulties, but it’s a matter of equality. 14 At the present moment, your surplus can fill their deficit so that in the future their surplus can fill your deficit. In this way there is equality. 15 As it is written, The one who gathered more didn’t have too much, and the one who gathered less didn’t have too little [Exodus 16:18].

Reflection Questions

Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem faced persecution and hardship almost from the beginning. Paul was concerned for them and asked his Gentile Christian converts to give to help the members of their Christian family in Jerusalem. He laid out his ideal for the church: not “class warfare,” but deep-seated mutual concern and burden-sharing. They responded gladly, and he urged them to finish the collection in the same generous spirit Jesus had showed toward them.

  • Giving is personal. Paul made it plain that neither God nor he was interested in comparing the amounts various people gave. What mattered more was the spirit in which they gave, in proportion to the resources they had. Discuss with family, and/or with a trusted friend, your reasons for giving. How can you set aside the “what’s in it for me?” question, and instead give based on how it will help others?
  • What standards or guidelines do you use to decide the difference between “wants” and “needs” in choosing what to spend on yourself, and what to give? Have you ever given to an important project even though you felt that “My little gift can’t make much difference,” and then found great satisfaction at having had a part, however large or small, of a worthwhile effort?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I see an item online or in an ad, and my brain goes to work to translate “I want that” into “I need that.” Give me your wisdom to have that inner conversation honestly and in a generous spirit. Amen.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

Generosity sounds like a good thing. Everyone wants to be generous, right? Then why aren’t we?

The first line of this passage gives us a clue: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 9).

But let’s pause here a moment and turn it into a question: Do you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? In church circles, we too often assume that people know the experience of grace. We talk about it as though it is ubiquitous. But do we know grace in daily life? Do we know, not just about grace as a concept, but the experience of grace, when we are consciously aware of the love that pours into our lives unbidden and unearned? It matters, because this experience of grace (v. 9) is the root of generosity.

When we struggle to be generous it’s often because we have not experienced grace or generosity personally. We cannot give away something we don’t have. We cannot simply summon generosity out of nothing. We can only share the generosity we have received. We allow the grace and generosity we have received in our lives to overflow into the world.

First, though, we need to experience the grace so that it can overflow. If you want to be more generous here are a few steps:

  1. Stop scolding yourself for not being generous. Self-shaming does not produce generosity (or any fruit of the Spirit). Extend grace to yourself.
  2. Start noticing your experience of grace in daily life. An easy way is to pause once a day to identify 3 things you are grateful for. These are often sheer gifts that show up in your life unearned.
  3. Next, imagine how one of those gratitude items could overflow from you into the world. Maybe your gratitude for central heating in your home during the winter overflows to rounding up on your heating bill so that you help others have heat. Or maybe your gratitude for a kind word to you overflows to your extending kind words to others.

As we practice having “eyes to see” the grace that already pours into our lives, we cultivate generosity that overflows into the world God so loves.

Open my eyes today to the grace that pours through my life! Amen.

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