in From the Pastor

Living Against the Grain

Isaiah has me thinking. Am I swimming with the cultural current that surrounds me or am I swimming against it? Am I happy with the status quo or am I moving to where God is at work? Lately, I’ve been thinking about this specifically with respect to generosity which has led me back to 2 Corinthians 8.

In the middle of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul takes time to address the matter of giving as it relates to God’s grace. The reason he needs to address generosity is because it appears the believers at Corinth were unwittingly proving the Roman writer Seneca correct: generosity is not innate to humans. The church at Corinth had committed to give to the believers in Judea but were in danger of falling short of that commitment.

How does Paul address this difficult topic of money? Oddly, he begins by not talking about money. He begins by talking about the grace of God. The evidence of God’s grace in our lives is that we desire to do what we would not do left to ourselves. The evidence of God’s grace is that there is joy and zeal in doing what doesn’t make sense to the world. The evidence of God’s grace is habitually living out the two great commandments without reservation.

This is precisely what Paul describes when he speaks about the Macedonian believers. They were a church of people who were undergoing a “severe affliction” and who were experiencing “extreme poverty”. Even so, when they heard of the need of others – people who were poor but had more than they did (!) – their response was twofold: first, to react with an abundance of joy at the prospect of giving to others who had a need; second, to beg earnestly for the favor of participating in relieving the need of fellow believers. And when they did give, Paul reveals that they gave not only in accord with their ability, but beyond their ability. In other words, people who struggled to put food on the table gave joyfully to believers they’d never met simply because they heard there was a need.

Surely these people were not acting wisely. Surely these people were not good with money. This is not a good example of being a responsible steward of financial resources. Then again, wisdom is defined in the Bible as living in the fear of the Lord rather than by my own sense of what is responsible or right, and Paul makes it clear that the Macedonian believers, “gave themselves first to the Lord” and having done so, “by the will of God to us”. God’s wisdom does not follow human logic. God’s grace does not follow human expectations.

I wonder, in which direction do I swim in any number of areas in my life? Isaiah has me thinking.