As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it. (2 Corinthians 8:23-24 NIV)
Generosity is not natural. We are self-centered creatures and our natural tendency is to hang on to what we’ve acquired. As parents one of the challenges of raising toddlers is teaching them to share. What is so obvious with toddlers we try to disguise and rationalize as adults. Whether you’re a Christian or not, we should be embarrassed that the more we have, the less we give away.
This passage confronts us with a paradox. Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that our giving is to be motivated by generosity and not by an opportunity for visible reward. We should also be embarrassed when our desire is not to give, but to be seen giving.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4 NIV)
Paul is asking for a gift for a gift to the needy in Jerusalem and he is asking that this gift be visible to other churches. What is going on? I think the answer is that we need encouragement to give, to do what is not natural. Paul is so burdened by the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem that he is willing to do whatever he can to encourage giving by the churches he has planted in Macedonia and Greece.
I think he wants all the churches to see God’s faithfulness and love in action to encourage them to follow through in a similar way. Through his words he helps us see that God’s love is not a feeling or words of concern. God’s love is all about acting to make a difference. Generosity flows from a recognition of God’s love for us, complete confidence in his ability to provide, and a realization that a need exists. True generosity is its own reward, so Paul has no hesitation in encouraging it in any way possible.
Our community was recently devastated by fire. As a congregation we have been blessed with the ability to help our community because of the generosity of other congregations who sent funds to meet the needs of people impacted by those fires.
To my grandchildren:
I hope you grow to be so generous that you never think about how many people see your giving.