So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything– in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you– see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:6-15 NIV)
There are two points in this section. The first is the importance of keeping commitments. The second is the principle of equality. Jesus’ example challenges us on both points.
It is easy to make commitments and more difficult to keep them. This is especially true when your memory is beginning to fail. I must make lists to remind me of the commitments I have made. On most days I discover that I have over committed and there are items that remain on the list. These little daily commitments matter, but it is the larger and longer-term commitments that define a relationship. Getting distracted and failing to get the kitchen cleaned up one day is not an accurate indication of my love for my wife. Failing to ever clean up the kitchen when I have made a commitment to take on that responsibility would be an indication that something else was more important to me than keeping my commitment. Continual failure to keep commitments undermines trust and brings into question my larger commitments to love and honor my wife.
Jesus made a commitment to give His life on the cross to provide a way for us to be brought back into relationship with God. Only His love for His Father and for us gave Him the strength to keep that commitment. This is our example. A commitment is a promise. God is the ultimate promise keeper. We might think that the way to keep all our promises is to make none, but I would argue that a relationship without commitments is no relationship at all. I am grateful for Jesus’ example and I am grateful for the example of my father. He made a commitment to care for my mother until she died. He kept that commitment even though it was often apparent that it was difficult, and that he found no joy in it.
For the second point about equality Paul looks back to the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness. God was the only food source and He provided food every day except on the Sabbath. They called the food manna and it fell on the ground during the night. The people had to work for their food in that they had to go out and gather it. The temptation was to gather more than others did and more than was needed. This was perfect food they were gathering in every respect except one, it did not keep for more than a day except over the Sabbath. Gathering more than was needed for the day resulted in the manna spoiling and being inedible. Everyone’s needs were met, but there was no way to accumulate a surplus.
I cannot imagine having to gather food every day. I do not need to pray “give us this day our daily bread”, because I have enough food stored up for weeks. I know there are many people in the world who spend every day attempting to gather enough calories to consume to live for another day. These people are hard pressed, and we are far away from achieving anything approaching equality. I am convinced that giving everything away to the point of becoming dependent on others is not what Paul is calling for. I am just as certain that it is quite easy to value my own safety and security above the needs of people who are far away. I am surprised that generosity is not listed in the fruit of the Spirit. I suppose that is because giving flows out of the other centered love that is the first of the fruit. What could we do with this grace of giving that would at least make us a little uncomfortable and move us a little closer to those who are hard pressed?