Todays readings.. 2 Kings 11&12, Ezekiel 2, 2 Corinthians 8&9
“TO PROVE … THAT YOUR LOVE … IS GENUINE”
Today our chapter 8 in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians addresses practical matters. It tells us that “the ecclesias of Macedonia” in “their extreme poverty … overflowed in a wealth of generosity …” [v.2] It seems strange, but human nature tends to cause the secure and relatively wealthy to be miserly while those who have little wealth and who are living in relative poverty are the most generous. We read today in 2 Kings 12 that even the priests neglected to use the money under their control to repair the Temple – as the king desired. (v.4-6)
Paul comments how the believers in Macedonia were generous “beyond their means, …. begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints [in Corinth]”[v.4].
Paul is surprised – and no doubt, very pleased! He writes, “this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” [v.5] This is total giving, not necessarily of money, but of service, of help, in every way open to them..
What commitment of mind they obviously had, it was an enduring example for all time – that is why this commendation of Paul has been preserved. Titus has a major role in this, Paul says, “we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.” [v.6] We do not perhaps think of the word ‘grace’ in this context , but it describes the foundation state of mind in many circumstances among genuine believers; we remember how we saw it used by Paul at the beginning of the month in his 1st epistle (ch. 15 v.10).
Grace is not an attitude that can be commanded, “but,” says Paul, “to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” [v.8]
Let us be ready to prove our love in a similar way when placed in such situations, “for,” says Paul, “you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” [v.9]
How do you and I “become rich” in the way Paul means? Our minds go to the words of James, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” [2 v.5]
We must remember what we read yesterday! Paul wrote, “as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way …. as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. ” [ch. 6 v.4,10] Let us “prove that our love is genuine.”