“For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has…in order that there may be a fair balance.” 2 Corinthians 8: 12-14
I have titled this short little blog “Eagerness and Energy.” As I said when I first started this Holy Breadcrumbs weekly blog I would write my way into the evolving vision of our presbytery by reflecting weekly on the common lectionary and on the conversations I am having as I visit our various churches. This week’s blog is a perfect example of that approach. I am taking my reflections on “eagerness” from the text from 2 Corinthians and my reflections on “energy” from my church visits.
I think it is a common understanding among Biblical scholars that the context for this text is an encouragement by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth to make an offering to the church in Jerusalem in their time of need. But Paul is not just appealing to the Corinthians to do everything they can (and more) to support their Jerusalem brothers and sisters. He is saying, “Look at their need, look at your need and make an offering that honors both fairly.”
There has been much criticism of the American church over the years that we have not given to our brothers and sisters around the world in a way that honors that “fair balance” that Paul is talking about. We have had the luxury of giving out of our abundance, but in a way that requires little of our substance. I do think this is a well-earned criticism. It has been too easy for many of us to simply write a check, pat ourselves on the back, but have no taste of the deprivation or suffering of our brothers and sisters.
But I also think times have changed. And one of the dynamics that I have observed in many of our churches is that their eagerness to do mission has outpaced their energy to do mission. This is certainly not true for every congregation. Many of our congregations could probably do much more and some of our congregations have found that sweet spot of matching “eagerness and energy.”
This blog is not for those congregations. This blog is for those congregations who would love to do a lot more in their neighborhoods and with their community. This blog is for those congregations who have a real eagerness for mission, but simply don’t have the energy and resources to keep pace with their hopes and dreams and wants. This blog is for those congregations who actually may have just as much need as those they want to serve.
This blog is a reminder from Paul himself who didn’t say, “Give everything you have and more,” but rather said, “Look at their need, look at your need and give in a way that there may be a fair balance.”
I really like this Pauline approach to giving. It reminds those churches who are rich in abundance and energy that in a world of suffering and deprivation that they may be called to dig deep and feel the pinch in their pocketbook. And it is a reminder to those congregations who struggle to pay the monthly bills that the gap between their need and the needs of their community may be much narrower. Giving must honor the needs of others, but also must honor the resources of ourselves.
In plain speak this blog is a reminder to those churches who just don’t have the same energy and resources that they once had twenty, thirty and forty years ago. I know that your eagerness to give and to serve and to love is great. I also know that you are showing some signs of weariness.
Listen to Paul. He is a wise one here. Look at the needs of your community. And be honest about your own needs. Give and serve and love in a way that honors what they need and what you have.
Be careful not to give too little. Be careful not to give too much.
Trust that God will bless the gift–however great or small.