Proving Our Love To Others
(2nd Corinthians 8: 13-24)
Today we will be finishing Second Corinthians chapter 8 in our continuing studies of the writings of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. You will recall that I finished last week’s study by writing that God is more interested in the quality of our sacrifices and good works than He is the quantity of them. Each believer is duty-bound to give to his or her church or to the charity of their choice, but only as God prompts them to and according to their ability. Meaning, it doesn’t have to be exactly 10% as many churches are erroneously teaching today. I am on medical retirement, and I mostly live on a small monthly disability check. I can’t work a full time job any more, and I make little or no money from this web site. So, if I were to give 10% of my income, I would run out of groceries and medicine well shy of the end of the month, which would be disastrous! There are millions more who are also in bad shape financially, some of them are worse off than myself. But my point here is that ten percent is the Old Testament law, but Jesus Christ came and gave His life to fulfill that Law. The debt has already been paid, so just give what you can – but don’t be cheap either. Remember what the Bible says about that: God loves a cheerful giver. Sharing within or outside of the church is also not limited to financial support of these ministries. It can often be better to volunteer, or to donate unneeded items such as used clothing or household items. Sharing what you have, especially your valuable time, can have the greatest effect, and God will reward you just as well for doing these things in your life as He will in the eternity to come. Paul wrote timeless words to this effect nearly 2,000 years ago, and this is where this week’s study will begin, beginning at verse 13.
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there is equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians chapter 8, verses 13-15, NIV)
These three verses written by Paul are the very essence of living a Christian life, aside from our total commitment to the Cross, the empty tomb, and all they represent. I help you when you’re down on your luck, firmly believing that any of you would do the same for me if I were in need. Plus, in so doing we emulate the ultimate sacrifice of Christ by giving a little of each of ourselves, not by simply donating material stuff because you ran out of room for all that imported Chinese crap you bought at Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart or wherever. The sacrifices we make have to be real and the donations of money, time or goods must be genuine. God is watching all of us and He knows all our intentions whether they are good or bad. That is what Paul meant when he wrote that we are to “continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord”. This does not mean we have to go through life being scared to death of God – not at all! But it is a clear signal to all that we are to have the utmost reverence for God at all times.
I see two more factors in this heavenly equation that bear mentioning here. The first is the fact that the early churches were mutually beneficial to one another, as were the members of these churches of long ago. Your plentiful resources, Paul wrote, will enable you to help those less fortunate without expectation of repayment. During times of need, the reverse is true if any church is following Christ’s teachings. So what we have here is a clear example of mutual cooperation for the benefit of all. Obviously if the world were run in this manner we would all be better off.
But what do we have today instead, and indeed for the entire history of humankind? I see people ferociously competing with each other – from individuals to whole companies all the way up to entire countries – for resources, for access to education and health care, constantly jockeying for position and seizing the advantage, continuously working against one another for power and control, which in the end are themselves illusions that exist only in the human mind! This is how wars get started, and replacing human competition at all levels with unconditional cooperation is the new social and organizational model for the 21st century and beyond, both in and out of church.
The second thing I see here that bears mentioning is equality, to use Paul’s exact word. As you can see from the above passage of Scripture, the concept of human equality that Thomas Jefferson wrote about so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence was based on the Bible, not a man-made ideology. One only need look around them today to see that inequality has persisted within humankind for our entire existence. Women still earn only 75% of what their male counterparts make in today’s work force. Racial discrimination runs rampant throughout the world, and teaching unconditional equality to our kids is the best chance we have of stopping all of it. The buck stops with us! From my vantage point, ending institutional racial discrimination globally can best be accomplished one person at a time, it is something that I work at every day, and I encourage all who read this to do the same. Let’s continue with our study now, beginning at verse 16.
“I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for all his service to the Gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord Himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way in which we distribute this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are the 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, verses 16-24, NIV)
Paul is using Titus as an example of leading a Christian life, of having found “The Way”, as it was called back in the days of the early church. Titus was a man who worked alongside Paul, Barnabas, Peter and other apostles in the early church. Rather than focusing on Titus as a historical figure, which he most definitely was, allow me to zero in on what he did that made him such an honorable person to the apostle Paul. You will notice that these contributions by Titus did not involve money or goods, but were rather of a more intangible quality that is worth more in God’s sight than mere riches. The first thing Paul writes is “he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.” Nobody was prodding Titus along to do a good job. He did that without being asked, and he was thrilled at the prospect of being able to render any assistance he could to the early church and to God.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. The next thing he writes about Titus is, “he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering”. Titus was trustworthy! His mind was uncompromised by the world and the things in it, and that is what gave him the ability to be an honest man devoid of any deception. He then called Titus a “fellow worker” and calls him one of “the representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.” Paul could not have given Titus a higher compliment than that, and there is no question in my mind that it was the Spirit of Christ speaking to Titus through Paul. Titus is one more early believer that I look forward to meeting when I get to heaven some day, but Jesus will be the One who we all long to meet face to face. So I encourage and exhort everyone who reads this to get ready for that event. I can’t tell you exactly when His return will occur, but it won’t be long at all – of that you can be sure.