Less Really is More
Reading: 2 Corinthians 5-9
I was researching some material yesterday for an upcoming series of studies I am preparing. During that research I came across some astonishing facts about money. J. John writes in Ten Laws of Love Set in Stone that: “At the beginning of the year 2000 the three richest people in the world together had more wealth than the poorest forty-seven countries put together. A total of 342 people had more money than half the world’s population put together. We might not be in that 342, but we are rich by the standards of most of the world” (page 37).
One of the commercials that really annoys me is that of a well-known actor and political activist who comments on how much money is devoted to bailouts and other things by rolling out lines of money with his foot. Then he puts down one single bill on the floor to demonstrate how much money goes to feed the hungry. He’s probably right, but my reaction to him is: “And where do your millions go except to travel around the world in support of petty dictators who oppress the poor while making themselves rich?”
There is often a disconnect between what we say and what we do. And it was this disconnect that Paul was seeking to avoid when he wrote to the Corinthian church about how they needed to handle their money. He reminded them of the generosity of the Macedonian churches (8:1-6) and then he wrote: “But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving…Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 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 will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little’” (8:7-15, NIV).
This “grace of giving” is much more than a rant against the “haves” of the world, or tokenism, or a means to thumb the nose at the establishment. The grace of giving is taking steps to equalize things, to bring balance between those of us who “have” and those of us who “have not.” Paul wasn’t addressing the needs of the world. Rather he was talking about the needs among the believers in the churches with which he was associated. The early church was famed for the grace of giving, the sharing of plenty among those who had less (Acts 2:42-47). Should it be any different in our churches today?