2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (NRSV)
Encouragement to be generous
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints - and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. Now as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you - so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something - now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has -- not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
"The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little."
During this Advent season there is a lot of emphasis on buying gifts for others. We run to the store to purchase video games, dolls, trucks, and other toys for our children. We whip out our credit cards, running up incredible debt, all in order to purchase things that we truly cannot afford and that other people don’t really necessarily always appreciate anyway.
This is so sad, because whilst we do have the right idea, we’re going about it in the wrong way.
CHRISTmas is all about gift giving! It is about GOD sending Jesus into the world one Christmas morn as humanity’s eternal gift. This “gift” healed our bodies, minds, and spirits—ultimately dying on an old rugged cross, all in order to atone for our sin and make provision for our eternal life.
So, we do have the idea right when we want to mimic God’s generous gift giving, by sharing presents with our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. But, most of us go about our gift giving in the wrong way by mortgaging our future, our new-year, and our peace of mind by running up thousands of dollars on our credit card bills that we will have to pay off until June!
Lord, have mercy!
It seems to me that many people engage in this type of reckless spending for a host of reasons. Some people do it because the only that way they know how to show love is by buying presents. Other people overspend because they feel like they have to compete with the generosity of others. Still others undertake massive amounts of Christmas debt because they will feel guilty if their loved ones don’t get everything that their hearts’ desire.
Today, Spirit invites us to be at peace. CHRISTmas is not about competition. It is not about guilt, fear, and shame and it is not about amassing credit card debt and all of the anxiety that often accompanies it.
CHRISTmas is about JESUS. It is about appreciating God’s great love for us and it is about sharing God’s love with others.
In today’s scripture reading Paul encourages the Christians living in Corinth to give a gift to a person in need. He reminds them that they can’t share what they do not have; but that they should share what God has given to them with others who are less fortunate than themselves.
This is an extraordinary reminder for all of us in this CHRISTmas season!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us budgeted a portion of our CHRISTmas dollars to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, or give one single toy to a child who otherwise will get none?
As we share our sometimes meager fare with others, we will realize how truly blessed we are! As we see the great need of other people, we will appreciate our great abundance and we will realize that whether or not there are hundreds of gifts under our Christmas trees, we can rejoice in the free gift of Jesus and the blessings of food, water, clothes, shelter, health care, education, and religious freedom.
Today, give yourself permission to be at peace this CHRISTmas season. Put away the credit card and take out the Bible. Share the CHRISTmas story with those whom you love and then covenant together to share your meager fare with someone in great need.
I guarantee that CHRISTmas will take on new meaning as you meet the very real need of others in this holy season.
Won’t you pray with me?
Holy One, I am sorry for taking your love and blessings toward me for granted! I have so much and yet I always want so much more. Please help me to remember that JESUS is the reason for the season and help me to be honest about how much I can truly spend on Christmas gifts for those whom I love. As I am budgeting, please help me to remember to set aside a gift for someone less fortunate than myself. You gave your best when you gave me Jesus; please help me to do the same. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @