Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing a bit on how I have been talking through 2 Corinthians 8 with our community during our offering time. (You can read the others posts here) The last two time we covered verse 1 and verse 2.  This week we get to verse three. Here they are (vs. 1-3)

1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability…

Verse three made me reflect a bit on how we are prone to not necessarily give more than we are able but to spend more than we are able.  We’re in a much different world than that of the Macedonian churches. 

So, in light of this, I took the liberty to re-interpret these verses for our setting. This is what I came up with: 

1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the American churches. 2 Out of the most easy-going comfort, their overflowing joy and their extreme wealth welled up in rich consumerism. 3 For I testify that they spent as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability…

I think while this may sound harsh, it hold some truth for the whole of the culture in the American Churches.  A few clarifying thoughts on my word choices:

  • Easy-going comfort:  its a fact that most Americans live better than most Kings and Queens throughout history.  I’m not big on making light of the daily hardships we face, I think they are legitimate. But, the fact of the matter is, is that we live extremely comfortable lives.
  • Extreme wealth: visit the website www.globalrichlist.com and try and argue that you/we don’t live in extreme wealth. 
  • Rich consumerism: The death of the Wal-Mart worker is an extreme, but vivid, example of this.  Friends, this doesn’t only touch non-Christians.  It’s deeply rooted in you, me and almost every one of the members of our congregations.
  • Spent more than they were able, even beyond their ability: This one punches me right in the face. How quickly are we to go into debt to get “stuff” while all too often we would call it irresponsible to go into debt to help someone.  

My point is this, I believe that we generally want to be generous people.  I really do.  We generally want to make a difference with our lives and the resources that God has given us.  But we live in a culture that teaches us exactly the opposite and the reality is that sin and those messages from our culture (which i would argue also come from sin) cloud and distory the image of God that is inside of us.   

As Francis Chan writes in his book Crazy Love:

If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.

Friends, when it comes to generosity, stewardship and consumerism, we’re swimming upstream.