We’ve all seen people who are so full of themselves and
their own agendas they are almost repelling. You are probably picturing someone
you know right now! Those people haven’t read this passage, or if they have,
they don’t see how it should be speaking to them. They are only comparing
themselves to each other. That is a limitation to be sure, and it doesn’t make
for an attractive character. Do you think?
We can boast all we want, so long as those boasts are about
God and how he is working in the world. Better yet, how he is working in our
own lives! His authority trumps all else. When we are fortunate enough to be
touched by God’s grace, we can’t help but want to share. Yet sometimes we don’t,
afraid of what people may say or think. It’s seems to be so much easier to
share about a good restaurant meal, a funny movie, a comfortable pair of shoes.
Why is that?
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Paul, I don’t
think “timid.” Yet he is trying here to be gentle and kind like Christ. That,
to me, speaks volumes to us as well. Kindness and Gentleness are two of our
secret weapons. Have you ever heard it said, “Kill them with kindness”? Selena
Gomez has a song entitled “Kill ‘em With Kindness” and one of the lyrics says, “We
don’t have to fall from grace. Put down the weapons you fight with.” When we
lead with kindness, good things can happen.
Paul sees this as powerful as well. Afterall, Jesus never
led with might and weapons of war. Why should we? But like a shepherd protects
his flock, Paul wants to protect his people (us) from the lies of the world.
Paul reminds us, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.” What
does that mean? Think of war. Guns. Bombs. Death. Why?
In my post from 2 Corinthians 8, we heard Paul’s teaching on
giving and how we should see it as a privilege and not an obligation. What exactly
are we giving? Perhaps it’s our time. Perhaps it’s a portion of our income. Perhaps
it’s both. What we give is between us and God. Here again, Paul teaches that we
should give cheerfully.
I don’t know about you, but from my experience when I am generous with my giving, it just feels good. There is some satisfaction about putting our tithe in the offering each week. Even when it was an auto-deduct from our bank account, I knew it was happening and it gave me joy. God can do so much more with that gift than I can by holding on to it.
Paul introduces us in this passage to Titus and has many nice
things to say about him. Titus will have some companions, too, but they remain
unnamed here. It seems like Paul is going out of his way to show his support
and acceptance, presumably to give the Corinthians the same level of trust.
After all, Titus and his travel mates will be the ones carrying the donations
back to Jerusalem.
Having been a church leader for many years, I know the scrutiny we
endure. There is a lot of pressure to be above reproach. Why is that? For some,
it is to make sure nobody can accuse you of doing something shady. We’ve all
seen the scandals of church leaders who have been caught in their sin, exposed,
ridiculed, and thrown out of their roles. Being we’re all sinful, it can be
hard to live up to the expectations put on a church leader to somehow be less
sinful. How can it be less daunting?
Such a beautiful passage about giving. I know the church gets a bad rap at times from people who don’t understand the discipline of giving. I’ve heard people complain that all churches do is ask for money. I feel sad for those people who haven’t encountered Jesus in a way that has touched their heart to overflowing. Only then does giving seem like it is something we WANT do and not something we HAVE to do.
Paul’s words here are very helpful. When we see giving as a “privilege,” we are starting to understand. Paul starts out by using an example of the people in Macedonia. They must be going through some difficult times, yet they are giving way more than they can afford. They have the joy of the Lord overflowing, and this is resulting in their “rich” generosity. Paul says, “their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.”