It is now June, and most church stewardship campaigns have long since concluded. The spiritual question of what we should do with our money may well have drifted from our minds. But this text will bring it back.
It starts with people giving beyond their means. Not living beyond their means, which seems to more and more be the American way, but giving beyond their means. The only way I know to give beyond one’s means is to live well below them.
Then Paul writes of excelling in giving. We like to excel in a great many things, don’t we? In our jobs, our hobbies, our parenting…but how about our giving? What would it look like in your life and in mine if we were to put as many of our resources into excelling in giving as we put into excelling in other things?
And Paul goes still farther, linking our generosity to Jesus’ generosity. Jesus who was rich became poor for our sakes. Is Paul saying we should do for others what Jesus has done for us? Isn’t that a little extreme?
But he is still not done. Paul writes of balancing our abundance with their need. Ouch. That one really hits home.
You mean I might have to give up some of the good things I have in my abundance so that others might have anything at all? You mean I might have to learn to have less so that others might have more, especially when what they have is pretty much nothing at all?
If Paul gave the stewardship sermon at church, do you think anyone would come back? And if the church ever got serious about living this stuff—as obsessed with being radically generous as she is with other things these days—well, I expect that would be something the world is not used to seeing, and which would be very, very attractive—to say the least.