“Word for Today” – 2 Corinthians 8 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

March 9, 2009 at 5:45 am Leave a comment

financial-collapse-1“Job Losses Could Worsen Through 2009.”  “12.5 Million Are Unemployed in US.”  “Senate Moves to Give FDIC $500 Billion Loan.”  These are just a few of the headlines I scanned this past Friday which told of our country’s imperiled economic state.  As the week wrapped up, the Dow Jones closed at 6,626.94.  That’s down over 50% from the Dow’s record high of 14.087.55 on October 1, 2007.  Is anybody worried yet?  Actually, is anybody not worried yet?

In this kind of economic climate, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 8 probably strike many of us as offensively jarring and hopelessly irrelevant and impractical:  “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 the grace of giving” (verse 7).  Now, before you stop reading because you think I’m going to lecture you on the glories of tithing and try to guilt you into giving more money to the church even as we’re being asphyxiated by the confines of an impossibly volatile economy, let me assure you, that’s not what this blog is about.  Actually, this blog is more about “excelling.”  Paul says that we, as Christians, “excel in everything.”  Really?  I’m not sure much of anything has its foot on the accelerator right now.  The stock market is down.  Home values are down.  Available credit lines are down.  Job postings are down.  Profits are down.   And quite frankly, people are down too.  There are a lot of people who feel down and out these days.  In fact, the only story I’ve heard lately of something excelling comes out of the Dollar Store.  Apparently, rocky financial times are good for the discount chain’s business.

During these down times, what is it that we can possibly excel at?  Paul gives us a list.  When our countrys stock market is down, we have an opportunity to excel in our faith as we trust that Christ will provide for our daily needs.  When pecuniary pundits are talking down our economy, we have a chance to excel in encouraging speech as we hold out the hope of the gospel.  When we feel down as we watch our economy collapse in real time on CNBC, we have an opportunity to excel in our knowledge of Scripture as we read God’s Word and trust in his promises to get us through.  As people’s morale goes down at the specter of more layoffs and massive job cuts, we can excel in earnestness as we continue to work at the jobs we have or search for the one we need.  As people’s support systems go down in the face of stress and bad news, we can excel in our love for those who are hurting deeply.  And finally, as people’s bank accounts go down – and that includes our bank accounts possibly – we can excel in the grace of giving.

It’s that final call to excel that gets us, isn’t it?  Excel in giving?  How can we when we have nothing to give?  First, it is worth noting that our giving need not be exclusively monetary.  We can give of our time, talents, and energies, all for the sake of others.  In a sense, all of the things which Paul calls us to excel at – faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love – fall under the “grace of giving” because they can all be given away to others.  Second, whatever you give, remember that excel-lence in giving, or in anything else, is never done under duress.  In other words, you can’t force excellence.  It must be willingly engaged.  Paul knows this full well.  That’s why, right after Paul encourages the Corinthians to excel, he says, “I am not commanding you” (verse 8).  Paul knows that excellence can never be forced.  That is why excellence in giving is called a “grace.”

Speaking of grace, Paul wraps up his discussion on graceful excellence by reminding us of the one who is most gracefully excellent of all:  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes become poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (verse 9).  Paul says that Jesus excelled in poverty so that we could excel in richness where being rich really counts:  richness in forgiveness, richness in life, and richness in salvation.  And in a down economy, these may be the only riches we have.  Then again, in any economy, these are the only riches we finally need.  For those are the only riches that finally lastSo let’s excel in those.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 2 Corinthians 7 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 2 Corinthians 9 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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