Real Generosity Goes Beyond Tithing

I’d garner a wage that if you’ve ever stepped into a church, you’re familiar with the “Offering” moment. It’s generally a time in the service where someone will get up and give a brief message about the importance of tithing.

It is almost comical how quickly the energy in the room changes in this moment. People revert back to high school tendencies and hide their faces for fear of eye contact and looming shame.

At the church I currently attend, they pass buckets down rows and I, as discreetly as possible, glance at how much my neighbor has contributed while simultaneously feeling the need to defend why I have nothing tangible to place in the bucket because I give online. All of this, of course, happens in seconds. Then, the moment passes and everyone seems to release a collective breath, almost as if to say, “OK, we’re done talking about money.”

A lot of times when we hear sermons on giving, we hear it from the perspective of “Give because God’s going to give it back to you.” Another perspective is “Give because God will punish you if you don’t.”

I’m not going to argue against those perspectives. I want to offer a new one, perhaps, a deeper one.

THIS GIVING THING IS NOTHING NEW
2 Corinthians 8 and 9 are basically an offering message nestled in the middle of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. Without getting too much into the historical context of this passage, let’s establish a little background to set the scene.

It’s important to read the letter as a whole. Paul was attempting to re-establish his authority with the Corinthian church. There were “false prophets” trying to usurp his relationship with the church; there were questions around hierarchy within the church as it pertains to spiritual gifts, etc., etc.

Needless to say, the church at Corinth needed a stern talking to. While this was going on in Corinth, according to Colin Kruse’s The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, the Jewish Christians of Judea had been hit hard by outbreaks of famine during the reign of Claudius (emperor of Rome AD 41-54).

Theologian Tom Wright goes on to explain the sensitivity of Paul’s ask. Wright states, “[Paul] knows that at every stage the project is a tricky one: persuading the Gentile churches to hand over money, especially the Corinthian church that had seemed to rebel against him; taking the money safely, and with proper accounting, to Jerusalem; and delivering it acceptably to the church there.”

There’s one passage in particular that I’d like to highlight. 2 Corinthians 8:4 says, “… they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (emphasis mine).

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SOURCE: Urban Faith, Sarah Gerald