Based on Biblical Text: 2 Corinthians 8:9 KJV
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
Paul reminds us that we do well in so many things. We trust God, we are articulate, insightful, and passionate. He admonishes us to do our best in giving too. He says, I’m not trying to order you around against your will. However, using the example of the Macedonians’ enthusiasm as a stimulus to our love, he is hoping to bring the best out of us. We are reminded of the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. As rich as He was, He gave it all away for us in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.
We have made many promises as it relates to our giving and our commitment to support the mission and ministries of our church. Our vow begins as we are read into full membership. Question 4: Do you believe in the Doctrine of Holy Scriptures as set forth in the articles of religion of the African Methodist Episcopal Church? Question 5: Will you be governed by the Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, hold sacred the ordinances of God and try as much as possible to promote the welfare of fellow members and the advancement of the Kingdom of God? Question 6: Will you give of your time, talents, and money for the support of the Gospel, Church, poor, and various ministries of the Church? The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that we vow to be governed by reminds us that tithing shall be the official doctrinal stewardship position of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and every church shall work toward a full tithing commitment. Finally, …the minister shall give the name(s) of the candidate(s), and say: We cordially welcome you into the fellowship of the Church of God, and in light of our Christian love, I extend to you the right hand of fellowship, and may God grant that you may be a faithful and useful member of the Church militant till you are called to the fellowship of the Church triumphant, which is faultless before the presence of God.
Paul admonishes us that the best thing we can do right now is to finish what we started and not let those good intentions grow stale. Our heart has been in the right place all along. We have what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, we do what we can, not what we can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This is not so others can take it easy while we sweat it out. We are challenged to work shoulder to shoulder with each other all the way. In that way, our surplus will match our fellow member’s deficit, their surplus will match our deficit. In the end, we come out even. As it is written, “Nothing left over to the one with the most, Nothing lacking to the one with the least.”
Beloved, we have not always followed through with what we promised. We have been excited at the beginning of our journey; however, we lose our zest for mission and ministry somewhere along the way. Paul makes it clear that God’s Word is plain and to the point. The cure for what ails us can be found in a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15.
I think the translation from The Living Bible is a help at this juncture as it reads, You people there are leaders in so many ways. You have so much faith, so many good preachers, so much learning, so much enthusiasm, so much love for us. Now I want you to be leaders also in the spirit of cheerful giving. I am not giving you an order; I am not saying you must do it, but others are eager for it. This is one way to prove that your love is real, that it goes beyond mere words. You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was: though he was so very rich, yet to help you he became so very poor, so that by being poor he could make you rich. I want to suggest that you finish what you started to do a year ago, for you were not only the first to propose this idea, but the first to begin doing something about it. Having started the ball rolling so enthusiastically, you should carry this project through to completion just as gladly, giving whatever you can out of whatever you have. Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now. If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t. Of course, I don’t mean that those who receive your gifts should have an easy time of it at your expense, but you should divide with them. Right now you have plenty and can help them; then at some other time they can share with you when you need it. In this way, each will have as much as he needs. Do you remember what the Scriptures say about this? “He that gathered much had nothing left over, and he that gathered little had enough.” So you also should share with those in need.
I realize that it is extremely difficult to convince a selfish people that there are actually great benefits to sharing. However, we at the top must be convinced that we have a responsibility to set the example for those folk at the bottom of the chain who are struggling to understand what their responsibility to mission and ministry is.
We at the top must first come to understand that God’s plan for sharing is really quite simple. There should be, among us who have been appointed or elected to provide leadership for the flock, a general understanding that God wants 10% for the work of kingdom building, and then an offering according to our ability. In other words, after allowing God to claim His ten percent, give whatever else we can spare. Warning, God’s Word also says to us if we give little because our analysis of our expendable income is unrighteous we need to be careful! It is a fact that God is watching us. God knows what our needs are. God knows what excess we have.
When Paul says, “Give from what you have” he’s not talking about the tithe. The tithe belongs to God. When Paul is saying give from what you have he is talking about an offering. Many times, maybe even most times, the offering comes as a sacrifice. We are challenged to give according to our ability, recognizing, of course, that God loves a cheerful giver.
The truth of the matter is, God’s plan for sharing is sure to meet every need and solve every problem, if we trust Him. God’s plan for sharing is a cure for the financial woes of the church, but it requires sacrifice and obedience. We who are Christian are challenged to be obedient to the cause of Christianity. When we sacrifice giving from what we have, we help meet the physical needs of the church and enable the church to spread the gospel, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, and to help the helpless.