- March 9, 2014
- By Carolyn Porterfield, Multicultural Consultant for Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, Dallas
• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for March 23 focuses on 2 Corinthians 8:10-15; 9:1-5.
What does generosity look like? John Bechtel, a missionary to Hong Kong, experienced generosity through the $1 gift from a child. Bechtel’s vision was to create a Christian camp where people could come to know Christ. When a large facility became available through bankruptcy, he submitted an offer to buy it. The only problem was he needed to raise funds. Thus began worldwide travel, asking donors to support his vision.
No one offered to support him. Greatly discouraged, he returned to Hong Kong. One day, he received a letter from a young girl. Inside was a dollar with the note saying she wanted to help him create a camp.
It sounds crazy, but Bechtel took her dollar to the real estate company as his offer to buy the facility. They accepted the dollar as full payment. Because of this girl’s generosity, more than 1 million people have come through the camp, and more than 100,000 have accepted Christ as Savior.
Generosity is not dependent on the amount of money given. It is the result of a willing heart moved to action.
Finish what you start
The church in Corinth was learning to live generously. They had accepted the challenge to support the poor in Jerusalem through a relief offering. You might call them “early adopters” in the cause, since they were some of the first to respond to the Apostle Paul’s request to the churches in the region. They began well, but they evidently slacked off or quit all together.
Paul reminded them of their eagerness the year before to get involved and urged them to apply that same eagerness to finish what they started (2 Corinthians 8:11).
It is quite natural to have strong resolve at the beginning of a commitment. When the new wears off and the excitement wanes, we struggle to carry through. We need someone to encourage us to finish strong.
Parents, schoolteachers and coaches encourage children to finish their chores, complete their homework and not give up on the playing field. Even when it is hard, not much fun and seemingly impossible, the call is to keep going. What a sense of satisfaction when the chores are done, the homework turned in and the game won.
Those examples pale in comparison to finishing what Christ has given us to complete. Galatians 6:9-10 reminds us to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Give according to your means
The Corinthians were to give from what they had, not what they did not have. You probably have seen signs in churches that say something like, “Not equal amount, but equal sacrifice.” That would apply here. Paul already had shown how the poor churches in Macedonia were giving what they could, even in their extreme poverty.
Paul wasn’t asking the believers in Corinth to be “hard pressed” so others might live well. He simply was asking them to give from what they had to help those in need. In the days to come, the Jerusalem church might send a relief offering to Corinth.
The words of 1 John 3:17 add weight to Paul’s point: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”
One unique quality of the first century church was rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, slave and free caring for one another. We may take that for granted in our day, but it was revolutionary.
A group of women were building a house for a family in South Texas through the Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas. Every day, the family worked with the team as they hung sheetrock, finished electrical work and put up doors. No one on the team was an experienced homebuilder, but all were offering what they had in service to God and this family.
During lunch one day, the wife and mother told a team member a little about her faith community but said she wanted to know more about Baptists. When asked the reason, she replied, “Because you Baptists help people.” Our generosity says something about who we are.
Encourage others to give
There is a difference between talking about giving and doing it. You never know what others will be inspired to do because you and your church give generously.
Paul told the Macedonians about the Corinthians’ desire to give. Paul then used the example of the Macedonian churches to spur the Corinthian congregation to complete what they started.
The concluding thought of this lesson brings us full circle to the idea of generosity. A gift given grudgingly is not a generous gift. The heart of the giver, not the amount given, is what God is concerned with. Have concern for others. Give what you have. Do it with joy. The gift of $1 changed 100,000 lives for eternity. What will your generosity accomplish?