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Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are portions of 2nd Corinthians chapter 8 where the Scripture says,   

1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…..

 

8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

BENEVOLENCED BENEVOLENCE -  LIVING THE LIFE OF FAITH GENEROUSLY!

The Christian life was meant to be lived with faith toward God and fervent love toward our neighbor, and to do so generously. Paul reminds the Corinthians that such a way of life begins with the awesome realization that God loved us generously by sending His Son to die for us so that we might live (see verse 9; also 2nd Corinthians 9:15). God’s merciful, gracious benevolence motivates, empowers, and directs the lives of believers to benevolence for others who are in need as a reflection of God’s love. In this passage St. Paul challenges believers to help others as a way of expressing their faith in God. It’s a powerful witness when Christians love one another as they are loved by God, when they forgive one another as they are forgiven by God, when they speak God’s truth in love as they have been blessed by that same Word, and when they are also willing to use the material gifts that God has given them in service to the needs of others. A generous God calls forth a people who will share His super-abundant grace generously. Paul says it another way in Romans 12:1, “In view of God’s mercy, present your bodies as living sacrifices.”  What a way to live. What a way to love and to be loved.

That’s why it is so sad to hear people misunderstand or caricature today’s passage as merely a religious obligation, or, worse, some public policy for a new government program. This isn’t about doing religious works to appease God or to satisfy oneself. This isn’t a coercive demand for equity as some human solution to the myriad of problems in our world. This is living life abundantly as believers in response to God’s grace and mercy. Paul isn’t demanding obedience here. He’s inviting believers freely to be gracious to others in view of the mercy that they themselves have first received. He calls for reciprocity, sharing one another’s burdens, because God’s gift of love in Christ seeks to love others in His name. The very vocations in which God has placed us are opportunities to live the “benevolenced life” for others.

In a world where people seek abundance and fulfillment for their own lives on their terms alone, such outcomes often elude them because of sinfulness. In a world where people strive for purpose and meaning in their work, in their position, and even in their benevolence, one’s selfishness can even undermine one’s efforts at selflessness. No amount of wealth and technology, no human program or system, and not even our best efforts can accomplish what God wants to do with our lives as a reflection of His grace. Remember today, that you are loved abundantly by God in Christ in spite of your sin and brokenness, and that the gracious life of faith is yours to live on His terms, with His resources, and for His purposes. Be amazed that God has an abundant life for you to live, generously, to those whom He brings into your life right now. What a way to live!  

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help me to see that a life of generosity is rooted in Your benevolence and mercy to me, and to all. Then let the gifts You give me become opportunities for me to show Your love to others so that Your generosity becomes not just something we receive, but constantly share, striving to live for others as You live for us. AMEN.

 

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