Last week we started a new series at Grace titled “Taking Inventory.” This Sunday we will continue it by looking at how Paul dealt with a group of people who needed to strengthen their grip on generosity.

Those who are close to me know that I have never been into the whole New Year’s resolutions thing. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that I have never been a practitioner. The grind for me has to be daily, purposeful, 24 hours at a time, one building block after another.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, let me say that I am also a big planner and like the rest of you I get frustrated when a goal goes unrealized or the grind grinds endlessly.

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul dealt with a group of people who started a project with a bang but were on the verge of ending it with a big yawn. The project had to do with the noble task of collecting offerings for the saints in Jerusalem who for various reasons had been impoverished within a few years after the birth of the Church.

Paul made an impassioned plea for the Gentile believers to step up to the plate and help alleviate the abject needs of God’s people in Jerusalem. The church in Corinth immediately jumped onto the band wagon, but now it’s been a year, they were immersed in never ending controversies, and the project was languishing. So what do you do when the people lose the early enthusiasm for generosity in the work of God?

First, you don’t dictate. Paul is so skillful in saying he is not commanding the people to give, even if he is strongly encouraging them to do so. Generosity cannot be ordered. If it’s not voluntary, it’s not acceptable by God.

Secondly, you give perspective. Paul said he used the example of the Corinthians’ early enthusiasm to encourage other Gentile Christians to do the same and now that those other Gentiles had excelled in their gift, he was concerned that if the Corinthians didn’t finish their project, he (and especially they) would be terribly ashamed of the situation.

Thirdly, you draw the big picture. In other words, you go to the bottom line, the first cause, the raison d’être. And so we have it: “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 through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9.

I can’t read these words without crying. Generosity is rooted in, motivated by, and delivered through the incarnation of Christ, His death on the cross and the resurrection that took place on the third day. God’s divestiture of His Son is the only reason I need to lavish generosity on others. I can’t even be saved if I don’t get the impact of this amazing truth.

So make this the year of generosity and finish the work of grace which God has already started in you by focusing more on others than on yourself in 2017.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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