Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Today I happened to read this article about Kerala, a state in India with a per-capita income about 1/70 that of the US. But the life expectancy there is about 70 (vs 72 for North America). Literacy was certified at 100% some years ago -- higher than it has ever been in the US.

This astonishing feat on 1/70th of the cash really caught my attention, but when I read today's selection from 2 Corinthians 8, the 70:1 wealth factor was foremost in my mind. In this reading, Paul brags about the Macedonians' generosity, and encourages the Corinthians to be generous too.

This is another great argument:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8.9
Now that's a tough act to follow.

Continuing on,
And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.
2 Corinthians 8.10-14
I really like this "according to your means" part. And the next verse is one of my favorites when it comes to giving: the gift is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you don't.

If you're just scraping by, in other words, then whatever you give is fine! But if you're flying to vacation spots around the world, you can probably afford to give more. And if you owe money to someone, don't put it into the collection plate! If you owe it, it's not yours; you don't have the right to give away somebody else's stuff.

The last thing I want to write about this, and what kinda got me, was this remark about equality. He wanted the Corinthians to give so that things could be a little more equal.

The state of Kerala has about 1/70 the per-capita income of the US, and there are some Christians there -- a sizable minority. We don't have to go as far as Kerala -- we can just look within a few miles of our church -- our church of the astonishingly high median household income. What does it mean, equality?

Actually, even without traveling from Menlo Park to East Palo Alto, we have people in our church who are unemployed, getting evicted from their apartments, and so on. What does "equality" mean? What does stewardship mean, versus ministries of mercy?

Sorry, I don't have answers to those questions today. I can say that it's important to give, that the Macedonians (and the Corinthians too) were generous and worth emulating. I see the generous example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But exactly what that means for me today? I guess I need God's help to make me more like Christ in that way, don't I?

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