“I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.'” 2 Corinthians 8:13-15
“Paul writes as a practical theologian. He does not coerce the church, as that would violate the act of self-giving abundance. Nor does he ask for excessive self-giving, even though Christ gave self-excessively. He asks only for “a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance” (v. 13-14).
Paul completes that part of his argument with an appeal to the manna narrative of Exodus 16:18: “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.” (v. 15). If ever the biblical tradition provided a case study in divine generosity, the manna story is it. Paul does not go on to remind the church that Israel in the manna story was prohibited from storing up surplus, but the point is readily inferred.
Thus we come full circle to his query in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive?” Manna is all gift; what the church in Corinth has is all gift. It was all given. And now, in a corresponding act of generosity, it may be shared as the church in Macedonia has done.”
Walter Brueggemann in Money and Possessions (Interpretation; Louisville: WJKP, 2016) 224. For those looking for the most recent comprehensive biblical theology of money and possessions, this book is it!
Brueggemann reminds us today that the manna story is a case study in divine generosity.
Do you want to see rich giving in your church? Follow Paul’s example. Notice how he communicates. He graciously points the way to self-giving abundance. He reminds people that all is a gift from God, just like the manna. It cannot be stored up. God’s design is sharing. Anything unshared spoils. Notice no coercion. No motivating with guilt.
Lest you think your students or congregation might ignore you for instructing them accordingly, likely because they have bought the world’s scarcity narrative, remind them that in the manna story the people ignored Moses too (see Exodus 16:16-21). What’s so telling is that God never forces us to acknowledge that He is the giver of all good gifts!
We demonstrate whether or not believe this profound truth by how we handle money. Notice though, there’s no coercion. People will either live like they believe and give with self-giving abundance, or they won’t. Sadly, the latter will miss more than the opportunity to share. Most probably, they have chosen a trajectory that causes them to miss the life that is truly life altogether.
Let’s teach this case study in divine generosity so those we serve grasp self-giving abundance. All we have is a gift to be shared.Read more