“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” 2 Cor 8:13-15.
Abundance and lack.
For most people, they will go through times of both.
Paul himself observed in Phil 4:12 that “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Paul is telling the Corinthians to use the abundance God had given them to make up the lack the Jerusalem saints were experiencing. One day they might be the ones in lack needing the gracious financial support of others.
Paul quotes from Exodus 16:17-18 when the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God provided bread from heaven.
In talking of “equality” Paul is advocating not a socialist distribution of wealth, but a gracious, generous-hearted sharing of one’s resources to help others in their time of acute need.
The Corinthians had the opportunity and means to help and he exhorts them to do so.
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul gives Timothy advice on how to both instruct and warn two key groups of people within the church he was overseeing.
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
“Those who desire to be rich” (in verse 9) and “those who are rich” (in verse 17).
For the second group, “those who are rich”, Paul makes some noteworthy comments:
- They are to enjoy their wealth – as it is given richly and generously by a loving and good God. The heart of a loving, gracious father is that his children would be well provided for and enjoy life to the fullest, healthiest extent. In order to explain the heart of the Father to people, Jesus would ask them to consider their own heart for their children – evil and imperfect as it may be. He then would ‘up the ante’ and talk about “how much more” do you think God wants to bless His own children (Matt 7:7-11)
- The are to be realistic about their wealth – knowing the ultimate source of their wealth is not themselves or their own skills and ability, but God. He owns it all and graciously shares His creation with us to steward and enjoy (Deut 8:18 and Psalm 24:1)
- They are to give and share their wealth – Paul says the right attitude to your wealth is to be ready to give it and be willing to share it. Did you catch that? Ready to give and willing to share. As a parent, I am greatly encouraged when I see my daughter ready to give and willing to share. It means that she is learning life is not just about her, its about others too
- They are to invest their wealth in eternally significant ventures. In doing so they will be doing a storing of another kind – one of eternal value and reward. Paul says in 2 Cor 9:9 that those who give are doing something with eternal significance and benefits, “As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”