7 Now as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you–so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something– 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have. 13 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 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 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.” [NRSV]
The round sealing stone in the picture above is miniature replica of what the stone in front of Jesus’s tomb might have looked like. This one was about one fourth the size needed to seal the tomb entrance at the garden tomb location. Part of the faith journey of the Garden Tomb site is that it is not historical location of the tomb, which is located within the walls of the city. Therefore some would say it is not the genuine local. So the question remains for some what is real, true and genuine.
The text today is about being genuine in our relationship with God in Jesus Christ. Some folks may start with eagerness, hopes and dreams, but grow weary, doubt-filled or even loose their faith all together. Paul’s advice to the church at Corinth is to finish what they have started.
I am no runner. Yesterday was no day to be running. It was eerie how quiet our street and all downtown appeared for what appeared to be a beautiful day from the comfort of our air cooled homes and cars. The first step out the door was a walking into a wall of baking heat that would drive anyone to the nearest vent, fan, or coolest shade. Just because one day is too hard to walk is no reason to give up on walking altogether. When it cools 10-15 degrees go out again. Drive to grocery store, mall or shopping center and walk in the AC. Find a swimming pool or go to the lake and swim for exercise.. keep the prize of the goal in sight.
Paul links Genuineness of faith to our generosity of sharing our riches. We have begun a financial campaign in the scaring financial time. Our goal is to raise over $750,000 in three years to retire or indebtedness and start a maintenance fund to care for our beautiful facilities. We are calling it, “Finish the Paving” Campaign. It is remarkable that so many folks who have never given to a building fund have joined in the challenge. When those who have started have been hesitant to make the commitment to complete the goal.
Paul’s words are to look back at our first love and reconnect with the good that got us started. I look at my car, my 2004 Pacifica, it now has over 212,000 miles. There are times that I see the ads for the new 2012 models and convince myself that I have gotten all the good out of my current ride. But in this economy is it faithful to go into debt when my car is still dependable. Even if it needs a couple of months worth of payments to keep it up another year, what is the prize? What is the goal? Dependable transportation. If it died tomorrow it would be a different circumstance, but today I need not dream of that new car smell that is so tempting.
The challenge from Paul is not to equate riches with faith, rather what do we consider our greatest wealth and how do we use what we have. He reminds us of Christ’s wealth. Not in banks or real estate or even credit. Jesus’s wealth was in his life given for our lives. A price paid for our salvation, our hope and our relationship.
Our greatest wealth is the life Christ has died to save and liberate. What have you done for Christ lately. I thank dearly those who have given sweat equity to make VBS possible, for those who have made sandwiches for hungry children, for those who have travel to foreign lands to build up God’s house, for those who have shared food, clothes and money so that other can have what they need in these trying days and nights.
Paul affirms that we have different gifts to share. Some prayer while others sweat. Some give while other spend. Some invest when other reap. At stake are those, wither rich or poor, have started but not finished the course. At risk is the relationship Christ has opened up, that we might have diverted because of worldly wealth, emotional fears, or social pride have challenged.
The charge is to pick the flag back up and carry it into battle. The advice is to continue what we first loved. The challenge is to step back into the deep water and keep our eyes on Jesus in the storm..
That is what is Genuine. That is what is true. That is what is Christ wants us to eagerly go. And place of refreshment is at his table. Come and drink and eat … that we might live again the life Christ died to live in us. Come!