God’s Economy in operation…
Over the past few weeks I have been blogging in a series contemplating a response for those who are followers of Jesus rather than simply following along with our political ideologies. In so many ways Jesus calls us to view poverty in ways that sit outside of politics. And it is worth considering as today the 7 Billionth person was added to the planet…leaving even more living in poverty today than yesterday.
Today we look at an example from the Early Church to consider a response from us who make up The Church of today.
Last week I mentioned Acts chapter 4 where we see the Church in Jerusalem sharing with each other. There was an extreme movement of people knowing God’s grace and generosity and sovereignty in such a way that they were selling their possessions in order to provide for each other. The radicalness of this is spelled out in the fact that Acts tells us that there were no needy persons among them. Everyone sacrificed & everyone was provided for.
However, it would be possible to criticize the sharing of the Church of Jerusalem as a failed experiment. By the time Paul writes his letters to the Church at Corinth we read that he is taking up a special offering for the Jerusalem church. The feeling that we get from this plea for assistance is that the Church in Jerusalem is in financial need. Now a skeptical mind could say, that if the Church had only planned a little bit better or taken on less charity then they would not find themselves in this place of needing others to provide for them.
However, I wonder if there is not something deeper that God is up to here. We see in Paul’s plea to the Church in Corinth a call for The People of God to respond to this need. This is where The Body of Christ comes together, right? Paul does not call into question the fiscal policy of Jerusalem and her leaders, but rather he calls on the generosity of the Corinthians to provide for them. And, to make his plea he remarks about the poor church at Macedonia who gave out of their poverty in order to provide for the people of Jerusalem.
Consider 2 Corinthians 9:
“6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”
This plea of Paul is shocking. He is calling on Gentiles to provide for a Jewish Church. He not only calls them to give, but to give generously. To give cheerfully. To give to those in need as a response to what God had freely poured into them. To give generously in such a way that leads to more generosity that in the end results in glory being directed to God. This is radical giving.
What if this is God’s economic system? What if His plan is to provide for His Body using other parts of His Body? What if it is about generously giving what we have today – in response to His Grace – and allowing Him to provide through others as our needs arise? The Church in Jerusalem had given fully and now Macedonia and Corinth are giving. It is not out of excess that he calls any of them, but rather He calls them to give in response to God. And in all of it God is the one who was glorified and thanked.
I wonder if this is what it means to be a citizen of Jesus’ Kingdom rather than my own or even the political kingdom that I call home. I believe that being part of His Kingdom will call me to sacrificially give in response to Him in order to provide for other parts of His Kingdom where there is need. Knowing that He is in the process of bringing all things in under His rule and reign, means that this is a worldwide Kingdom that we are part of. We get the privilege of following like the Macedonians of giving out of our poverty as well as the Corinthians of giving while we are quite well off. We get to give All to Our King.
But, where does this generosity come from? As a response to Him – as an act of worship. But, how can I as a Kingdom citizen find resource to give away? Paul has more radical words for us in 1 Timothy 6. Here he breaks the subversive influence of our culture (and some “Christian” sub cultures) by calling us to contentment. To press back against materialism and consumerism through Contentment. This contentment then leads to hard words for you and I – the rich of the world – to consider,
“17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6
It would seem that this is Kingdom Living. This is God’s Economy. This is life.