II Corinthians 8: 1-15 reminds us what it means to care for one another in a material sense. We often think that those who have resources give, and those who have less receive. Yet this passage reminds us that there should be a reciprocal relationship between the parties instead of one giving and one always receiving.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”[b]
The Apostle Paul was concerned about organizing a collection for the Church of Jerusalem. The church was poor and it was Paul’s desire that all the Gentile churches help that church which was “their mother in the faith,’” states William Barclay.
In the early church, there was a definite reciprocity to giving and receiving that may be lost on modern readers of Scripture. They agreed to care for one another as material needs arose. Paul tells the readers in other churches of the generosity of the Macedonian churches, “They were poor and in trouble but they gave all they had, far more than anyone could have expected,” states Barclay.
For each of us today reading this Scripture while residing in one of the wealthiest nations on earth, it might be hard to understand how we are to live this out.
Perhaps it will be helpful to think about it in these terms:
• Both people – the giver and the receiver – have equal value and worth in the eyes of God. This is also one of the core value statements of Open Door.
• Those in need are often the most ready to give.
• According to Barclay, “Paul’s challenge to the Christian is, ‘With that tremendous example [Jesus Christ] of generosity before you, how can you hold back?’”
Every day at Open Door, we see neighbors helping neighbors find resources and new connections; working together to create new solutions to often longstanding problems; and praying for one another to keep holding on through the tough times.
These are neighbors who may lack material wealth yet are rich with life experiences, stories, love, and concern for others. They have value and worth.
The social norm of reciprocity reminds us that when the materially poor give from what they have, their gifts are of equal value and worth as those who give from their greater portion.
This is the challenge for each of us. To love, to give, to learn, to listen, to appreciate, and to honor the contributions, materially and otherwise, of all.