Have you given up? Have you given in? Have you given out? As the middle of summer sneaks up on us and we seek to cram in days of rest between social and political updates, some of us have used these phrases in exasperation. The word “give” takes on a sad meaning when used this way. But the Bible actually addresses “giving” and it has very little to do with surrendering, abandoning, or relinquishing anything. Quite the opposite.
When we look at the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, he writes
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 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, 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.”
We have spent much of this past ministry year talking about the difference between transformational ministry and transactional ministry. This concept fits perfectly with this passage because Paul is explaining the difference between a transformational experience of “giving” and the transactional act of “collecting.”
At the heart of our vision at Bridgeway is the desire to reach across color, class, and culture to build bridges to our community, culture, and world for Jesus. Although on the surface it might look like Paul is calling the Corinthians to a transactional form of giving, there’s something much deeper going on that we could miss. Paul is not talking about the individual act of giving but the collective experience of giving from a communal or community perspective.
The church in Jerusalem was under incredible pressure, politically and financially. They were undergoing oppression, and some scholars believe, a severe famine. In taking up a collection among the Gentile churches to take back to Jerusalem, Paul isn’t primarily interested in transactional charity. In fact, when he writes and asks for a contribution from another Gentile church in Rome, he states his motive even more clearly. He writes in Romans 15:26 that his desire is that this tangible gift from all the Gentile churches would “establish fellowship” between these two ethnic communities, different in their geography and culture, but now one in the family of Jesus Christ. The very word Paul uses for “contribution” (koinonia) literally means fellowship in Greek. Paul sees that this act of generosity is actually a gesture of joining – it is building a bridge.
As we consider how to spend our summer, what new ministries we may join or lead, and how we should engage with our families and communities, let us live out 1 John 3:18. Let us not love one another with just words or the tongue but with actions and in truth. As we participate in sharing our resources and fellowshipping with one another, let’s give UP, IN, and OUT!
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