When we tell true stories about the commitment and sacrifice shown by fellow-believers, we are not telling the people under our pastoral care what they must do (8). This is not about emotional manipulation or coercion. But a judicious use of such stories can stir up God’s people to be everything they can be in Him. Sometimes Christians are rocked to sleep in the devil’s ‘cradle’ and they don’t even know that they have ‘dozed off’. They need a wake up call. There are times when what is required is to be exposed to the challenge of red hot Christian lives. Followers of Jesus may get this inspiration by meeting those people who burn with intense love for Christ, or by reading about them, or even hearing about them. There are occasions when we who lead in the church have to, as it were, place the jigsaw box lid on the table where all the pieces are scattered. Then we can all see the picture we are trying to put together. As an apostle, Paul could have told the Corinthians what to do. Instead his approach was more subtle; he told them a story! When you become aware that your own performance is lacking, seeing what best practice looks like can motivate you to want to get there. If your love is ‘sincere’ it will stand comparison with ”the earnestness of others” and seek to rise to that level, and even surpass it. Once give a genuine Christian a vision of what ought to be, and he or she will no doubt aspire to it.
There is no greater example in the matter of Christian giving than that of Christ Himself (9). Stories of other Christians may inspire us, but no-one we know has given as Jesus did. He gave up (leaving the glory and wealth of heaven for a time: ”He was rich beyond our telling…” J.B.Phillips); He gave out (in a life of unstinting service to others); and He laid down (His life on the cross for the sins of the world.) No other has ever given like Jesus. Seek to copy Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is possible in any area of the Christian life to make a good start, and then begin to flag in the middle section of the race (10, 11). This was how it had been with the Corinthians with reference to this collection for the poor Christians in Judea. They had shown great ”desire” to help in the fairly recent past, and had made a start with their giving. Paul wanted to motivate them to finish what they had started. Of course, he was expecting them to give according to their ”means” (11).
What Paul wanted to see was more of a level playing field in the church (11-15 cf. Ex.16:18), where those with more helped those with less. There is a strong sense of mutuality and interdependence in these words. We need each other. ”…the important thing is to be willing to give as much as we can – that is what God accepts, and no one is asked to give what he has not got. Of course, I don’t mean that others should be relieved to an extent that leaves you in distress. It is a matter of share and share alike. At present your plenty should supply their need, and then at some future date their plenty may supply your need.” J.B. Phillips.
Prayer: May I so live that my life will inspire others to ‘burn’ with love for Jesus.