Elder Chew Chong Kiat
By An Equality
Text: 2 Cor 8:1-15
2 Cor 8:14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
Have you wondered why our heavenly Father who has riches supernal would allow His redeemed and beloved ones to be in want? He surely can provide equally and sufficiently and even abundantly for everyone but there are always some in His church who need to be supplied by their brethren.
What is the solution to such a form of inequality in the church? We turn to our text for instruction.
The Privileges of Those Who Have
The Apostle Paul wrote to provoke the church of Corinth to give towards the brethren in need at Judaea because of a great dearth.
I. He highlighted the liberality of the churches of Macedonia (v1-6).
a) They gave because they were given the grace of God (v1). To give is a grace gift of God. They reciprocated the kindness and goodness of God by cheerfully sending relief to the brethren in Judaea after they were informed of their needs by the Apostle.
b) They gave out of great affliction (v2a). They had much on their plate but they were not unmindful of those in need. They did not look only on their own things but also on the things of others (Phi 2:4).
c) They gave beyond their power (v2b-3). They were poor and they gave beyond their ability to relieve the greater poverty of their brethren. They were willing to share their brethren’s suffering by parting with the little they had, like the widow who gave of her two mites (Mk 12:42) and like the Saviour who became poor that we might be rich (v9).
d) They gave out of great earnestness and love (v4). It could be that Paul was not willing to take their gift because of their condition. They urged upon Paul earnestly, for they desired to have fellowship with the necessity of their brethren.
e) They first gave themselves to the Lord before they gave (v5a). All that they gave would not have been acceptable to the Lord had they not first given themselves to the Lord to serve Him as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). Their giving was an evidence of their consecration.
f) They gave themselves to their leaders (v5b). They believed the report of Paul and companions and entrusted their resources to their care.
The churches of Macedonia recognized their privilege to help.
II. Paul highlighted the past forwardness of the church of Corinth (v7-8,10-12). It is likewise the privilege of the Corinthians to have fellowship with the brethren in Judaea. They had expressed their willingness to help others a year ago. Paul encouraged them to go beyond the desire and the thought to the performance of it. When an opportunity to do good knocks on our heart’s door and our hearts are stirred to help a brother but we do not perform it, it will be in vain.
III. Paul provoked the Corinthians by the example of Christ the Saviour (v9). Our Saviour is the example par excellence. The churches of Macedonia followed in His footsteps. He became poor that others may become rich through Him. But He exceeded them in that He was infinitely rich, because he left that state of glory and blessedness to suffer for our sake. None can come close to His example.
IV. Paul explained how equality is to be achieved (v13-15). It is not by over burdening some while others are eased. Our good Lord had provided sufficiently for everyone’s needs but they were not equally distributed. Each had to recognize his role. Those who have abundance have to recognize their privilege to supply for the wants of others that there may be equality.
Paul drew on an interesting illustration in the OT (v15) when the children of Israel had to work to collect manna for their daily food. It was hard work to collect an omer (about 9.3 measuring cups) of manna which was the size of a coriander seed. God rained manna over the camp (Ps 78:24). Some, because of old age or other reasons, could not collect enough to supply their daily needs. The Israelites were expected to help one another. This was deliberate on the part of God to let the Israelites exercise care one for another in their communal living. “As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.” (2Co 8:15).
Likewise, those for whom God provided more in the church have the responsibility to provide for those who lack, so that none will lack.
The Joy of Those Who Have Not
O what joy to those who lacked when they received! How they thanked God for the love of the brethren and were provoked by such an act to do likewise when they have surplus in the future (v14b). They learnt of the love of God for them through those whom God sent to supply their wants.
It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Ac 20:35) But there is joy in receiving also; Apostle Paul rejoiced (Phi 4:10). Those who received gave thanks to God for the love of God they saw in those who gave.
However, this is possible only when those in need accept help and when the need is known to the church. There are times when some choose to suffer silently because they do not want to inconvenience others. Yes, it is true that “... every man shall bear his own burden.” (Ga 6:5). But the same passage also teaches to “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Ga 6:2). There is a time and season for everything. A time to bear your own burden, and a time to bear others’ burdens and a time to let others bear the burden with you.
Others are shy to ask or shy to make known their needs. If only they understand the will of God in allowing them to want ‘the fellowship of the ministering to the saints’ (v4) so that they may be strengthened. This is an occasion to testify to the world of the love of God through the love of God’s people. Sometimes news of brethren in need may come through the mouth of unbelievers who ask why the church is not doing anything. The name of Christ is evil spoken of before help can be rendered. It is sad but true.
That There May Be Equality
We are given a glimpse of such a wonderful community in the early church. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Ac 2:44-45). Some among the three thousand who believed were persecuted for their faith and were in hardship. Those who had abundance gave to supply the wants of others. Such a testimony caused the world to ‘sit up’ and pay attention to this community. What a demonstration of the transforming grace of God which had hitherto not been seen in the Jewish community that avowed a faith in Jehovah. Many Jews were added to the church as a result of their faith and life. “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Ac 2:46-47).
Did not our Lord Jesus say, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:35). How do we show love one for another? “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (Jas 2:15-16). Yea, it does no profit. “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1Jo 3:17-18)
The presence of inequality in the church is God’s providence to the church to be a beacon of light to the community. The solution to the inequality is given by God. May God help us as a body of Christ to fulfill the great commission through this testimony to the world.