2 Corinthians 8 and 9 –
A Steward's Guidebook
We live in a time where there are a number of negative influences on the field of stewardship, giving, generosity, and philanthropy. Concerns like taxes, politics, economy, the church, and unemployment are all used to explain why giving is down, will be down, and that we shouldn't expect it to get better very soon.
While people are hurting, and things are tough in some situations, I would like to share my view of how development officers might look at these negative factors.
Let's start with the second letter from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. Specifically, we will study chapters 8 and 9. For this e-Newsletter, I would like to look at chapter 8, verses 1-5. Here it is in The Message version:
Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford! — pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.
This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.
Here are some key points the Ministry of Development officer should see and be able to communicate:
- The church at Macedonia was not in a good situation. It could be their "economy" was bad. It could be they had strife in their ranks. It could be things were just bad or discouraging. But they did not let circumstances stand in they way of their call to generosity. They were compelled as followers of Jesus despite the situation they found themselves in. They saw their true source of generosity was not of this world.
- They pleaded with Paul to let them assist others in their ministry. Do you ever hear that from your donors today?
- They surprised them (Paul) with what they did next. They gave themselves to God. What does this mean? They reminded each other that God was their source; he was who they lived for. He was the owner of all. In essence, they reviewed their life priorities of stewardship.
These 3 points of Paul's letter sets the stage for all of his teaching that follows. He will write of a number of key foundational beliefs of the church regarding generosity. But first he reminds all of us that:
- We should not let our circumstances determine our obedience in generosity.
- We should be seeking ways to give, not just waiting for someone to ask.
- Our stewardship draws us closer to the Owner that we serve.
Take a look at these first verses and see how you can apply them to your development strategies, writing, board reports, and donor materials. May the truth of scripture be a great tool for your holiday ministry of development.
Dr. John R. Frank, CFRE, CCNL