A Christmas Letter from Paul
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches…” – 2 Corinthians 8:1
‘Tis the season for airy epistles filled with the polished perfections of lapsed friends and intentionally-distant relations. You know the kind. Letters featuring tales of good fortune: mama’s marathon, papa’s promotion, brother’s straight A’s, and sister’s starring role. Attached please find a picture of gleaming smiles and color-coordinated sweaters.
Now imagine yourself a Corinthian, hearing these glowing words about the church in Macedonia:
“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
And in the middle of their eye-rolls, he goes on:
“Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And,”
wait for it . . .
“they exceeded our expectations.”
Just when they are about to shred the festive stationery into Christmas confetti, Paul flips the script:
“You [Corinthians] excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
It turns out this is a letter to that fortunate family with their smiles and sweaters, and the message is clear:
“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.'”
God of the Poor, transform our privilege into generosity. As we count our blessings, remind us to number others’ needs. Make equality our goal.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.