Generosity (6): Strong-arm tactics?
|In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it. |
2CO 9:1 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we--not to say anything about you--would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. (2Corinthians8:22-9:5)
This passage gives the clear sense that Paul is strong-arming the congregation -
- He's sending two guys with big reputations along with Titus.
- He's challenging them to show "proof of your love" so that the "churches can see it."
- He reminds them that he has boasted about their enthusiasm.
- He warns them that they must be ready as they had said they would be.
- He tells them that they could embarrass him.
- He sends the Titus-team to make sure the arrangements are finalised and to prepare them so that the giving is not haphazard and by-the-way, but deliberate and focussed.
For many of us, our first response would be: "This is not cool! Paul is using every trick in the book (guilt, peer-pressure, shame and authority) to cajole them into being generous!!!
But we have to remember where the congregation has been. There has been gross immorality in the congregation, they've been divided into camps, they have been taking each other to court, they have been fighting over spiritual gifts and they have been abusing Holy Communion and some, according to Paul, have died (struck dead) because of the severity of their sin and divisiveness.
Where strife has been generosity fades. When we're licking our wounds from brokenness and discipline, we tend to be self-centred rather than other-centred.
Generosity matters. It is the antidote for crippling self-centredness and narcissism. It's what is needed when our egos are bruised and diminished.
Paul knows this. He is shamelessly pushing the congregation. He is pushing the congregation - pushing very hard - to get them to health again. He is challenging them to be better than they were. Pride, Arrogance and Selfishness got them into trouble - generosity will get them out.