International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 31, 2014
Purpose: To encourage Christians, motivated by gratitude for God’s grace, to discover the joys of sharing by giving generously to meet the needs of others
Bible Lesson: 2 Corinthians 8:1-14
Background: 2 Corinthians 8-9
2 Corinthians 8:1-14 (CEB)
(1) Brothers and sisters, we want to let you know about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia.(2) While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. (3) I assure you that they gave what they could afford and even more than they could afford, and they did it voluntarily. (4) They urgently begged us for the privilege of sharing in this service for the saints. (5) They even exceeded our expectations, because they gave themselves to the Lord first and to us, consistent with God’s will. (6) As a result, we challenged Titus to finish this work of grace with you the way he had started it.
(7) Be the best in this work of grace in the same way that you are the best in everything, such as faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and the love we inspired in you. (8) I’m not giving an order, but by mentioning the commitment of others, I’m trying to prove the authenticity of your love also. (9) You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor for our sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.
(10) I’m giving you my opinion about this. It’s to your advantage to do this, since you not only started to do it last year but you wanted to do it too. (11) Now finish the job as well so that you finish it with as much enthusiasm as you started, given what you can afford.(12) A gift is appreciated because of what a person can afford, not because of what that person can’t afford, if it’s apparent that it’s done willingly. (13) It isn’t that we want others to have financial ease and you financial difficulties, but it’s a matter of equality. (14) At the present moment, your surplus can fill their deficit so that in the future their surplus can fill your deficit. In this way there is equality.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Did you ever wonder where Sunday School contests and church challenges came from? According to today’s lesson I guess we can blame the Apostle Paul for all of these marketing and money raising ideas. It also appears Paul and the early church knew about “connectional giving.” The early church was a connected church.
There were two states or districts involved in our lesson text. One is located in Macedonia, which included the churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. The other state is Achaia; both were part of the Roman Empire during Paul’s time. The provincial capital of Achaia was Corinth. Paul addresses the church at Corinth but also includes all of the churches of Achaia in other letters.
This portion of Paul’s letter changes its content to one that already assumes reconciliation with the church at Corinth has been achieved. Paul seems emboldened to ask them for financial help for the home church in Jerusalem and Judea. And he also holds up as an example, those churches located in Macedonia. Just like today when Florida churches are held up as examples for Georgia churches to follow, (or vice versa) I am certain there was a natural rivalry between Macedonia and Achaia. It may have not reached the level of rivalry of the Gators and Bulldogs, but I feel confident there was a rivalry.
The truths about giving as presented by Paul are: (1) it is a grace (2) it can be exercised even during the bad times (3) it is a form of fellowship (4) it should be preceded by dedicating ourselves (5) now is the time to give.
In the later part of our text we find Paul’s purposes for giving stated. (1) to abound in everything Christian (2) to prove one’s love (3) to imitate Christ (4) to show an abundance of grace (5) to help in meeting the needs of others.
Paul’s plea must have been successful, because he writes in Romans 15:25-26 “(25) but now I’m going to Jerusalem, to serve God’s people. (26) Macedonia and Achaia have been happy to make a contribution for the poor among God’s people in Jerusalem”.
Regardless of our church affiliation, God’s people are connected by his love and grace, wherever they are located. Whenever we hear of those that have chosen to follow Christ are in need, and maybe more importantly when those that are living without Christ are in need we should respond, it is the Christian thing to do.
Here is a prayer to use for closing this lesson.
For Courage to do Justice
O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others
Open my ears that I may hear their cries;
Open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
And use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee. Amen.