Read: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints—and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
Our current economy depends on high and ever-increasing levels of consumption. This type of consumption invites us to view the things we buy with a significant level of detachment, so that we can discard them and purchase new and improved items. We even bring that level of detachment into our monetary transactions. For example, if you buy a cup of coffee at the same place on a regular basis, do you know the name of the person who serves you? Of course, we are even more detached from those who grew and roasted the coffee beans. Global consumerism cultivates and thrives on such detachment.
Paul recognizes that money and other material goods connect his churches to each other and to the church in Jerusalem. Rather than being opposed to material goods and to money in principle, Paul wants believers to understand that money and the things we use it for can connect us to others, forming bonds that would not otherwise exist. We need to attend to the nature of those bonds so that they can be mutually supportive and life-giving. Otherwise the connections forged by money can become distorted and oppressive. We can use money and the things it can purchase as a way to separate ourselves from others—or money and things we purchase with it can open opportunities for relationship and ultimately friendship with others. What will you choose?
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 815)
Joe Burnett served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and as an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Maryland.