Paul’s Stewardship Conference: June 30th

June 30, 2024

 Year B,
Pentecost 6                                                                         2 Corinthians

            I have attended a lot of stewardship conferences over the
years.  Clergy are notoriously bad at
talking about money and so they are always providing educational opportunities
for us and other leaders in the church. Just in case that word is new to you,
normally when we talk about it in the church, we are talking about how we
support the needs of the Christian community with our time and our financial
gifts.  The word steward is used in the
Bible when talking about someone who is caring for property that is not
actually theirs.  That is why it’s an
appropriate word for church, we are all called to care for this world and this
church that is really God’s. We are just the temporary caretakers.

have gotten some helpful information at these conferences…but you know whose
stewardship talk I would really like to attend? 
The Apostle Paul—the author of the 2nd letter to the
Corinthians that we heard from today.  It
would not be a warm and fuzzy stewardship training. There would be no snacks,
no bathroom breaks, no tedious ice breakers, but I can guarantee that Paul
would get his message across in a tenth of the time of your average

            All of chapter 8 and 9 of Corinthians is about giving.  Now normally, when you read an appeal letter
that is asking you to donate to a cause, the emphasis is on the cause
itself.  There are emotional and inspiring
stories about the people who are being helped. 
However if you simply read chapters 8 & 9, you would not even know
who this money that Paul is collecting is going to.  From other letters of Paul, we know that the
money is going to the Christians in Jerusalem. But Paul doesn’t mention that
community at all in these chapters.

There was some tension
between the Jerusalem Christians and the new Christians in places like
Corinth.  The Jerusalem Christians were
mostly Jewish converts.  The new
Christians in Corinth and other places where Paul was evangelizing were Gentile
Christians. These two groups were often at odds because of their distinct
backgrounds.  For instance, many of the
Jewish Christians felt that the Gentiles should have to follow Jewish law to
become Christians.  Many of the Gentile
Christians were new to a monotheistic faith, which didn’t give them a lot of
common ground…except of course, for their belief in Jesus. 

            Maybe that is why Paul didn’t spend a lot of time about
who the money was going to.  But I think
the bigger reason that Paul didn’t talk about where the collection was going was
that Paul believed that there was one primary reason to give and it had nothing
to do with who was receiving the collected money. The reason is found in our
reading for today. Paul wrote, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, so that by
his poverty, you might become rich.” He was appealing to the Corinthians not
because of what kind of people they were, or even what the need was…but who
they knew.  They knew Jesus Christ. 

The word “generous act” can
also be translated to grace.  That Greek
word for grace appears 10 times in chapter 8 and is translated to grace only a
few times.   In our reading today, it’s
translated to “generous undertaking” and “generous act.” I am sure the
translator had his reasons, but I wonder if we lost something in not using the
word grace over and over and over again. 
Because that is what this whole reading is about.  Grace is the free, unearned gift that God
gives us.  Grace is the gift that we do
nothing to deserve. Grace is without limit. 
It’s a gift that can only be fully received when it is shared. That is
what grace is.

            Paul was telling the Corinthians that the reason they
should give is because they have already received far more than they need.  “Jesus became poor, so that by his poverty, we might become rich.”  We often hear about Jesus being born to a
poor family and we emphasize the barn where he was born as it points to his
humble beginnings.  Yet when Paul talks
about Jesus becoming poor….it was the act of leaving the riches of heaven, the
power and comfort that must come with divinity. 
Jesus left those riches to become human and experience the pain and
anguish that all humans experience as well as the rejection and humiliation
that came with death on the cross.  It’s
so hard to wrap our minds around this, because we can’t fathom being divine in

a time when you have been the happiest, most comfortable, least anxious,
completely content that you have ever been. 
Try to call that to mind. Then multiply that 100 times over. That is
what Jesus gave up, to be here on this earth with us.  Jesus gave up everything so we could
experience some of that joy and contentment that comes with knowing that we are
beloved.  We are loved by an all powerful
being who sacrificed a tremendous amount so we would have the opportunity to
know that love.  When Paul told the
Corinthians that the grace of God allowed them to become rich, he wasn’t
talking about worldly riches.  He was
talking about the richness of God’s grace, that gift that has no limit—no
beginning nor end.

            Once you have experienced that kind of wealth, the
abundance of God’s grace and love, then 
of course you give it to others in need, of course you share what you
have.  Because what do you do when
something is overflowing, you provide a release valve, you release that
abundance because you can’t possibly hold it all.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians of their
abundance.  He told them to give not
according to what they didn’t have, but what they have.  It seems so obvious, but how often do we
start from a place of considering what we are missing, rather than what we

When Paul finally mentioned the
need of the community he was collecting for, he said: “it is a question of a
fair balance between your present abundance and their need…”  Paul wasn’t asking Corinthians to give more
than they had or even give to a point that would hurt them.  He simply asked them to consider their
abundance according to the needs of others. 
That is what Paul asks of us today. 
That is what stewardship is…it’s how we care for what God has given
us—always considering our own abundance and the needs of others.  But first and foremost, it’s knowing Jesus
and what Jesus gave us when he came down to this earth.  That is what is always comes back to.  If we can remember that tremendous gift (that
grace) then we will always have enough.