Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood or appreciated.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sympathy is never wasted except when you give it to yourself.
John W. Raper
You can overcome anything if you don't bellyache.
Bernard M. Baruch
I'm not overweight, I'm just nine inches too short.
So what about chapter 8-9? If I were to do a series on giving, this would be the first passage I’d consider. Paul has a wonderful presentation on giving. (Since Paul is “sidetracked” then I can get “sidetracked” too for a moment.) A few highlights from 8-9: the example of the Macedionian church gave generously even though they did not have a lot of money and the blessings that came from it. 9:6 is a wonderful principle of giving. 9:11 is an encouragement to be generous. Newer people in our church sometimes ask me about tithing. Someone counts the money from SACC each week and records who gives what to fulfill our legal requirement as a Church, but I don’t. I know what Carl and Sally give, and that’s about it. We don’t require anyone give anything, but we give opportunity and we want people to give according to their means and desire. READ 9:5b. SACC is a generous church. I am amazed at times. Perhaps we don’t say it enough, THANK-YOU. We believe it is an honor to give. I have seen very poor people by this world’s standards give generously out of what the Lord has given them. I heard one couple in the community recently testify that they are so grateful for what the Lord has done for them that they would give even if it meant going without food. That’s a little bit about what we as a church try to practice and believe – it all belongs to the Lord in the first place, we are stewards of what the Lord has given us, and we leave it up to each family and person to give back according to their heart and calling.
Back to an important question. Why is there a two chapter lull on giving generously in the middle of this book that is all about restoring broken relationships? For some of you this may be the most important lesson from this series. The lesson is simple: you find yourself living with the tension of a broken relationship, Paul is saying, LIFE GOES ON ANYWAY. To me, the key verse is 8:11, “Now finish the work…” In other words, “yes, we are fighting, but in spite of our broken relationship, you also have an obligation to take up a collection to fulfill a commitment to complete a work that you said you would do. Life goes on…” It is not crystal clear in these two chapters, but coupled with other writings of Paul to other churches, one of the sub-themes of Paul’s ministry as he travels from city to city is to take up a collection of money to take back to the poor in Jerusalem. This seems to be what Paul has in mind, to urge the Corinthians to complete their part in the gift, not for himself, but for the Saints in need in Jerusalem. So in other words, quit feeling sorry for yourself, don’t be consumed by this broken relationship, and complete that which you started.
What happens so often when you fight with somebody is that life comes to a standstill. The whole world comes to a screeching halt. There are serious problems out there, and I know there is a time to grieve, but I have also seen people blow out of proportion their problems and let other relationships or obligations suffer. Open up the blinds and let the sun shine in, the birds are singing outside.
I understand the temptation. Suffering can feel so good. Feeling sorry for yourself can get you all sorts of attention. Yet self-pity is the worst. If you spend too much time feeling sorry for yourself, you are no longer living to Glorify God, everything is about yourself and how you don’t deserve the mess. Personally, I get bored thinking about myself too much. I sometimes tell people to put a timer on their self-pity and then get on to something else. Shock is natural. Taking time to sort things out is natural. But there comes a time when its time to move on in spite of the difficulties that may surround you.
How do you restore a broken relationship? Get back to the business of life. Fulfill your obligations. Based on this scripture, here are some thoughts to get out of your pity party.
If you are struggling in a relationship, do something wild (8:1-4). Paul uses the example of the Macedonians (underscore v. 2). Sometimes that is what it takes. Do something out of character for the sake of God. Change your pattern. Volunteer. The world is going to go on with or without you. Spending too much time suffering over problems is a downward spiral, so do something wild so that you are once again making a difference to others.
Give to others. This entire scripture is about Paul urging the Corinthians to give to others. I talk to a lot of people in Sumas, many are hurting and struggling. I have noticed a general pattern of those who give of themselves do better. I wish I could wave a magic wand a provide a ton of jobs, but I can’t, but what I can do and what we are trying to do in this church and through seeds of hope is to find places for people to give. We are created to give, to serve. Yesterday I had a long conversation with a man standing outside the Clothesline, he is only in his early 50’s, yet health issues have sidelined him, and we talked about this very thing. Last night a woman called that wants to help with the lasagna tonight, not just receive, but get involved.
Seek to give the best (8:7). Jump in with both feet. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. That means risk-taking, that means going the extra mile, that means whatever you do give your best so that you can find satisfaction. I find it incredible that Paul is speaking to a people that are hurting, struggling, feeling sorry for themselves, perhaps some are angry and frustrated, so his solution is to give of themselves and do their very best in something completely different. Finish the task and don’t use your frustrations as an excuse to not act.
I really like verse nine. Think of yourself as rich (8:9). Thinking of yourself as rich is the last thing on the mind of those who are feeling sorry for themselves. It is the most basic message of Christianity: the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself on the cross because he loves you. Think of yourself as rich. No matter your situation, no matter your struggles, no matter your desperation, to know Christ and accept Christ is rich.
(8:10-11) Do that which you found success in the past. The Corinthians gave well, they found joy in the past, this is something easy for them. If you are seeking to expand your world, to find a greater purpose for your life, consider that which gave you meaning and satisfaction in the past. The Corinthians excelled in giving, and Paul says, do it again. Perhaps for you it is cooking, watching children, teaching, listening. One of my callings in Sumas is to help people find their place of service and to connect people together. If anyone wants my help, one of the first things I will explore is what gave you satisfaction in the past. What made your heart beat a little faster. I don’t want people to fill slots in their service for God, I want them to belong.
Do that which you said you would do (8:11). Most of the time, knowing the will of God is the easiest thing in the world, we don’t need an audible voice. The will of God is to fulfill your obligations and responsibilities. If you are a husband, wife, parent, your job, your promises, that is God’s will for you. Giving up on life because you fight with somebody is not an option.
Give out of what you have (8:12). You might want to underwrite a mission trip for 25 youth but if you don’t have the money, that may not be the best choice. You don’t want me watching the small children, I like kids, but if you stick me in a room with a bunch of kids week after week I will resent it.
How do you restore a broken relationship. It’s vitally important to get outside of yourself and serve others…You may be hurting, you may be struggling, but in the mysterious ways of God, the way to restore a broken relationship is to continue on with life, to give of yourself in spite of the hurts and struggles, At some point, and that point is only between you and God, you need to get away from self-pity, I had a friend once that I used to visit named Joy, Joy was a Cherokee Indian woman, the most beautiful and wonderful artist, she had been divorced, had a major stroke so that her head had a big spot that was concave, but she always told me she never felt sorry for herself, She used to laugh at her life-size fiberglass moose out in her yard that she painted pink symbolizing a feminine strength. I can’t say the word she used often, but she’d say to me, “It’s time to _____ and get off the pity pot.” Joy created with her hands, the leather work, the sculptures. She used to call me father Carl, drawing from her Catholic background.
Enlarge this saying from 9:6-8a. This is not just about giving money, it’s about serving. Getting away from your own problems. Do something wild for God. Give to others. Seek the best. You are rich, you have a lot to give, a lot to offer. Give out of what you have. Fulfill your obligations. It’s time to quit feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to move on and give up your life by giving to others take control of your life so that God can change you. Amen.