2 Corinthians 9:13 (NRSV): 13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others…
Paul is taking up an offering for the Christians in Jerusalem who are suffering and in need. He’s sending this letter in advance of his visit to the church in Corinth so the people there can be prepared to contribute when he arrives. This verse reflects his understanding that the invitation to give financially is challenging for some in Corinthian church.
“Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God…”
While it’s true that our salvation is given to us by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, rather than by works of our own, our faith will be tested from time to time. In this case the Corinthians were being tested to share of their financial resources with people they’d never met. Some may have felt they didn’t have money to give as they were struggling to get by themselves. Or maybe they thought it wiser to give for local causes than for people far away. Or… whatever. I understand the push-back. Giving is a test of faith.
God doesn’t just test us with finances, but in many other ways as well. In recent years my testing has come in keeping a Sabbath day. It’s hard. Really hard. Like everyone else I’m tempted to think that giving a full day to the Lord will cause me to get further behind than I already am. Keeping a Sabbath requires me to trust the promise of God that he is my provider, not myself. That God can do more in my life in six days than I can do in seven. That, like the ancient Hebrews, a Sabbath day is a reminder that I’m not a slave, but a child of God. Slaves don’t get days off, but must work every day. Children of God are given the gift of rest and renewal. Logically keeping the Sabbath makes complete sense, but in my gut I rebel.
That said, I know that the Lord doesn’t test me out of some sadistic pleasure, but as a means to help me grow in grace. To live more fully into the life God dreams for me rather than within the limits of what I think is possible. God is able to give to us far more than we can ever hope or imagine. If I will just get out of the way… Lord let it be so. Amen.