GIVING – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, Year B; Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (RC)

June 30, 2024

Revised Common Lectionary
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 or Lamentations 3:22-33
Psalm 130 or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 (2a)
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5:21-24 (25-35a) 35b-43

The following reflection is based on today’s Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians. For a reflection based on today’s Gospel reading (and another hymn for the day), click here.

Like me, you probably receive donation requests from various organizations stressing the importance of donor generosity. These appeals usually describe the difference that our gifts make, like providing direct assistance to those in need, underwriting programs, or making up for gaps in funding.

In this Sunday’s Epistle reading, Paul makes an appeal for financial support on behalf of the struggling Jerusalem community. The passage we hear today follows his praise of the less well-off churches in Macedonia that “voluntarily gave according to their means and even beyond their means” (2 Cor 8:3). Just as the more prosperous Corinthians have excelled in sharing their spiritual gifts, so Paul suggests that they should “excel also in this generous undertaking” (2 Cor 8:7). In short, he suggests that the Corinthians should step up and give at least as generously as the Macedonians.

As someone who has written my share of fundraising messages, I don’t believe this kind of donor shaming is an effective way to motivate financial gifts. Fortunately, however, Paul turns next to a theological argument, teaching the Corinthians—and us—that the sharing of resources is an integral part of authentic discipleship. Paul cites the example of Jesus, reminding his readers that Christ gave everything for our sake, even pouring out his own life. Indeed, “though he was rich, for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

I’ve noticed among some people an unspoken assumption that money has little or nothing to do with faith. The teachings of Jesus and the example of early Christian communities, however, draw a close connection between discipleship and our attitude toward wealth. Money is mentioned more than 150 times in the New Testament. In some places wealth is regarded as an obstacle to participation in God’s reign. Yet in other texts it is viewed as a means toward serving the common good, as in the early Jerusalem community, where believers “had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

Widespread individualism in North America, even among Christians, leads many people—even Christians—to resist any notion of shared responsibility for those in need. Yet in the passage we hear today, Paul exhorts believers to follow Christ by giving as he did for us, and in this way help to bring about equality between those who have an abundance and those who are in need.

Paul encourages giving in a spirit of moderation, noting that “the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (2 Cor 8:12). We have a responsibility for one another’s well-being, trusting that there is enough for all: “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little” (2 Cor 8:15).

Today’s Epistle reading offers us an opportunity to consider our own attitude toward money and to ask how we are using what we have for the good of others. Are we cultivating an attitude and practice of generosity, making financial gifts according to our means that reflect our commitment to the Gospel? How do we respond from what we have received to the “God whose giving knows no ending?”

A Hymn for Today: “God, whose giving knows no ending”

Congregationalist pastor Robert L. Edwards wrote this text at his family’s summer cottage in New Hampshire in August 1961, intending that it be sung to the tune HYFRYDOL. He submitted it to The Hymn Society in a call for texts on stewardship, and it was subsequently included in a collection entitled Ten New Stewardship Hymns (1961). Listen here to a recording at the Notre Dame Newman Centre in Dublin, as the hymn is sung to BEACH SPRING.

God, whose giving knows no ending,
from your rich and endless store,
nature’s wonder, Jesus’ wisdom,
costly cross, grave’s shattered door:
gifted by you, we turn to you,
offering up ourselves in praise;
thankful song shall rise forever,
gracious donor of our days.

Skills and time are ours for pressing
toward the goals of Christ, your Son:
all at peace in health and freedom,
races joined, the church made one.
Now direct our daily labor,
lest we strive for self alone.
Born with talents, make us servants
fit to answer at your throne.

Treasure, too, you have entrusted,
gain through powers your grace conferred:
ours to use for home and kindred,
and to spread the gospel word.
Open wide our hands in sharing,
as we heed Christ’s ageless call,
healing, teaching, and reclaiming,
serving you by loving all.

Text: Robert L. Edwards, 1915-2006. © 1961, ren. 1989, The Hymn Society, admin. Hope Publishing Co.

Image Credit: Charity, Giovanni di Balduccio, 14th cent., National Gallery of Art, photo by Anne Richardson

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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