My family has changed residence quite a bit in the last thirty years or so. Since getting married, we’ve lived in Lake Ronkonkoma, Huntington Station, and Whitestone, NY; Jonesboro, Morrow, and Riverdale, GA; Mill Valley, CA; two locations in Peabody, MA, and two locations in Vacaville, CA. Those of you who have had a similarly mobile history have probably learned a thing or two about packing. I have. I don’t play that ‘Tetris’ video game too well (you know, the one where you turn and slide various shaped blocks together so there’s no empty space left over) , but I can pack a U-Haul with great efficiency. One of the first things I keep in mind is ‘leveling the load.’ I try to distribute the weight evenly from side to side. And I don’t pack the front of the truck high and tight and then end up with empty space in the back. Once you start driving, you can count on the stuff in the high space finding the low space. The load needs to be level in that way, too.
The heavy loads of sister churches don’t ever come in exactly the same intensity at exactly the same time. A burden weighs down on one and not another. Since my primary audience is the team of pastors and leaders of the Redwood Empire Association of churches, today’s text is quite relevant. Paul’s missionary work had created a widespread association of churches. He and his itinerating teammates were the links that held the congregations together. Today, our churches can link up so much more easily – we can phone and text, email and Skype, Facebook and twitter and blog. Hopefully we are learning to use these new media to stay connected and informed. Paul could only visit or write to the Corinthian church, located in the province of Achaia. In this letter, he refers to churches in the province of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea.) One reason Paul was coordinating these churches was to raise a financial gift for the needy church at Jerusalem. Jerusalem's load was heavy and so, there was a need to level that load.
The Macedonian churches were praised because they gave sacrificially and not out of any surplus. They gave out of an urgent commitment to the idea of leveling the load. They didn’t just give lip service to the idea, but they followed through on their pledge. Paul and Titus were attempting to move the Corinthians to do the same. “Finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it.” “Excel in this grace of giving.”
Giving is a grace; an act of merciful service. Paul illustrates with the ultimate example – “[Jesus] was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that through His poverty you might become rich.” No leveling there – Jesus took the full weight all by Himself! So, if Jesus is willing to take on everything for sinners, shouldn’t we be willing to take on something for the saints? Just level the load, Paul explains. With what you do have, supply the one who doesn’t have. Then when you have a need, they will turn around and supply you. This is the concern for equal advantage that should typify the churches of Christ.
Friends, participate in the life of the church and in the life of the association through giving. Give money. Give time. Give talent. Cheerfully and regularly give for the building up of every local Body. Have a sense of unity and mutual concern. May we all rise together as we level every load.
Pray: Inexhaustible God of blessing, help me to be generous like You. Everything of worth in my life came from You. Help me not to be selfish or stingy with my gifts. If I am strong, move me to apply that strength to another who is weak. Help me discover the joy of giving.