and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 2 Corinthians 8:5
Let me tie some things together.
You've heard me refer to out-of-context verses - which is the result of trying to determine the meaning of individual statements (or passages) by separating them from their original framework. Whether this happens in the process of Biblical interpretation or in the news coverage of a political speech, the end result is as undependable as the bias of either writer or reader. But this practice is merely the consequence of something more basic: an out-of-context perception.
Perception refers to how we view - or understand - the world in which we live. Unfortunately, through logic based in Greek and Roman philosophies [see *Note at bottom], we have learned to divide and sub-divide our subject in order to get a handle on it. By this process, we've come up with countless topics that we treat as separate issues - "Giving" being one of many. But our out-of-context perceptions are also merely an outgrowth of something more basic: an out-of-context IDENTITY.
Our identity in this world is based upon origin. You see, our roots were found in a humanity that lost connection between itself and the source of its life. We were born into an existence separated - not only from God - but from our true selves. It's as if we were born ALMOST human, unable to discover our true destiny or identity.
We misunderstand the bondage of humanity when we try to define it by specific vices or evils instead of realizing that it is understood by the separation we have suffered from our hereditary disconnection with life. It turns out that the vices and evils we have experienced are merely natural results of an existence that is in contradiction with itself - in other words, an out-of-context identity.
The thing that makes grace amazing is the simple fact that through the operation of Christ, having died to sin and raised to new life, is that He has put our identity back in context! The thing that Adam was designed to experience has been fully experienced in Christ, with no contradiction. We have a new origin, our roots have been planted in Christ. And you who hear this and believe - whether it makes sense or not - have been made fully complete in Christ.
And yet we approach giving as if our identity was still defined by insincerity. We have been convinced that even though we have been made alive in Christ we are still basically tight-wads. Isn't this why we bind ourselves by pledges and percentages and principles and laws and guilt, or whatever else motivates us to give? [Now remember, if your heart rejoices to give a certain percentage, or to join in on a pledge, then go for it. But if there is no joy in it, you may want to reconsider why you do what you do. On the other hand, making a law of living in reaction against a law (such as holding back an inner compelling to give because you don't have to) is just as much a bondage and results in a similar lack of joy.]
You see, through the freedom of Christ, the human heart has been put back in context. The contradictions we still experience come from the fact that we keep re addressing whether or not Christ has once for all settled the matter.
Our questions revolve around WHO WE REALLY ARE. Has our identity as humans truly been re-established so that we can be confident in being who we are? Do we have to become somebody or something else in order to discover our purpose?
As far as giving is concerned, do we have to force some kind of gratitude or promise in order to make it happen? What if it turns out that your heart has ALREADY been renewed through Christ, and that simple confidence in this reality will stir it to the appropriate response - even if another doesn't approve?
In the next letter I will finally get into the specifics of what was going on between Paul and the Corinthians. You may be surprised to discover that I have actually been doing that in the past couple letters. :)
Until next time ...
Note: While this "Western" philosophy produces a greater understanding of selected fields of study it also brings a greater disconnection between those fields. In order to make the details fit together, the "experts" have to force the perception of the whole to comply with their understanding of those details. Now, while "Eastern" philosophy may be based upon the connection of all things and has produced many incredible results, it has forced everything it SEES - both "good" and "evil", both "life" and "death" - into two sides of the same reality, instead of seeing that one is the absence of the other.