For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality-- at the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may also become available for your need, that there may be equality. As it has been written: The person who gathered much did not have too much, and the person who gathered little did not have too little. – 2 Corinthians 8:12-15 HCSB

Paul was once again correcting the out of balance views of a fledgling church. They had swung so far to the side of grace that they had failed to adequately protect themselves from sin. Then, they swung so far to the side of holiness that they failed to forgive a repentant sinner. Now he was teaching them balance in another field – that of generosity and service.

There are some who will tell you “Give until it hurts, then keep on giving until it feels better again.” But Paul’s teaching is needed to refute fanatics who think that you must you strip yourself completely.

God does not judge us by what we do not have. We are commanded to love our neighbor as our self[1], not more than our self. When the sinful woman offered Christ a gift of tears and perfume, His commendation was based on the fact that she had “done what she could.”[2] The widow’s donated mite was considered sacrificial because she had “put in all she had to live on.”[3] Even the Parable of the Talents[4] teaches that each of us is given different levels of resources and that we are only required to act “each as we are able”.

Even our reaction to the spiritual insight given by the Holy Spirit to all men[5] is judged based on the availability of information.[6] This principle matches perfectly with the Master’s teaching when He said, “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.”

Paul further illustrated this principle by referring to the time when the children of Israel gathered manna. Remember the diversity of family sizes that were likely in a nation comprising millions of individuals. Nevertheless, when they gathered the sweet bread, God made sure that no person suffered from either lack or excess.[7]

The New Testament church understood this and developed a true communal lifestyle, each taking as they needed; each giving out of their excess.[8]

When we serve, we must remember that the resources we share are not our own. They belong to a Master to Whom we will one day give an accounting. The giving must be done with a cheerful heart, but with an eye on the gas tank too. [9] Let service mark your life, not scar it.

[1] Matthew 22:39

[2] Mark 14:8

[3] Luke 21:3-4

[4] Matthew 25:14-30

[5] Romans 1:18-19

[6] Romans 2:12

[7] Exodus 16:18

[8] Acts 2:44-45

[9] 2 Corinthians 9:7-8