Thought for March 7th. “OF THEIR OWN FREEWILL”
Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are the most detailed and intimate of all that he wrote to places he had visited. It is evident as we read chapters 8 & 9 of his 2nd letter that he has built up a close relationship and understanding with them. He tells them of the believers in Macedonia, of which Philippi and Thessalonica are principal cities and their “readiness” in serving the Lord. Then he tells the Corinthians “about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” [8 v.1,2].
In the next verse Paul drives home the point, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own freewill.”
Paul uses the word “boasting” – but it is boasting in a good sense – about the example of others of dedication and “giving” of time and effort, not just money. In mentioning this Paul seeks to inspire others to do the same. Of course, it becomes a bad thing if it degenerates into a ‘competition’ and self-righteousness. The principle is stated in the Proverbs, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth” (27 v.2)
Paul states the principles involved very clearly in Ch. 9 v.6-8 “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
What a contrast this is to the mechanical process of tithing that had developed under the Law of Moses and the way the religious leaders of Jesus’ day practiced it – and today! Some churches distort the scripture to justify pressuring their members to tithe – and yet, as we have noted previously, tithing in the nation of Israel was a sort of income tax for the running of the nation, for the Levites were responsible for much more than overseeing worship; an example is in our Leviticus reading today (ch.14) in the containing and eradicating of forms of leprosy (mildew?).
Finally, our Psalm reading reminded us of another form of sacrifice that those who seek to serve God should make. The Psalmist said to God, “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD” [116 v.17,] This is a sacrifice we make of our own freewill, it is a special way of showing how we feel toward God in response to the love he has shown to us – and will show to us more and more as we come closer to him.