A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

2 Corinthians and the failure of Christian charity

I know that I've said that I don't like to talk politics, and I don't. What I'm going to talk about isn't explicity political. Rather, it's Biblical. I want simply to call my readers' attention to the Biblical model of charitable giving outlined by the Apostle Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians.

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul instructs the Corinthians to make good on their promises to send aid to the Church in Jerusalem. He exorts them to follow the example of their fellow Greeks, the Macedonians. And he tells them, in verses 13-15: "I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, 'He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.'" (RSV) Note that quote at the end- it's from Exodus 16:18, and it describes the gathering of manna. Remember how that whole manna thing worked? It was impossible to hoard manna. Everyone had enough of it, and no one had more than enough. No matter how hard anyone worked to gather it, no one could keep more of it than anyone else. This, the apostle indicates, is how the Corinthian Christians are to behave with regard to their worldy possessions. They are not to keep the abundance: they are to give it away, and all their needs in time of trouble will be met by other churches.

I don't know about you, but this isn't how I live. I don't know anyone who does live this way, though I know some people who try to do so. I read this chapter today because I was supposed to help write up questions for a graduate student Bible study tomorrow, but when I started talking about this verse, I couldn't think of anything else. It was like a punch in the stomach, because I know that I have only to take a glance around my apartment to see that, despite my complaints of graduate student poverty, I am living in what to most of Christianity would count as the lap of luxury. This computer? It's mine- and my husband has his own. We have two DVD players, plus a portable. We have two cars. We have two stereo players. We even have two crockpots! We have DSL, not the free dial-up service offered by our university; we get our DVDs mailed to us by Blockbuster every week. Those books on the shelves? Some are necessary for work, but the vast majority are not. (Sadly, it is not the case that learning is so good that owning more books than you can ever read is a virtue.)

Whatever we are doing, we are certainly not giving our abundance to those in need. We are keeping it for ourselves: saving it up to buy a McMansion some day, or investing it in more books, dvds, and kitchen gizmos. I have to say that right now, I'm really not proud of how I live.

But enough about me- how about you? What do you do with your abundance? Read 2 Corinthians 8, and think about it. You might pray about it, too.


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