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How Generosity Changed Everything—Lessons from Corinth—Part Three

Who is crazy enough to think that generosity can change everything?

Paul played an instrumental role in founding the church in Corinth.  The church sprouted quickly, but it was not long before the fledgling church branched apart into warring factions.  They were a church filled with division.

How could they become united again?

To stem the tide of division, the church wrote Paul asking for his teaching on various subjects of dispute.  Paul’s reply addressed those areas, but it also added a new request.  In I Corinthians 16, Paul made an appeal:

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

He asked them to give.  He wanted the church in Corinth to store up something for the church in Jerusalem, which was facing persecution and famine.

Now this may seem puzzling:  in the midst of all this division, Paul asked them to give.  Why?

On the one hand, you might think this request for funds irked the Corinthians.  They might have even been offended.  In our culture today, Paul quite likely would not be invited back to speak at our churches for such a brazen request.

To be fair, Paul made this same request for support from other churches he visited.  He wanted each church to give to other churches.  It’s important to note that in church culture of that day, the request for giving was not out of the ordinary.  In fact, in the Jewish culture, it was expected that people would give 10 percent of their income to support the priests, another 10 percent to support the temple and still another 10 percent every third year to support the poor.

If you are adding it all up, that is 23 percent every year.  These tithes were on top of other offerings that a Jewish family might make at the time of harvest, the gathering of the harvest and other such feasts.  Jewish families were used to giving.

But for the Corinthians, giving wasn’t an intrinsic part of their culture. Paul knew that when the church wrote about division, something much bigger was going on. They lacked generosity, which would help them get their minds off of their problems and on their Creator God, the Life-Giver and the unifier of all division.

By encouraging the church to give, Paul shifted their self-centered focus to the needs of others.  Giving is a great salve in that way.  It can break down the walls of division because it forces us to focus upon the needs of others instead of our own needs.

Are you in a divided church?  Find something to give to; find someone else other than yourself to serve. Try it, and like Paul, you’ll find that generosity does in fact change everything.

But there’s still more—read on to my next blog.

About Bill High

Bill High is an author of several books and co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously: www.givingitallawaybook.com. You can find him at www.billhigh.com and sign up for his blogs there.

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