2 Corinthians 8:8. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.
2 Corinthians 9:7. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Over the course of human history God has spoken two words to humanity: Law and Grace.
It is through this lens, the lens of these two words, that we must interpret all of life and all of scripture. This what we seek to do here each day at To Live is Christ. We want you to see all of life as a life of grace. Your union with Christ is grace not law.
What is law? Law is God’s word that says “If you do this you will live, and if you don’t do it you will die.” God’s law is, of course good and true and if obeyed perfectly, it would produce eternal life. But if not, death.
The problem is that the law is unattainable. No one can keep it fully. Beyond this the law is a curse. It only produces death. It actually makes you want to sin more. In Galatians Paul made a strong case for this. He asked the church why they would run back to law when they had the freedom of the Spirit. The law constantly keeps you guessing. Never knowing if you’ve succeeded yet or not.
When Paul challenges the Corinthian church about the collection for the church in Jerusalem he does not put them under law. He doesn’t quote Malachi to them. He doesn’t bring up tithing. He doesn’t even put them under a new Apostolic law (which we could argue he had the authority to do). Rather, he says this is not a command. And give what you decide to give. This is grace.
Grace is God’s one way love. It is unmerited favor. It is life even when we deserve death. It is a free gift. Law turns love into duty, but grace produces true love from freedom. Love that gives in order to gain nothing in return.
Law and grace exist together as God’s two spoken words. There is not one without the other. But they do not mingle. They are not synergistic. There is no grace in law and there is no law in grace. “To live is Christ” is not a little bit of law mixed with a little bit of grace. It is all grace.
How does all of this relate to giving? If we say that “giving results in blessing” this is true and it is grace. It is the principle of sowing and reaping. But if we say “give or you will miss out on God’s blessing,” we just mixed grace with law. We give because we have been blessed by God’s grace. We give as the result of grace. Grace produces grace. As soon as we try to mix some law in, the motivations change, the practice becomes manipulative, and stressful, and guilt inducing. We’ve all been in those church services. This is why in 2 Corinthians Paul is simply encouraging them to live out what is already in their hearts.
“To live is Christ” is to keep grace and law distinct. Just like Paul never brought this unruly, proud, hedonistic church under law, we too must never bring ourselves or our fellow believers under law. Do we want to see each other give, and share, and serve? Of course we do. So speak grace to them. Let them fail their way through it. Let them move from their hearts not from your decree. Let them learn to rely on God’s grace for their own life, testing his faithfulness and finding him to be true. In time, grace will produce all that the law demands. Something the law can never do.
Where in your life do you see yourself mixing grace and law? Is your giving, sharing, and serving a mix of grace and law? In what ways? How does our union with Christ allow us to live from grace (God’s one way love) instead of from a demand?