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Doing What is Right

Date: Jan. 24, 2021

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

2 Corinthians 8:16-9:5

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 8:21

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

When I was in high school in the mid to late ‘90s, I worked at the local movie theater. I started off at the concession counter, selling soda, candy and popcorn. I also had to clean up the bathrooms and sweep the lobby. It was minimum wage work. Eventually, after proving myself, I worked the ticket counter. By the end of it all, I was a shift manager, running the place when the manager was not there, and I was starting the movies and had a lot of responsibility there. Well, one day, I was sweeping up the lobby when I notice something strange on the ground. It looked like money folded up really small. I picked it up and unfolded it. There in my hands was a hundred-dollar bill. That is a good chunk of change for teenage me. At that point, I could have pocketed the money, and no one would have known. But I didn’t do that. It didn’t feel right to me, so I turned it in to my manager in hopes that the rightful owner would come and claim it. In the end, they did come to get the money and I didn’t get a thing for it. Now, it would have been nice to get something, but I didn’t turn the money in for a reward. It was what was right. Doing the right thing because it is the right thing is something that seems to be rare in these days. There seem to be so many people looking out for themselves and wanting to get something. But Paul is demonstrating to the Corinthians a strong desire to do what is right. It is something that every Christian should have, in part, because our Lord is always right. So, let’s get into our passage.

If you remember from last week, Paul was writing to the Corinthians about an offering for the churches in Judea. They had been eager to begin gathering an offering for their brothers and sisters in Judea, but they weren’t done. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give gracefully, not graciously, but filled with the grace of God. Paul was encouraging them because the time was nearing to take the offering to Jerusalem. It had already been collected in the churches of Macedonia and now they were coming to Corinth to pick up what the church was preparing.

Now, Paul, himself was not going to come right away, but he wanted to send an envoy to encourage them in person. That envoy would be headed up by Titus. Our passage begins, “Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.” (8:16-17) Titus had recently returned from Corinth to give a report to Paul, but here Titus is planning to return to Corinth in relatively short order. Now, travel in those days was a lot slower. I am not talking about cars versus walking, but because the method of transportation took time, people had to plan their trips and take enough provisions. Titus would be traveling by ship and would have to prepare for that trip. It would be unusual for someone to make the trip and return in such a short time. It would be like traveling across the country and back in a single day. It is possible, but unlikely. Because of that, people might have thought that Titus was being coerced into returning, but Paul mentions that Titus was going to Corinth on his own initiative. It was Titus’ idea to return. Most likely Paul asked for a volunteer to go to Corinth and Titus cheerfully agreed. This is important because, when dealing with this offering, it is important to know who is coming to help handle it and why they chose to come.

In light of that, Titus was going to have some help. Two people were going to come to Corinth with Titus, but Paul never names them. We have no idea who they are, but they have important qualities. The passage says, “And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.” (8:18) This second person, although unnamed, seems to be well known. Paul says that he is praised by all the churches. Now, this could be every single church or just the churches in the region. At any rate, this person is widely known by the Corinthians for his service to the gospel. Now, this term “service to the gospel” has implications that might mean preaching the gospel, but it could also mean in general service to the church. At any rate, people praised him for his service.

Paul continues talking about this brother, “What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help.” (8:19) Here, it appears, that this person who was going to accompany Titus was chosen, not by Paul, but by the churches, probably those in Macedonia, to help carry the offering that was collected there. He wasn’t merely coming to Corinth with Titus; this person was going to go with Paul all the way to Jerusalem to present the offering to the church there. In this verse, Paul also mentions that the offering is part of honoring the Lord. Helping those in need, especially those in the church who are in need, is part of honoring the Lord. As mentioned in the last passage, it is known that God provides people with plenty so that they can help those in need. And that is exactly what is going on here.

By talking about Titus and this other brother, Paul is trying to make a point. He writes, “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift.” (8:20) Paul wants to commend the people coming to help with the offering in Corinth because he wants to avoid any criticism surrounding it. Now, as we have studied this book, we have seen a number of times that Paul has defended himself against people that seek to discredit him. The thought behind this verse is no different than in those other times. I am certain that there were people who were accusing Paul of using this offering for his own use. They were telling people that Paul wasn’t going to go to Jerusalem to give the money to those in need there, he was going to pocket it and use it all for himself. They advised not to give to Paul, but probably to give to them instead. The funny thing is that those naysayers actually would pocket the money for themselves. In light of these possible allegations, Paul wanted to make sure that no one could accuse him of mishandling the offering. The people that were coming were the best and many other people agreed. By choosing the best people that other people commended, Paul was ensuring that there would be no criticism with the offering.

This is something that faces scrutiny even among today’s charities. You give to a charity with the hope you are giving to a certain cause. Yet, these charitable organizations have overhead like facilities and staff that have to be taken care of as well. Some of the best charities have low overhead costs and put the majority of the charitable contributions into the cause. For a charity, it is considered good if overhead is kept below 33.3%. Some of the best charities have overhead costs below 10%, like the Red Cross or the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Then there are organizations on the other side of the spectrum that use even 85% of donations on overhead costs. There are charities that handle what they are given well and those that do not.

For Paul, it was imperative that he handle what he was given well. He wrote, “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” (21) Paul wanted to make sure that everything he was doing was right in the eyes of the Lord and in the eyes of men. As Christians everything we do is done before the Lord. He sees everything and whatever we do should be done to please the Lord. By definition, the Lord is right and to please him, we have to do what is right. God doesn’t like lies and falseness. Those are tools of the devil. Those are things that lead us away from God. However, Paul is doing right more than just before God. He is doing what is right in the eyes of people, too. This is something that is easily lost. We live before God and he is our judge. We shouldn’t be living our lives trying to please people, catering to their every whim. Conversely, we shouldn’t ignore what people think either. We are God’s representatives on this earth. When people see us, they will form an opinion of God. If we are shifty and deceitful, it shows to others that the Lord is shifty and deceitful. That is not speaking well of God. We are ambassadors of Christ and should reflect Jesus’ above-board nature in whatever we do.

In light of that, uses the phrase “taking pains to do what is right”. That is an unusual way of saying something. It sounds like doing what is right can be painful, and it can be. Doing what is right is usually not the easiest thing to do. Cutting corners, by nature, is taking short cuts. Those short cuts have consequences. In engineering, those short cuts can lead to a catastrophic failure or design flaw. Famously, there was a car company that put out a car that was dangerous in certain circumstances because someone calculated the cost of the lawsuits involved would be cheaper than designing the car right. There were a lot of deaths because something wasn’t done right. It might be easier and more cost effective to skimp on something, but it is not right. Doing what is right might be costly and even painful, but it is what is required of us as believers.

Just like giving, as was mentioned last week, doing what is right is easier when times are going well, but to do what is right all the time is very difficult. Doing what is right when we expect a reward is not actually doing what is right, because we are seeking the reward. But to do what is right when doing so is painful shows real commitment to being in the right. Now, I didn’t say being right, but being in the right. Being right is just pride and puffing yourself up but being in the right is about being on the side of God. That means that we do things when we don’t expect anything, not even recognition, but because it needs to be done and it is the right thing to do. However, according to Paul, we shouldn’t do the right thing even if we don’t expect anything. He takes it a step further and does the right thing knowing that it will hurt him. He is willing to take a hit to do what is right. The clearest examples of this in the Bible are when believers are told to denounce Jesus but refuse and are beaten and even executed. It was right for them to hold onto Jesus, but they were injured and even killed for it. The greatest example of taking pains to do what is right is Jesus himself. For Jesus to do what is right was to bring salvation to humanity, to cure the disease of sin, but the vaccination required Jesus to be pierced, placed on a cross and die a humiliating death. It was not easy and there were no short cuts to salvation. Those are our examples. If we follow Jesus, we have to follow that example of doing what is right, even when it pains us to do so.

Paul, then continues on to introduce the third person in the envoy. “In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.” (8:22) Again, this person is unnamed, but they are still well known. Paul says that he has proved himself that he is zealous. He was determined and had a desire to serve. It wasn’t for his own benefit, but for that of the mission. This person seems to have a relationship with the church in Corinth because Paul says this person has great confidence in the Corinthians. Again, this person was chosen because they were among the best that there was. The sentiment is continued, “As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.” (8:23) Paul is reiterating the credentials of the envoy coming to them to help them finish collecting the offering for the church in Judea. They are representatives of the church and an honor to Jesus. They lived their lives trying to do what is right at all times and proved themselves trustworthy to handle the task at hand. These guys were the Dream Team for Christ. For the 1992 Summer Olympics, the US assembled the greatest basketball players of the time to serve as their Olympic team. They were dubbed the Dream Team and obliterated all opponents. They have been described as the greatest sports team ever assembled, and these three men were the best to be found for this endeavor.

Because of these men, Paul encourages the Corinthians to do what is right on their part. “Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.” (8:24) Again, this offering is an opportunity to do what is right before the Lord and before the eyes of men. The churches can see their love and that reflects on the love that the Lord has. It is the right thing to do before God and it is shows that love of God to others as it overflows from the church. That overflowing is a real thing. Paul continues, “There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.” (9:1-2) When they first heard about the offering, they were ready to give and enthusiastic to do so. That enthusiasm overflowed to the churches in Macedonia. Because of their actions, the Macedonians were stirred to action. Doing what is right will encourage others to do what is right.

As we have mentioned, doing was is right all the time is not easy and the reason why Paul was sending this envoy was to encourage the Corinthians for finish what they started. “But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.” (9:3-5) Paul uses words like boasting and be proven hollow and being ashamed, but it still comes down to the fact that Paul is encouraging them to do what is right and to do so freely and not grudgingly. Doing what is right grudgingly is the wrong attitude when trying to do what is right. It reveals a heart that is far from the heart of God, but when you intentionally and freely do what is right, it shows a heart that seeks God. Jesus didn’t grudgingly go to the cross; he went willingly.

Now, much of this discussion of doing what is right had revolved around money, because this passage concerns the offering. Doing what is right in regard to money is very important. It can be easy to fall into a trap of misusing donated funds. Unfortunately, there are far too many reports of pastors misusing church funds. Either they are not careful with the money and there are cost overruns on things without caring or they use the money for their own personal reasons. There have been far too many people that have fallen into that trap. In regard to that, it is imperative that a church be as transparent as possible with their finances. Church offering shouldn’t be a black box that you put money into and not know where it goes. Here, we have had a few simple rules to help with that. The treasurer and director aren’t allowed to live in the same household and when we counted the offering, two separate people were involved to make sure everything is above the board.

However, doing what is right extends beyond money. It permeates every aspect of our lives. So much of this world is about looking out for ourselves, but that is not right. We need to look out for the interests of others first. We need to think about what others need. We need to think about what is right, regardless of what it does to us. We should take pains to do what is right. Sometimes, that means fessing up that you did something wrong and apologizing. It might hurt to do that, but it is necessary. There might be times where you need to swallow your pride and do something because it is what is needed. It means talking people up to encourage them. It might be easier to say nothing but their spirit may be so dry that they need to see the glimmer of hope. Even when they mess up, berating them will do nothing, but finding the bright spot can turn them around. Not cheating or cutting corners because the right way takes forever. In courses, that means doing things the way the instructor showed because they want you to learn how to do it, not just to get the answer. The right way is to learn the material, not get the answer.

Doing what is right means that we are not looking to make excuses for our inaction or wrong actions. We speak up and do something when injustice is happening. People don’t need to die because they might have a counterfeit 20-dollar bill. They don’t need to be shot in the back dozens of times because they were running away. People don’t need to be treated as sub-human because they are different. We, as Christians, have to be the best of society. We have to be the most loving and understanding out of all groups. The church is supposed to be a place where the hurting find healing. We need to do what is right, because it is right. When we want to be right, that means that someone will be wrong. There is a winner and a loser, but to be in the right is an act of service that requires sacrifice to raise up others. It is not easy to do that. It actually requires more strength than we could possibly muster. It is so difficult to always try to do what is right. We don’t have the strength or the endurance. There will be a time when we become weak and give in to our human nature. That is when we need to trust in God, surrender to him and rely on him for the strength to endure. We have to accept our weaknesses and come to Jesus with them, and he will strengthen that resolve to do what is right. He will help us to take pains to do what is right by pouring his spirit out to help us.

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