Koinonia

by Scott Young on July 29, 2020

If charity costs nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.

—Jewish Proverb 

The early Church practiced something called koinonia, the generous and sacrificial sharing of wealth to meet the needs of other believers. They saw material wealth as a means to imitate Christ’s compassionate generosity. Out of their wealth, they cared for the poor, the widows, and the orphans, the sick and the elderly. Their giving was an external, visible demonstration of an internal faith that was practiced with genuine joy. 

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

(2 Corinthians 8:1-5) 

In every city these new Christians became know for their generosity and compassion which increasingly drew people to faith in Christ.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

The sacrificial giving of our wealth to others is a reflection of our love for God and His love that resides in us.

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? (1 John 3:17) 

Sacrificial giving is a command that brings great reward and reflects the attitude of our hearts.


Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

Sacrificial giving is a way we can grow in our dependence on God. 

For 40 years the nation of Israel wandered in the wilderness where they were told only to take enough to sustain them for a single day. Each morning, God provided manna, bread from heaven. When some tried to hoard the manna, it rotted and became full of maggots. 

So important was the lesson of the manna, the lesson of trusting in God for provision (literally for daily bread), that a jar of manna became one of the three things placed in the sacred Arc of the Covenant, along with the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s rod. 

Sacrificial giving is not about the amount given, but the faith associated with it. 

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)

 

Questions for reflection and discussion: What do you think about the concept of kononia? What, to you, is sacrificial giving? Do you give sacrificially? If not, what would motivate you to give sacrificially?

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