I read a story of a circus ringmaster who had a standing offer that he was the strongest man in town. He offered a $1000 to anyone who could squeeze the last drop out of a lemon. The ringmaster would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass and hand the lemon rind to a contender. Anyone who could squeeze just one drop of juice would get the thousand dollars. Well, everyone would come up and try it. There were cowboys, bodybuilders, ironworkers, farmers, baseball players, wrestlers, you name it. No one could get another drop out of the lemon.
One day a thin, balding, little man came in wearing wire rim glasses. He spoke in a faint squeaky voice; “I can squeeze your lemon.”
Everyone started laughing. The master of ceremonies said, “OK.” He grabbed a lemon, and without even cutting a hole in it started squeezing. Squish, lemon juice ran out into a glass. He handed the wrinkled remains of the lemon over to the little man. He grabbed hold of the lemon remains, as the hysterical laughter faded away. One, two, three big drops of lemon juice plunged into the glass.
The silence turned to hysterical cheers. The ringmaster handed over the money. Then he asked, “How in the world did you do that?” A thousand men have been in here and they couldn’t get a drop out of a lemon. “What in the world do you do for a living?” “Nothing to it,” he said. “I do it every day. I am the treasurer at my church!”
In his letters to the church at Corinth the apostle Paul was encouraging them, along with other Gentile churches, to help by giving financial support to believers at the Jerusalem church. They were going through extremely difficult times financially because of the persecution from the Jews living in Jerusalem. They had been socially ostracized and excommunicated from the synagogues because they believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Their businesses failed because nobody would buy from them any longer.
Paul encouraged these Christians to help with this great need in Jerusalem by putting aside a gift for the Jerusalem fund. The amount of the gift depended on how God provided for them during that week.
The church in Corinth practiced giving while living in poverty. True giving isn’t measured by the size of the gift but by the spirit of the giver. The Corinthian Christians experienced great joy as they provided money for the ministry of Paul. They grew in God’s grace and were exceedingly blessed because they gave themselves to the Lord first and then gave of their resources to support the Lord’s church.
The church practiced the mathematics of Jesus: poverty + joy = true wealth. That’s what Paul wrote…
“You know that our Lord Jesus Christ was kind enough to give up all His riches and become poor, so that you could become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 CEV
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: “It doesn’t matter how much you have. What matters is how much you are willing to give from what you have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12 CEV
You gave us Your very best in Your Son, Jesus. Help us to give our very best back to You. In Jesus name, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen