Thursday, 20 June 2019

Poverty or generosity?

Another interesting passage: this time from the letter to the second letter to the Corinthians (8: 1 & 9).
Here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches of Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.  
Note the seemingly contrasting facts about the same group of people: 'intense poverty' and 'overflowed in a wealth of generosity'.  It could be argued that the first is about material possessions and the second about a virtue.  Yet, how can one be generous with what one does not have.  Well, that brings to question the historical meaning assigned to 'poverty'.  Even if not the dictionary meaning, the one assigned to 'poverty' as is appears here; as inserted by the author; as understood by the reader. 

Another line of argument (the usual interpretation): they were poor, yet generous with the little they had.  So, there is no rivalry, both the phrases are compatible.  Yet, this compatibility is not the initial focus; it is only the intended derived focus!  This 'compatibility' would not have been that hitting and efficient, if not for the purposely contradicted phrases 'intense poverty' and 'wealth of generosity'. 

For a normal reader, the first point would be, which of these two is true? Both can't be, at the same time!  But for a Christian, I wonder how many ever thought of the two as incompatible?  Compare the meaning accorded to the words 'poor' and 'generosity' here with the intended meaning in the instance of the poor widow's contribution. Is one right in according the latter narration or the present text in discussion a 'great Christian writing'? Or is one right about saying that these are examples of illogical thinking and confused ideas? If criteria for judging are different then one ought to be ready to grant two different verdicts - even contradictory ones.  Then there is no common ground for further discussion.  If on the other hand, we seek for common ground, one might ask, then what's Christian about this? 

And with v. 9:
... he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty! 
note the words rich used twice, don't mean the same, even though occurring in the same sentence.  And what if they did??  The same with 'poor' and 'poverty'.  

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