“Finishing What We Start”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

All of 2 Corinthians 8-9 is taken up with Paul’s discussion of the collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem.  Paul envisions this collection as an opportunity to bridge the gap between Jewish and Gentile churches, so these two chapters contain a host of reasons why the Corinthians should contribute.  Many of these are specific to the subject of generosity and material things, but some are not.  In particular, Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 8:10-12 that the Christians there already had promised to contribute.  Now they need to finish what they had started.

This argument implies that Paul was concerned that the Corinthians would not, in fact, do what they had said they would.  This is a familiar spiritual problem, not merely when it comes to contributing to the Lord’s work (though it certainly shows up there!) but also in every other aspect of our walk with God.

How often have we resolved to begin a Bible-reading plan but give up on it after a couple weeks?  How frequently have we decided to have a discussion with a neighbor or friend about the state of their souls, yet never actually get around to it?  How many bulletin-board signup sheets have we filled out without following through on the commitment we made?  Our intentions are good, but our lives are unfruitful.

This is the thorny-ground problem from the parable of the sower in Mark 4.  The word has been sown in our hearts and taken root, but it is competing with worry, greed, and worldly desires.  Today, we can add plain old distraction to the list too.  All of us know the dispiriting feeling of getting online to accomplish something but spending the next two hours looking at bright shiny objects on social media instead!

All of this suggests that our follow-through problems are really overcommitment problems.  Paul was worried that the Corinthians wouldn’t have money because they had spent it on other things.  In the same way, we often don’t have the time and energy to carry out the Lord’s work because we have spent it on other things.  When we spend all day rushing around from morning till night, there’s no room for extra service to God.

If we want to solve this problem, we must beware of the allure of busyness.  American society is obsessed with busyness, and few among us are willing to tell our friends about how we spent a whole day doing nothing.  We feel pressured to cram in after-hours work, extracurricular activities for our children, and involvement in a million and one different projects and causes.

However, if we want to say yes to God, we must learn to say no to many of those things.  A life that doesn’t have space for work of eternal significance is a life that has too much in it.  If we want to finish what we start, we must make sure that the resources are in place to allow us to finish.  Only then will we be the fruitful workers in the kingdom that we want to be.