When Paul was writing (AD 49-65), Jerusalem was the centre of the Christian church. There was great poverty there and Paul had spent the last ten years, as he travelled around, organising a collection of money for poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. This is the ‘generous undertaking’ (v.7) he is referring to. Collecting money for people they will never meet was an important way for Gentile Christians to express their gratitude to Jewish Christians for passing on their faith.
-Paul encourages his listeners not just to be generous now, but to continue giving to the poor. He also gives practical advice: gifts should be collected ahead of his visit so they are ready for him to take to those in need. But he is careful to ask people only to give what they can afford (vv.11-12).
- Collecting and distributing gifts to others is a way of responding to Christ’s great generosity and creates ‘a fair balance’ (v.13) between those in Jerusalem who are currently in great need, and the Corinthians who have plenty to share. Paul makes the timeless point that one day they may be in need and they will benefit from the generosity of others.
- Paul’s quote at the end is from the Old Testament account of the Israelites travelling through the wilderness with Moses (cf. Exodus 16.18). When they needed food, God provided manna, and the people had to learn to trust that there would be enough, each day, for everyone.
As in 3.21-35 and 11.12-25, the second narrative set within the first allows time for events to unfold and enables the stories to illuminate each other. There are contrasts: one protagonist is a male insider, one a female outsider; one speaks first, the other first acts. And there are similarities: both have courage to take a risk, one associating with someone condemned at his synagogue (see 3.6), the other touching someone regardless of her ritual impurity (Leviticus 15.25-30); both have faith; both the younger and older woman were, as hoped for, ‘made well’ and addressed as ‘daughter’. Both are restored to their capacity to give life. The younger has not died at 12 before becoming an adult, and the older will not die from 12 years of bleeding that has made her infertile. Jesus’ compassion makes them active agents of life.
For Reflection (From the URC’s Walking the Way)
Note down what you have been most glad about today. Write this into a journal. Or put it onto a list on the fridge door. Get other family members to join in with it. Try to do some random act of kindness for someone else every day or once a week.