“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 saints.” – 2 Corinthians 8:3-4
According to American Express, “Membership has its privileges.” Its copyrighted phrase is designed to cast an exclusive aura over the prospect of carrying one of the company’s credit cards, as if to say, “You, too, can be somebody—not just a card holder, but a member of our prestigious club.”
“Apply today,” it seems to suggest, “and we’ll look you over to see if you’re worthy of having your name etched on our plastic.”
By definition, a privilege is “an advantage, right, or benefit available to a relatively small group of people, usually as a result of wealth or social status.” Given the image American Express is trying to cast, its use of the word “privileges” makes sense.
But doesn’t it seem a bit odd to see the word “privilege” in this month’s verse? After all, the apostle Paul is talking about the Macedonians. Hardly a bunch of gold card jet setters, the Macedonians were experiencing “severe trial” and “extreme poverty.” Yet they urgently sought the “privilege” of giving to others who were in need.
Have you ever thought of giving as a privilege? All too often, we’re taught that giving is our duty, obligation, or responsibility. No wonder many people consider it a burden to give. Perhaps we need to see giving through new eyes. Perhaps we need to see it as an opportunity to participate in fulfilling some of God’s purposes in the world, such as serving the poor. Perhaps we need to remember Jesus’ words that “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Ah, now that’s a privilege.