June 26, 2024


Sam Barnes (she/they)

This week’s readings offer insight into Christian values about monetary giving. As Paul challenges the Corinthians, we are challenged to consider how donations and purchases in today's world can reflect God's boundless generosity while impacting those who need it most.

June 30, 2024: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
Psalm 30: 2, 4-6, 11-13
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5:21-43

The Evolution of Giving

For thousands of years, human societies have been divided into the “haves” and the “have nots.” Disagreements over wealth have toppled nations and fractured our global Church. This week, we get a glimpse into the early Christians’ views on money and monetary giving through 2 Corinthians 8:9 and 13-15. Second Corinthians is an epistle, or a letter in a series of letters, attributed to Paul and a co-author named Timothy who address the church in Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, Paul argues that there is fairness in people sharing resources, with an implication that the Corinthians should share their wealth with Christians in Jerusalem.

This was an ongoing saga. Previously, Paul asked the Corinthians to set aside a percentage of their income to donate to poor Christians in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Why was Paul asking the Corinthians specifically? At the time of writing, Corinth was an extremely wealthy city: it was situated on an isthmus between major maritime trade routes for both Europe and Asia, and had recently received major investments from Rome. On the other hand, Christians living in Jerusalem were suffering from severe poverty due to persecution. In short: Corinthians were the “haves” and Christians in Jerusalem were the “have nots” in terms of material wealth.

Charitable giving is a tenet of Christianity and most major world religions today. While Christians have a tithe, Muslims have the zakat and Sikhs have the dasvandh. Such giving, according to the Bible, should be generous (2 Corinthians 8:7), without grudges or expectations of repayment (2 Corinthians 8:13-15, Deuteronomy 15:10), and is pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:16). In 2 Corinthians, Paul also notes that giving is two-directional. Sharing between Corinth and Christians in Jerusalem goes both ways so that “the person who had much did not have too much, and the person who had little did not have too little” (2 Corinthians 8:15).

However, pastors often present the verses in 2 Corinthians as an argument that if you focus too much on wealth (like the Corinthians) you will be spiritually shallow. But Paul suggests we should flourish your faith like the “saints” in Jerusalem; that is, poverty is not the goal but freedom from the tyranny of greed AND the oppression of want. What better example to employ in this argument than Jesus, who, “although he was rich, for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). In this verse, Paul glorifies Jesus’ rejection of material wealth. As a child, I internalized this message to the extreme. Anything that I had would immediately be given to others without regard for my own needs or desires. This led to skipped meals for fear of the grocery bill and uncomfortable interactions with friends I consistently overpaid. Instead of the virtuous case of Jesus Christ, I offer you a basket case – with a disposition formed by taking just a few words in the Scriptures very literally.

Looking back, the solution seems obvious: I should not have given away money that was necessary for my own needs. However, growing up I had a tendency to think that anything beyond the most basic level (the cheapest phone plan, food with calories amounting to no more than the minimal daily intake, etc.) was an excess desire that was not worth spending money on.

I write now to encourage you to take these verses loosely rather than literally. Yes, there are useful points within Paul’s epistle and within Scripture at large about giving practices. But, we should not become burdened by strict interpretations that hinder our personal growth. Whether spending money on ourselves or donating funds to a charitable cause, we can remain generous. Time and thoughtful reflection cultivate a heart looking to give without grudges or expectations of repayment. Above all, it is important to remember that spending money on others is not the only form of giving that is pleasing to God: we can still spreadGod’s light and love by purchasing items for ourselves.

If you are inclined to donate a portion of your own wealth, I challenge you to consider who are the “haves” and “have nots” are in our world today. Despite what we hear from the Bible this week, Christians are not always the “have nots.” According to a 2021 study in Global Political Demography, poverty worldwide disproportionately impacts Hindus and Muslims. In the United States, Native Americans have the highest poverty rate by race, and people living in rural areas report higher poverty rates across all races and ethnicities compared to those living in urban areas. Why is this? American society is structured around systems of oppression: white supremacy, heterosexism, patriarchy, cisgenderism, ableism, and more. We cannot give money responsibly without factoring in the impacts of these unequal power structures. I encourage anyone who would give not to do so blindly nor solely to the church when there are millions of people across the globe who are suffering from poverty. If the goal is “Whoever has much does not have more, and whoever has little does not have less” (2 Cor 8:15), we clearly have a long way to go!

Sending queer love and prayers from Washington, DC.



Sam Barnes is a youth advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Catholic and religious spaces. They have a master’s degree in policy and work in the international affairs space. They previously served as the Editor-in-Chief of the International Affairs Review published by The George Washington University. In their free time they enjoy rock climbing and reading, and volunteer with a local mentorship program for high schoolers.