2 Coritinthians 8 gives us an example of how we can find joy in giving, writes Ben McEachen.
A year before the apostle Paul wrote the second letter to them, the Corinthian Congregation announced it would raise money to support Christians in Macedonia. On the verge of collecting this money, Paul writes to the Corinthians about an impressive example of generosity. As we read about this example in 2 Corinthians 8, we might imagine the original readers feeling as if their giving is under the microscope. The example that Paul shares is the Macedonian Christians – the very group the Corinthians pledged to financially help.
Still poor but begged to give
The Macedonians hadn’t struck it rich. They still needed financial support. Yet, “their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.” (2 Cor 8:2) The combination of being very poor yet super joyful equalled what Paul describes as “wealth of their generosity.”
The Macedonians were wealthy because they gave joyfully, not because they were wealthy and decided to give. Paul adds the poor Macedonians pleaded with him to give generously in support of work by Christians (2 Cor 8:4).
First, give to Jesus
The Macedonians’ joyful giving out of poverty wasn’t motivated by guilt. It was due to Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ became poor so those who believe in him would be spiritually enriched (2 Cor 8:9). Paul is alluding to what Jesus did on the cross and how much he gave up, so the rest of us could gain. Part of the Macedonians’ response to such godly giving was to first give themselves to Jesus, and then to God’s people. Their generosity flowed from their generous saviour.
Give from what you have
Paul was sharing an encouraging example of eager givers who had given themselves to Jesus and found true wealth in generosity. Paul (2 Cor 8:11) enthuses that what the Corinthians eventually give to their brothers and sisters will be acceptable “according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”
Haven’t we agonised about how we would surely give more, if we only had more money? Worrying about what we don’t have to give away isn’t just a waste of time and effort. Paul explains in 2 Cor 8:13-15 that whether we have more now, or we have less, what matters most is what we do together. Equality among Christians comes when we unite to share all God gives, because God gives so that we can meet each other’s needs. Those who have “surplus” give to those in more need, and vice versa when the tables are turned (2 Cor 8:14).
Such a complete system of caring should strike us as an example to live out, generously.