(Part 36)


June 16, 2015

Today’s reading:  2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Paul extolled the churches of Macedonia for their generosity in giving to the church in Jerusalem that was in great need. What was exemplary about their giving? It was no ordinary giving, but much more. It “overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (v.2c).

One, it was done “spontaneously” (v.3c). They recognized the need and they responded accordingly. There was no thought to call for a forum, or to assess their resources, or to look at other priorities. They just decided they needed to act.

Two, they did not hold back on whatever resources they had. They gave “according to their means” (v.3a). They were generous, looking to whatever they had as what they could share with those in need.

Three, in fact they gave “beyond their means” (v.3b). They dug deep into their pockets. They made sacrifices, having to do without in order to help. They gave what they could not afford to give.

Four, they “begged” for the privilege of helping (v.4a). They looked on giving as “the favor of taking part in the service to the holy ones” (v.4c). It was not just a good deed for them, but a great privilege, that they could help their brethren in some way. They considered themselves the ones who would be blessed as they helped out.

Five, they asked “insistently” (v.4b). They were persistent. They proactively sought to help. They would not rest until they had exhausted all means by which to help.

Six, there was an overflow of “the abundance of their joy” (v.2b) in giving. They not only did not begrudge the request for help, but they were filled with great joy in being able to help. God loves a cheerful giver.

What principles point to the importance of such exemplary generosity toward the poor?

First, it is the pattern God has designated. We look at Jesus, we look at our brethren, and so we look to the poor. The Macedonians “gave themselves first to the Lord and to us through the will of God” (v.5).

Second, it is all about “the grace of God that has been given to the churches” (v.1). Grace is for our personal sanctification, and grace is for being able to do the mission entrusted to us. We grow inwardly in holiness, and we grow outwardly in service. “Now as you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also.” (v.7).

Third, it is a test of how loving we have become. It is “to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others.” (v.8b). The greatest Christian virtue is love. It is easy enough to profess love for God and neighbor. But do we truly manifest such love to the least of our brethren, especially when we have to share our resources, even beyond our means?

Fourth, it is following in the example of Jesus himself. “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (v.9). Jesus was God but emptied himself. Jesus was the Master but took the form of a slave. Jesus gave of himself until, having given his life, there was nothing more to give. We give of our resources, having less for ourselves, so that others might have more, and no one would be in need.

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