'See That You Also Excel in This Grace of Giving'
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul praises the Macedonian churches for their extraordinary example of rich generosity. But this sits within a sermon on grace; generous giving is the outworking of God’s grace in our lives.
Giving is a matter of grace from beginning to end. Christ gave himself for us:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)
In receiving his grace we give ourselves to God and to others. This includes giving what we have…our abilities, time and talent —yes! But equally, our money! Generosity is not some “next level” feature of a Super Christian, nor is it reserved for the wealthy. It is part of our worship, it is “the obedience that accompanies our confession of the gospel of Christ” (2 Cor 9:13), a “test of the sincerity of our love” (2 Cor 8:8).
There are always lots of seemingly valid ‘reasons’ why you can’t give right now…
you really want to, but just can’t afford it right now…you will once you get a better paid job…you will, but just not yet.
Eventually you get the job, and the raise, but the needs are growing; maybe now you’re saving for a home and you have to be responsible; or perhaps you’re saving for your kids’ future. There are thousands of seemingly valid excuses for each season of life.
But Paul knew better:
“…since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Cor 8:7)
Whether it’s because we’re financially precarious or relatively affluent and addicted to financial comfort, our wallets are the last things we surrender. The conversion of our pockets doesn’t come naturally, so we need to be intentional and diligent about it.
There is no way to become spiritually mature unless we commit our finances to the Lord. To be mature is to trust God. Not to think you trust, but to really trust him and his ability to provide for us in all things.
Never assume you’re too poor to receive this ‘grace of giving’. It is a grace which is freely given, if you want to receive it. You can’t pay for it, but you need to surrender your heart in order to receive it. The neediest and most vulnerable of the followers of Christ were able to receive this grace:
“…brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Cor 8:1-2)
severe trial + overflowing joy + extreme poverty = rich generosity
This is a supernatural, divine equation. These people were not only poor but also persecuted, yet they had ‘overflowing joy’ and fierce dignity: “entirely on their own, they pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Cor 8:3-4). Paul and his companions were quite reluctant to receive what they voluntarily offered, but the Macedonians wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. They were ready to plead for the privilege to give and be part of God’s generosity and service towards others.
Such is the grace of giving.
It has nothing to do with being well-off.
It is willing. It views giving as a privilege.
It is humble, but dignified and full of joy.
“If the willingness is there,
the gift is acceptable according to what one has,
not according to what one does not have.” (2 Cor 8:12)
What do you have?
No one can bully or manipulate you into being generous.
It is a matter of your heart.
I don’t have access to your heart.
But God does, if the willingness is there.