Wednesday, January 16, 2013
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. - 2 Cor 8:1-5
As a way to encourage the believers in Corinth to be generous Paul starts to brag on their neighbouring churches in the province of Macedonia. Churches he planted on his second big missionary journey: Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. The Macedonian communities of faith assisting people they do not know in churches they had never been too located in their natural enemy state of Greece. Maybe today akin would be Palestinian believers giving money to help Israeli believer.
But what makes this all the more remarkable is that this giving is done out of "extreme poverty". The phrase is literally "down-to-the-depth poverty" (he kata bathous ptocheia; v. 2)--or, as Philip Hughes translates, "rock bottom" poverty.
I have never been "rock bottom" and often I am anything but generous. And I cannot remember ever "begging" for permission to give but that is where these churches were at.
They didn't need the money to buy a new new PA, a new building, a new coffee machine, the latest worship CD, they needed the money to exist but they gave and gave and gave.
The key is found in v 5 - they gave themselves first to the Lord.
When we get that right everything else fits into place.