A beautiful picture of giving
2 Corinthians 8:1-7 is my favorite passage on giving. Why? Because it is a beautiful picture of sacrifice.
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 free will, begging us earnestly for the favor 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. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
“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.”
Affliction + Joy + Extreme Poverty = a wealth of generosity
Now this is an equation that just doesn’t make sense…or does it?
Could it be that the type of faith born out of adversity and affliction is the same faith that allows a person to trust so completely in God that they are willing, even eager for the chance, to give sacrificially “out of their poverty” to help another when they are in need?
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.”
They begged to be able to give more.
What do we, as believers in America, know of this?
Well, there are some that understand this, but as a whole, American Christians just don’t get it. I’m not talking about “sacrificing” by forgoing your $2 cup of coffee for a week and giving that money to “help” people. No, I am talking about the type of sacrifice where you give so much of your income that you don’t have enough left over to eat.
How is that possible?
“…they gave themselves first to the Lord.”
Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” He understood that once you give your life away, everything else is easy.
We don’t understand this. But the church in Haiti does. It looks like this:
Today, we received the exact details of a $3,224.05 donation to Churches Helping Churches. We’ve received donations of all sizes since our inception in 2010; some large, some small. This one is perhaps the most memorable.
Twenty Five churches in Haiti, still very much recovering from disaster themselves, committed to taking a one-time special offering to assist their brothers and sisters in Christ – those impacted by the tsunami in Japan. We knew they had raised about $3,000 – a figure in itself that I found amazing.
…The average annual income in Haiti is around $450. People routinely die from curable diseases, like malaria. Education is not a given. Poverty is a way of life.
…I think of the church that collected $6.25 and wonder how many people contributed to their meager offering. I imagine widows and young men and couples with small children giving change they do not have to spare, but giving gladly, knowing the pain of disaster and wanting to help how they can. I imagine them totaling the amount with pride and sealing their envelope.
I think of the church that collected more than $600 and wonder what it felt like to give such a large gift – one that would surely have made an extensive impact had it stayed within their own congregation. I wonder if their church has ever received so large an offering for their own use. I imagine their celebration when they realized how much they had collected when such an offering is improbable at best.
This is from Churches Helping Churches.
Love. Poverty. Sacrifice. Affliction. Giving. Joy. Surrender.
I wish my faith was big enough to understand this. I really do. I want to, as Paul says, “excel in this act of grace also.”
What about you?