“Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” 2 Corinthians 8:1, 2
The northern part of ancient Greece was called Macedonia. The southern part was called Achaia, and it was the believers in this area whom Paul was writing to — the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul begins by essentially saying, “I want to share with you about these really poor churches who gave generously, and this generosity ultimately came from the grace of God; from His kindness.” He goes on to describe their free-spirited giving, even how they begged for the opportunity and privilege to give financially to their fellow Jewish believers living far away, in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)
The radical generosity seen in this chapter provides for us a compelling vision for our own lives. Why? Because even amidst the Macedonians affliction (v.2), they responded to God’s grace, were filled with abundant joy, and responded with huge generosity (v.2).
Wouldn’t you say people are motivated to give for all kinds of reasons? Tax write-offs, reputation, or perhaps even fear of death and wanting to “be good with the man upstairs” motivate many peoples’ giving. Here’s the proper perspective, however, when it comes to giving:
“If we have really given ourselves to the Lord, then the right kind of material giving will naturally follow.” David Guzik
When God’s grace remains amazing to us, we will consistently live in the space of being conduits of his blessing. We will allow his love and generosity to flow through our lives like a rushing river.
Consider Jesus’ incredible generosity toward us,
“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
The Bible says every spiritual blessing has been given to us through faith in Jesus Christ. We simply can’t out-give God because He gave and His give was ultimate. All we can do now is live a life of response.
Prayerfully consider the following biblical guidelines which will help you discern how God is asking you to give of your time, talents, and treasure for His purposes.
1. Give according to a plan
It might surprise you to know that Church giving trends show that while many don’t give at all, most of those who do give, do so sporadically. They might give two months in a row, skip three months, and then give once more. This relates not only to giving financially but in serving within the church as well.
“…You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned.” 1 Cor. 16:1b-2a
2. Give proportionately
Proportionate giving is by no means equal giving. When Jesus saw the widow give He said that she gave out of her poverty. But the others gave out of their wealth. In essence, Jesus was saying that the amount we give is important to God only in relation to the amount we keep! For example, one person can give $25 in an act of great sacrifice, another can give $100,000 a year and not sacrifice at all. If someone makes, $10,000,000 a year and gives $100,000 and spends the rest on himself, his family, and vacations, many may be impressed but chances are God is not.
The beauty of New Testament giving is that the believer, as He senses God’s direction, can increase the proportion of his giving as God blesses him financially or as she learns to trust Him more. Many believers end up enjoying the grace of giving more and more as the years progress!
“Give in proportion to what you have.” 2 Cor. 8:11b
3. Give sacrificially
Remember the Macedonians gave beyond what they were able to do (2 Cor. 8:3) Why? Because they were absolutely blown away by God’s grace! They had tasted the goodness of the Lord in the midst of dire circumstances! So what does it look like to give sacrificially? Consider these three levels, and ask – “where do I find myself?
A. Less than our ability
B. According to our ability
C. Beyond our ability
Sacrificial giving is releasing what we’d rather keep
Sacrificial giving appears to be unreasonable
Sacrificial giving means to give the best
Sacrificial giving means living with the faith of the poor widow
For most of us, giving according to our means would stretch us. Giving beyond our means would appear to break us. Amazingly, though, the testimony of countless Christians is that it doesn’t break them — it actually strengthens them.
4. Give Generously
“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” 2 Corinthians 9:6
So, how much is “generous”? There is no one answer for everyone. If you’ve never given a tenth, start there! Remember, we are not under Law but under God’s grace.
In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes—one for the Levites, one for the use of the temple and the feasts, and one for the poor of the land—which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent.
5. Give cheerfully and from the heart
God’s Word says,
“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”
2 Corinthians 9:7-8
No coercion, no pressure, but all a response to grace. Some say, “Well I’m just not feeling it. I’m not stoked to give right now. I just can’t.” Is that what Paul is saying in the verses above? No! God does not tell us NOT to give if we can’t give cheerfully. He wants us to be cheerful (he loves it) to be sure, but he also wants us to be obedient.
6. Give in response to the grace of Jesus Christ
Grace is the great motivator of our Christian lives. Through faith in Christ, we are now God’s children, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” We give of ourselves because God has so extravagantly given to us. Who has God made you to be? What has he given you to share with others? How can you use your unique gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and life experiences to bless others and expand God’s Kingdom?
These are the kinds of questions we all need to desperately seek the Lord in because this is the essence of stewardship.
“The world asks, ‘What does a man own?’ Christ asks, How does he use it?’” Andrew Murray
Question 1 Discuss each of the six biblical guidelines outlined above which ought to inform our giving as Jesus’ followers. Which are most challenging? Why?
Question 2 What single truth impacted you most this week? What do you intend to do about it?