“For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do. So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-7, NLT)
Christ followers need examples who demonstrate two things: how the discipline is done and the fact that the discipline can be done. Without practical examples much of our discipleship remains theoretical and does not become applied.
In the above passage, Paul provides the Corinthian readers with a tangible example from the Macedonian churches. Notice the three ways they exemplified generosity.
- They gave voluntarily, even beyond their resources. These believers were living in poverty, due partly to the harsh treatment they had received from their Roman conquerers who had exploited the rich natural resources of their land. They also had faced a series of civil wars which had been fought on their soil prior to Roman occupation. While some may have used these events as an excuse to not be generous, the Macedonians freely gave in proportion to what they had, and then some.
- They desired to be part of ministry to fellow believers. Their vision was to participate in the global work of God’s Kingdom, and not to restrict their resources for local purposes. They wanted to use their gifts to serve others rather than causes that would serve their own interests.
- Their giving was driven by their their allegiance to the lordship of Christ. By giving themselves first to the Lord, their generosity followed naturally. Giving to any Christian ministry should find its primary motivation in a commitment to Christ.
This example provided the foundation for Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians. He affirmed the areas where the Corinthians excelled and challenged them to add generosity to their strengths. He praised what was praiseworthy and encouraged them to become just as enthusiastic and responsive in the ministry of giving.
Who has served as an example of generosity in your life? Are you an example of generosity to others?