The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.
The Jerusalem church in the N.T. was poor. They had to deal with many pilgrims traveling to the church in Jerusalem who were poor from traveling or their careers. They were also a poor church because of persecution. People lost their jobs as a result of their conversion or proselytizing to Christianity. Also, the region around Jerusalem was just a poor area of the world. The Romans government had a series of heavy taxes in the land that essentially took any surplus money from a citizen in Jerusalem. They also made rent and the cost of food ridiculously high. And yet, we learn of the church in Jerusalem that they sold their properties and possessions giving all to the poor and needy (Acts 2:44-45). They shared everything they possessed with others (Acts 4:34).
Paul saw this financial need of the Jerusalem church and wrote in I Corinthians 16 to take up a collection to help them. When you read II Corinthians 8 8:1-8, you discover a biblical paradigm for giving in the church as Paul praises and uses the Macedonian church as an example of what it means to give liberally. And what we find in these verses are 12 motivations for giving to the church of God and I want to share them with you over the next few weeks.
- Giving in the church is motivated by the grace of God – “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” (vs. 1).
Why were the Macedonians known for their giving? The answer to that question is located in this 1st principle – the grace of God was poured out upon it’s members. This is what motivated their giving – His grace. So, ultimately all the financial credit goes back to Him since He is the one who “kick starts” one’s giving in the first place. This means the Macedonians could take no credit for their giving, because it all came from God.One person has called the gift of money to others a visible sign of an invisible grace. Giving is motivated by God’s grace. Paul gives the ultimate credit to God, but he also tells the Corinthians that the generous giving of the Macedonians was only possible through the bestowal of God’s grace.
I believe this 1st principle of giving is the primary reason we have offerings in church: God’s grace has been bestowed upon us all. In The Joy of Fearing God, “Offerings should be a tangible recognition that all we have comes from God’s hand rather than being simply the way to finance the church budget.”
2. Giving in the church transcends difficult circumstances – “that in a great trial of affliction …” (vs. 2a).
Their giving was not halted by anything. Whether joys or tears – they continued to give. The Macedonians were no strangers to affliction, specifically persecution. Paul speaks of their suffering in a similar fashion to his own (Phil 1:29-30). The Thessalonians suffered and God used them as examples through the rest of Macedonia (I Thess 1:6; 2:14; 3:3-4). Despite this difficulty, they continued to give liberally.
Nothing stopped their giving. We come up with some pathetic excuses to not give to the Church – cable bill, over-maxed credit cards, etc. How many would say they don’t give to the Lord because they are persecuted? The Macedonians were persecuted and they continued to give.
In fact, consider the next principle of giving.
3. Giving in the church is meant to be a joyful experience – “… the abundance of their joy …” (vs. 2b).
The joy of giving to the Lord’s work superseded their pain, because they knew their monies would help extend the kingdom of God. The Macedonians, therefore, become a great example that wealth does not make one a generous giver. Christian giving is never about quantity but about sacrificing joyfully what really belongs to God.
“Abundance” means “excess” or “surplus.” It was an excessive amount of joy they shared in giving during times of difficulty. Friends, giving is not to be a burden but a joy. Don’t dread making out those checks to your local church; look forward to it. None of us have it worse than the Macedonians did and they gave to the Lord with smiles in the hearts and on their lips.
Don’t miss the source for their joy; it had nothing to do with the amount of wealth they possessed, because we will learn in the next principle, they were incredibly poor. Their joy was in the grace of giving to God. They understand what Jesus meant when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
To be continued …