The month of November affords us the opportunity to focus on the subjects of thanksgiving, gratitude, and generosity. The people who comprised the churches of Macedonia certainly exuded these spiritual characteristics. In II Corinthians 8: 1-9, these believers experienced the grace of GOD in the midst of very difficult circumstances.
These believers lived in poverty. In verse 2, GOD’s Word says, “that is a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.”
In the original text, the word for “poverty” is spelled bathous. We derive our English word “bathysphere” from it. A bathysphere is a spherical deep-sea diving vessel that is lowered into bodies of water with a cable. People get in these to explore the depths of the ocean. When they get in one of these vessels, they go down…down…down…down. Many times, they hit bottom.
What an amazing picture of the Macedonian believer’s deep poverty. With their personal finances, they had hit rock bottom. But they did not use their extreme poverty as an excuse not to give an offering. Rather, verse 2 declares these Christians gave generously out of the abundance of their joy. They did not give to GOD’s work with a joyless sense of duty. They did not give out of a sense of guilt and shame. They gave out of the “abundance of their joy.”
These Macedonian believers gave beyond what they were humanly capable of giving. These persons gave way, way beyond what could reasonably be expected of such a poverty-stricken congregation. They had no fear in giving, because the joy of GOD fueled their faith to trust GOD to bless them for the demonstration of their faith through their generosity.
Verse 4 is incredible! The believers literally beg Paul to receive their sacrificial and generous offering. “Imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift.” You have more than likely heard about some tv evangelists or even some pastors of local churches begging people for money. The Macedonian believers turn the table. Because of their deep poverty, Paul hesitates to receive their offering. These Christians literally bet Paul to take their offering – “Imploring us with much urgency.”
These believers gave generously to GOD’s work because of the grace of GOD and the joy of GOD in their lives. How could they? Look at verse 5b: “but first gave themselves to the LORD, and then to us by the will of GOD.”
Paul nails it! The Macedonian believer’s offering was far more than Paul ever expected. But it was not the money that impressed him. It was the people – the believers. Hear this verse again: “They first gave themselves to the LORD.”
I do not need to be a nuclear physicist to explain this truth. Let me sum up the meaning in one sentence. The Macedonian Christian’s giving began with the giving of their lives to the LORD, and from this came their gifts of money – their offering. Their giving followed as a natural consequence of giving themselves to the LORD.
I am reminded of a famous quote by Amy Carmichael: “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Giving is the overflow of our relationship with GOD. Our love for Him impacts every area of our lives – including our generosity to GOD’s work, which is a spiritual investment in the Kingdom of GOD that reaps eternal benefits.