Every Tuesday Ralph had to take out the garbage early in the morning before the truck arrived. “I hate doing this,” he often complained to his wife. “I just can’t stand to take out the trash.” The complaints were so regular that they had become almost a ritual. The family expected him to grumble as he tied up the bags and dragged them out the front door. But one morning his wife Tina was not so patient with Ralph’s ritual. She blocked the front door with her foot and stared at her husband. “I wish that just one time you’d be happy to take out the garbage because you love us so much.”
Tina had a point. It is one thing to do the right thing because you are threatened or under compulsion. It is quite another to do the right thing because this expresses your love for someone. When we are motivated positively by things like gratitude and love, we take pleasure even in the most trying tasks.
Paul understood this, so in 2 Corinthians 8-9 he focused on how the believers can live for Christ out of gratitude and love. Although Paul’s words focused primarily on giving to the poor in Jerusalem, their implications apply to all areas of life.
Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to help the poor saints in Jerusalem. He is not talking about tithing or even regular giving to the local church. This is about a one-time special gift to another church. Yet, it is about God’s grace as it relates to giving. It is about the motivation behind all giving.
In 2 Cor. 8-9 Paul use 9 different words to refer to the offering, but not once did he use the word ‘money’. The word he used the most was ‘grace’. Giving is an action that helps others, but the motivation must be from the grace of God in the heart.
Paul indicated that there were a number of evidences that appear when our giving is motivated by God’s grace. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, notice that we are to give In spite of our circumstances.
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).
Give motivated by Grace. From the start, Paul gave God the glory for the ability and the desire to give. Human nature motivates people to hoard wealth. The common excuse for accumulating money is to make one’s future secure. Only when Christians completely trust God for all their needs, as they should, can they begin to freely give out of what God has given them. Not only are material possessions gifts from God, but also the willingness to give is a gift from God. God’s free grace – His undeserved favor – motivates us to give our time, money, and talents more generously to others.
Give even in trouble. Paul used the Macedonians as an example of grace giving. They were under great persecution. The literal idea is that they were being crushed by life. The surrounding culture kept squeezing them harder and harder because of the Macedonians’ devotion to Christ. Immense pressure! In spite of the trouble they were in, they gave with abundant joy.
Give even in poverty. The Macedonians (namely, the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) were poor. The word Paul uses for “their extreme poverty” is the word from which we derive the English word bathysphere — the ship we use to probe the depths of the ocean — a Jacques Cousteau kind of word. They were in deep, deep poverty. Yet, in spite of their poverty, they gave gernously.
Give more than expected. The Macedonians gave beyond their ability. They calculated how much they could give and then tried to exceed that amount. Their giving was way beyond what Paul expected.
Give willingly. They gave voluntarily. The Greek word used, authairetos, comes from two Greek words for ‘self’ and ‘choice’ and refers to a purely voluntary, free-will decision to commit oneself to a particular course of action. The Macedonians gave spontaneously, with no prompting or pressure. No compulsion. No guilt trips.
Give without being asked. Paul had been reluctant to ask for money from them. It was the Macedonians who urgently pleaded with Paul to take their money. What prompted this? They saw their giving as an opportunity to give a sacrificial gift, just as they had received a sacrificial gift from God. They did the begging, not Paul. It was a way they could help their spiritual brothers and sisters.
In a mathematical equation, this is how it looks.
Great Affliction + Deep Poverty + Grace
Abundant Joy & Abounding Generosity.
In conclusion, think of these three practical applications of giving.
Giving is an evidence of our heart more than our bank account.
Giving begins with attitude not circumstance.
Giving back to God is an appropriate response to receiving from God.