II Corinthians 8:1-2 – “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”
The Macedonian Christians gave us an excellent example of giving that we should aim to emulate today (II Corinthians 8:1-7). An important part of a Christian’s service is that of giving. This giving does not solely involve giving of a monetary nature, though that is an important part of it. It involves giving of ourselves to the service of the Lord and others for the “furtherance of the Gospel”. The apostle Paul, in seeking to inspire the Corinthians to abound in the grace of giving, used the example of the churches of Macedonia found in II Corinthians 8:1-7. Notice how in verse 5, speaking of these Macedonian givers, Paul states they “first gave their own selves to the Lord”. We need to make sure, in order to be giving to the Lord with the right spirit and out of the right heart, that we have first given ourselves to Him. Then if we are right with Him, we will be giving to Him rightly out of our time, talents and treasure.
WHO WERE THE CHURCHES OF MACEDONIA?
THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI – We read of its beginnings in Acts 16:11-40 with the conversion of Lydia and her household. Lydia demonstrated hospitality (Acts 16:15 – And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us). The church of Philippi also finds its roots in the conversion of the Philippian jailor and his family. He too showed hospitality (Acts 16:34).
Was the hospitality shown by both families an indication of things to come? Paul had to leave abruptly because of persecution. He wrote the epistle of Philippians to them and to those who had been saved and joined with them. In this epistle, we learn of the help they supplied to Paul in his ministry (Philippians 1:3-5, 4:10, 14-18). We also learn that they continued to suffer for Christ (Philippians 1:27-30), but they continued to give themselves first to Christ, then give of themselves and their possessions to help with the “furtherance of the Gospel”.
THE CHURCH AT THESSALONICA – We read of its beginnings in Acts 17:1-10. After many were converted, persecution soon arose (Acts 17:5-9). This required Paul’s sudden departure. The Epistles to the Thessalonians were written to this church. We read in these epistles how they continued to have trouble, but also excelled in the matter of brotherly love. (I Thessalonians 4:9-10 – But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more.)
With this background of the churches of Macedonia, Philippi, Thessalonica, and others, you can understand why the Apostle Paul used them as an example of true Christian giving when instructing the Corinthian church on how to give. (II Corinthians 8:1-7)
WHAT WERE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THEIR GIVING?
They gave with an abundance of joy! (II Corinthians 8:2a -How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy) – They discovered and cultivated a joy of giving. Giving was not something they felt they had to do; it was something they got to do that brought them great joy.
They apparently had taken to heart the words of the Lord Jesus as taught by Paul about the blessings of giving. (Acts 20:35 – I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.)
They were a persecuted church. It appears they had learned the principle taught by James: how we need to count it all joy when we are in the midst of trials and tribulations. They learned to not let their present situation rob them of the eternal joy they had access to through their Savior. (James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.)
Their joyful giving is the kind of giving God loves and wants to see in all of us. Are you a joyful giver? (II Corinthians 9:7 – Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.)
They sacrificially and generously gave. (II Corinthians 8:2b – and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.) They were in the middle of great difficulties. They were experiencing poverty and yet they gave beyond their ability to give. Paul did not expect them to give in this manner, but giving brought them such joy they could not help but give, and give sacrificially, if need be, if that is what it took to keep the Gospel message going strong. (II Corinthians 8:12-13 – For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened)
They gave voluntarily. The Apostle Paul did not have to coerce them, convince them, or plead with them to give. They freely gave of themselves to the Lord and to the needs of the ministry of the Lord. (II Corinthians 8:3 – For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;)·
- This is the kind of giving God wants us all to have today. He gives us a free will, and He wants our free wills to want and desire to give freely to Him of our time, talents, and treasure.
- People should not be forced to give to the Lord. (II Corinthians 8:8a – I speak not by commandment,) We can only teach the commands and principles found in God’s word on how our giving is to be done.
- Our giving to the Lord is always to be done willingly. (II Corinthians 8:12 – For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.)
- Our giving is not to be done “grudgingly” or because we feel we have to. (II Corinthians 9:7 – Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.) – If we give “grudgingly” we might as well not give at all.
They were persistent in their desire to give. (II Corinthians 8:4 – Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.)
- “intreaty” in this verse means – a calling near, summons, exhortation, admonition, a persuasive powerful discourse. – In other words, they were determined that they were going to give, and their gift was going to be accepted and used for the “furtherance of the gospel”.
- With the Philippians, we know their giving was persistent throughout the life and ministry of Paul.
And most importantly they gave “their own selves to the Lord”. (II Corinthians 8:5 – And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.) – This probably explains how they were able to give so much above what they had to the ministry of the Lord; they trusted the Lord with themselves first, and He used them as the conduit to give His blessings to Paul and the Gospel ministry.
- The importance of first giving yourself to the Lord cannot be stressed enough. They gave themselves to the Lord by the will of God. God’s will is the same for us today. His will is for us to first give ourselves over to His control, then to give a portion of what He has seen fit in His infinite wisdom to bless us with, back to Him.
- When a person first gives himself to the Lord, they do not then worry about the “cost” of what they are giving back to the Lord. Whether they are giving of their time to a ministry, or giving of their talents, or if they are giving of their treasure, they can live this way because they have the promise from Jesus found in Matthew 6:25-34.
- Having given themselves first to the Lord, it was only natural they would give the way they did. (John 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.)
What a great example to us these Macedonian churches are! They truly had mastered the art of what it is to give as a Christian. These churches were not expected to give because of their deep poverty and persecution, yet they gave consistently and generously to the ministry of the Gospel.
- Out of their own need, they gave with an abundance of joy.
- They gave generously and sacrificially.
- They gave voluntarily, they were not coerced or commanded to give.
- They gave persistently, they would not accept “no” for an answer and wanted to give no matter what.
- Most importantly they gave themselves to the Lord first, and that led naturally to result in the kind of giving they were credited for.
We Need to Follow Their Example in Giving
We too need to make sure we have first accepted the free gift of salvation from the Lord and then give ourselves over to His will and control in our lives.
These Macedonian givers gave to support preachers and missionaries and to spread the Gospel throughout the known world. They gave to help needy Christians in a foreign land, and they gave to help an old preacher friend when he had need and would not take no for an answer from him.
These Macedonians gave far more than a tithe. They gave nearly all they had and then some to help other Christians and the spreading of the Gospel.
What kind of givers are we? What kind of a giver are you? Are you a Macedonian giver or are you a hardly-at-all giver? Do you give “grudgingly”? Do you give out of obligation?
Or are you like the Macedonian givers – just looking for a chance to give and begging to be able to give to the need of the Gospel and to give more and more? Do you give generously and out of your own want?
Finally, What Kind of Receiver are You?
Have you accepted and received the greatest gift of all? II Corinthians 8:9 says “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Have you accepted this free gift of salvation and become rich with the inheritance of eternal life from our Lord? If you have not received this gift, now is the time. Now is the day to accept this greatest gift of all II Corinthians 6:1-2 – “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”