Advent: December 11
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
You might think that a group of people in dire straits of poverty would be reluctant to give what little they had for Paul and his work. What made the difference in their poverty was the limitless wealth of God’s grace working in their lives. Rational thinkers would argue that their available funds were already too stretched, and perhaps they should be the recipients of the financial support of others. But God had touched hearts and minds. The people of this poor and struggling church abounded in God’s grace. God had brought them to a place of overflowing joy as they received the message that Paul the apostle brought to them.
They had no money. They decided that they could manage on grace. Such a financial position in our churches, especially as income may be faltering during this pandemic, might predicate the purchase of a box of six-inch nails to hammer into the coffin as far as our our dues to the diocese or wider association to which we belong are concerned, let alone our charitable giving. The cry goes up, “We can’t afford it –how can we make ends meet if we give like this?”.
An act of grace turned poverty into wealth. Their giving was not based on what their budgets and balance sheets dictated, but on a grace-embedded desire to assist Paul in his work, entrusting what was evidently (as Paul did not write the above to fill up letter-space!) a large sum of money to Paul for the work of the Gospel. The gracious giving of these Macedonians will be remembered for ever.
Have you associated any struggles in your life, your church/fellowship with joy?
How much money does a church need in order to run?
What of my so-called poverty am I holding back from God?
How does Jesus’ poverty relate to you?
Father God, I recall that for our sakes the ever-living Word took flesh and became poor so that we may taste the vast and incomparable riches of heaven. Bring this truth to my heart and to my purse/wallet. Amen.