Sunday, 13 October 2013

Thanksgiving Macedonian Style

2 Corinthians 8 (ESV)
Encouragement to Give Generously
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 

In the New Testament there appears to be no church more generous than the Macedonian church.  In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul tells us how their joy overflowed in rich generosity.  The encouraging thing for us is the circumstances from whence it came.  Paul explains that they were in the midst of severe affliction and extreme poverty.  And it was in these times that God gave them this overflowing joy that resulted in generosity.  Trials and suffering could not shake these believers because they didn’t care about material stuff.  Their secret was not in what belonged to them but to whom they belonged.  
Every one of us will also face trials and sufferings at some point in our lives.  And, just like the Macedonians, we must decide in whom or in what we will trust when they do arise.  So, let us look at three truths that the Macedonian believers teach us that will help us obtain the same joy and generosity they had in the midst of extreme poverty.
First, nothing can shake the joy of the generous.  Paul’s description of the Macedonian state of affairs should not be taken lightly – a severe test of affliction and extreme poverty.  These circumstances were more than minor setbacks.  Yet, God gave them the joy to not only make it through, but to give generously in the process.
Second, generosity flows from a heart of self sacrifice, not self preservation.  The motivation of giving is not to get, but instead, just like the Macedonians, it begins with our surrender to God and flows from his joy as we trust in him.
Third, biblical giving comes from grace, not the law.  A tithe, or 10%, is the biblical starting point for giving.  Jesus validated this in Matthew 23:23.  But, as the Macedonians showed us, their giving was a direct result of the joy they found in God’s grace, not from an obligation to give.  These verses model for us the response God is looking for when we look at our financial situation.  
Paul tells us that the Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord.  In this same way we should approach our finances by first affirming, or re-affirming, our commitment to trust God’s promises.  And then we are told the Macedonians gave to others.  Their generosity was proof of the source of their joy.  In the same way, our giving echoes in what our hearts are trusting.

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