They gave of their own accord
2 Corinthians 8:1-15 from the daily reading in the One year Bible
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.
7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 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. 10 I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. 11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
Probably the two biggest criticisms of the church today are that Christians are hypocrites and that the church is constantly demanding money from its members. I have written frequently in regard to the charges of hypocrisy. Today’s text deals with giving to support the ministry of the church. In today’s text it says: We wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints. Paul is commending the churches of Macedonia, both for giving of their own accord and for giving liberally even though they had little to give. Perhaps it’s the idea of giving under compulsion which causes so many people to have a negative view of the church and money. If only churches were able to operate as the churches at Macedonia did, allowing people to give of their own accord. The thing is many of those who are most critical of the church for asking for money are the same people who have a cable bill over $200. Per month, the same people who would think nothing of spending $100 or more to go to a concert or a sporting event. They would easily pay $100 for a meal at a restaurant. They would think nothing of spending thousands for a vacation. None of those things allow them to give of their own accord. So then is it a really a question of compulsion or is it a question of value and priority?
Paul answers the question of value regarding the churches at Macedonia, saying: this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. They gave themselves first to the Lord. In Matthew 19:16-23 there is an account of Jesus encounter with a young man who wanted to know what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. It says: someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” It is not necessarily that we need to sell everything we have to follow Jesus, but we do need to let go of the hold that material things and self gratification have in our lives. We need to value Jesus and what He has done more than we value entertainment and luxury. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
The fact that in our culture we are focused on self gratification also leads to another reason why churches are unable to depend on the giving of people without compulsion. Many of those who complain the most about money in the church are those who expect to receive more from the church in return for their money. So again it is a question of value. But it also becomes necessary for churches to become a business. People expect a return for their giving, so churches need to provide services, entertainment and comfort. Big comfortable buildings cost money. Staff, needed to serve requires additional money. Many churches get caught choosing between the desire to fulfill ministry and the necessity of operating as a business. Each church, every board and every leadership group in churches everywhere needs to find the balance between ministry and business.
Each individual needs to ask themselves what is it that I value? Does the church asking for money offend me because I don’t receive what I want from it? Am I giving to receive something back, or am I giving in response to the grace of God, have received something I can never pay back? Will I give up everything to follow Jesus? Before Jesus says we cannot serve God and wealth, in Matthew 6:19-21 He says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Giving then really is a question of value. If the church asking for money offends you, before you criticize the church, look closely and ask yourself, what do I value? If you know the grace of God, if you know of God’s love, demonstrated in the cross of Christ, you will know that it is impossible to ever give back enough to repay what you have already received. But on top of that God also makes this promise in Malachi 3:7-12: “Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts. We can neither repay God for what He has already done, nor can we out give Him who will give us more in return. Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6) It’s up to you.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for giving me more than I deserve and more than I could ever repay, redemption from sin, reconciliation to You and restoration to all that You desire for me. Thank You also for Your promise and the truth that You will multiply all that I do and all that I give for Your glory. Amen.