When Paul described the giving spirit of the Macedonian church, he piled on one word after another to describe their attitude toward giving.
The churches of the Greco-Roman world were taking up an offering to supply the needs of the starving Christians in Jerusalem. The offering would help their fellow believers in Jerusalem and further unify the church.
The church in Macedonia was one of the poorest, while the church in Corinth was possibly the most wealthy.
Paul used the example of the Macedonians to encourage the Corinthians to do their part in the offering.
— 2 Corinthians 8.1-5 – We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia,
For during a severe ordeal of affliction their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means and even beyond their means,
Begging us earnestly for the favor of partnering in this ministry to the saints,
And not as we expected. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us.
A literal translation of a Bible passage often deepens our appreciation of what is being written. I have provided below my translation of the Greek text, followed by comments.
— Verse 1 – Making known to you, brothers, the grace of God which has been given to the church in Macedonia.
God always gives what he demands from his people. The Macedonians were able to give because God had first given to them.
This is a consistent fact of how God works with his people. If God asks something from us, we can be assured that he will provide what he asks for.
— Verse 2 – For in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their gladness and according to the depths of their poverty abounded in a wealth of generosity on their part.
In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross and I discuss the difference between a scarcity mentality and an abundance mentality.
People with a scarcity mentality believe that the “pie” is only so big and they must get their piece and protect it from being taken.
An abundance mentality trusts God to make another “pie” or to enlarge the one already in existence. The feeding of the 5,000 is a practical example of God’s abundance.
The trust of the Macedonians in God enabled them to have an abundance mentality and to show it through the way they gave to the Jerusalem Christians.
— Verse 3 – Because of their power, I testify, and beyond their power, of their own will . . .
Translators supply words to make sense in English of this sentence fragment. However, the meaning is clear.
A very poor church gave what was within its power and then gave some more. All of this was their idea and freely given.
— Verse 4 – With great persuasive effort, they begged us the grace and partnership of this service to the saints.
I have tried to convey with my translation the earnest desire the Macedonians expressed to Paul. What is so amazing is they are pressing this desire to be able to give beyond their ability to the needs of the saints.
— Verse 5 – And just as we had hoped, they gave of themselves first to the Lord and to us through the will of the Lord.
Here is a test: If we believe we have given our lives to Jesus, how does it show in the way we treat others.
The Macedonians gave themselves to the Lord and gave evidence of the fact by the way they begged to fully participate in the offering for starving Christians in Jerusalem.
Encouragement from the Macedonians
The way the Macedonian church approached giving encourages me to view life through the lens of God’s abundance.
God always provides for us what he wants us to give to others. A little boy trusted Jesus with his lunch and 5,000 people had a meal that satisfied everyone with leftovers.
The Macedonians saw the world through God’s creative power and we do well to join their example.
Jesus summed up the kind of giving the Macedonians knew all too well.
He said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke6.38).
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage as it applies to our lives on video. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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