In Paul’s second letter to the believers in Corinth he lifts up the believers in Macedonia as an inspirational example for what true Christian generosity looks like. In so doing Paul lays out some important principles for us . Who were these Macedonians?
Macedonia was a thriving plain off of the Gulf of Thessalonica that had prospered from an abundance of precious metals and timber. Undoubtedly, the Macedonians had given out of their wealth in the past. However, in Second Corinthians their generosity is being lifted up for a very different reason. An economic crisis of some sort had hit Macedonia, and now they were in the midst of “a severe trial” that had created “extreme poverty” (2 Cor 8:2). Yet, in the midst of that severe trial they had experienced “overflowing joy” (v. 2). That joy in combination with their extreme poverty mixed like an explosive chemical reaction that “welled up in rich generosity” (v. 2). It was an amazing development. An affluent church loses their wealth in a severe trial and their joyful response brings about a response of supernatural generosity! How is this response possible? The next few verses offer insight.
First, the Macedonians did not stop at giving what they had the means to give. Rather, they gave what they were able to give and then gave some more. They gave beyond their means (v. 3). There is no indication that they did this in a reckless manner, but that they identified the amount they could reasonably do and then pushed themselves beyond that.
Second, they came up with their plan “entirely on their own” (v. 3). This was not Paul’s plan. He did not manipulate them or guilt-trip them. In fact, he says that the Macedonians “urgently pleaded” with Paul and his associates for the “privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (v. 4).
Third, Paul tells us that the Macedonians “gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (v. 5). This final point is critically important. Resources are not a problem for God. He can provide in any way that He so desires. But the gifts that He blesses are the gifts that grow out of our primary commitment to God Himself.
A gift that brings God glory goes beyond what we perceive to be our means, it wells up from within us and not from external pressures, and grows out of our commitment to God and our love for Him and others.