Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality … as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.
2 Corinthians 8:1-7
A time of famine had gripped the first century Mediterranean world. It was foretold by the prophet Agabus, and even as he prophesied, “the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea” (Acts 11:28-29). This was also in the heart of this grace Paul described in 2 Corinthians 8.
In the midst of a famine, the Lord gave special grace to the believers for them to not think only about themselves, but for them, despite their own poverty to think about others. The Christians in Macedonia are commended twice in the New Testament for their generosity (see Romans 15:26).
We first tend to pray for ourselves when we face financial difficulty. We feel deprived of our “daily bread” and ask the Lord to supply our needs. The same is true with all of the felt needs we experience in this life – sickness, conflict with others, injustices, etc. Whenever trouble darkens our door, the natural tendency is to pity ourselves and ask the Lord for relief. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this type of prayer. The Lord Himself taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” and we may bring all of our concerns to the Lord. He invites us, even commands us to do so: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
But yet we can see that this is also just the outworking of human will, the natural way that people think and react in life. Help me, Lord! Save me, Lord! Deliver me, Lord! The remarkable thing about this type of prayer is that it is directed to the Lord, that it is an expression of faith. Whenever a human prays – even if it is only for himself – this is a sign of the work of God that has born witness in that human heart and consciousness that God exists, that He cares for us, that He may be approached in prayer, that He hears and answers, that He has power to do what we ask of Him.
Yet the grace spoken of in the first seven verses of 2 Corinthians 8 is something even grander – the grace that in the midst of our needs we think about others, and our hearts reach out to them to see how we may help them. This is what was evidenced in Macedonia. In a time of famine, they gave generously to help others. What a remarkable evidence of the work of God in their lives. In their poverty they thought of others.
When we wrap ourselves in self-pity we become the very soul of bitterness and unhappiness. We become a sad and pathetic picture of self-absorption and of absolute misery. The worst thing we can do in our difficulties is to sit down and weep for ourselves. Oh, “weeping may endure for a night” – we need a time of assess what we have lost, a time of healthy recognition and admission of the pain that we have experienced, grief has its place in our lives and it is appropriately expressed in the time of loss – “But joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). We do not need to wallow in our own loss.
This grace is the divinely awakened means within our hearts to think of others in times of our own need, and not just to think of ourselves, to pity others and not only ourselves, and to give and serve for others and not just for ourselves. That is this grace that we are to excel in.
Another word we find here in 2 Corinthians 8 passage, in verse four, is “koinonia” or “fellowship” meaning “something commonly shared.” It is used in a similar way in Romans 15:26, to describe a fellowship of giving. This word “koinonia” in these passages describes how the Lord through His Spirit brought unity of spirit within the church to be generous and to bless others. He still does this today. All believers may share in the grace gift, and in the giving. Those who are wealthier than the others do not have any more obligation than the ones who are poorer. The spirit of generosity is the same, even as the size of the gifts may vary. “Not equal gifts but equal sacrifices” is the idea, given without complaint, with great joy and unity.
In the economy of God the one who gives receives the greater blessing. The generous church is a happy church, and the same is true for the individual believer. Selfishness and self-absorption are curses that lead to misery. The divine grace of generosity to think of others, to help others, to give for the sake of others, this is a gift of joy! It is much better, healthier, and joyful in the midst of need and want to have the grace to think of the needs of others than to be obsessed with getting your own little crumb.
Pursue this gift of the grace of generosity and join this fellowship of sharing with others. God will bless you more than you can imagine.