God’s Formula for Great Giving2 Corinthians 8:1-15Theme: Generosity.This week’s lessons teach us that giving is a matter of the heart.
LessonWe read in the Book of Acts that the Christians at Antioch sent money to Jerusalem. Paul collected money as he traveled into Macedonia and into Greece proper. He refers to the one trip several times where, together with representatives of the Gentile churches, he went to Jerusalem to present this great offering. I suppose Paul thought of this as a testimony to the great unity of the Christian church. That is because here was a true, common brotherhood of those who had been born again and were brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ, showing a family concern for one another. So as Paul is writing to the Corinthians, he encourages them to give.
Early in this chapter he talks about the giving of the churches in Macedonia where the churches of Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi were located. Paul saw their giving as a model for how other churches should be giving. We also know about the giving of these churches in Macedonia from other references through-out Paul’s writing. In Philippians 4:16, he says, “For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.” So we know that they gave at least two times.
They took care of Paul because they knew he lived by the preaching of the Gospel. So, when they heard he was in need, they sent money to take care of him. They did that more than once.
Then we read further on in chapter 11, verse 9, that when he was in Corinth, although the Philippians had little money themselves, they gave to Paul when he was in need. They had a great desire to provide for Paul.
A period of time likely came when the Christians at Philippi lost touch with Paul and his missionary efforts and they would not have known what had happened. Then, at last, word came, but it was that Paul had been arrested and taken as a prisoner to Rome. In Rome, he was in need. When they heard, they got a new collection together and they sent a man off to Rome bearing that offering for him. This was the occasion for the letter to the Philippians. Some people have said it was one of the best thank-you letters ever written. I think Paul had more in mind than that, but among the other things, he was certainly writing in that letter to thank them for their great gift.
This was what the Macedonian churches were like. Not only did they give to Paul, but they also gave generously to this relief fund for the poor in Jerusalem. In this passage, Paul talks about these Christians at Macedonia, and, using their example, he gives a formula for great Christian giving, one that is very different from how giving is presently considered in our technological age.
Paul describes what he found in verse 2: “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up into rich generosity.” It is not what you would expect, is it? But Paul explains that this is the way it happens spiritually when Christians go through particularly difficult times.
We know that was true of many of the Christians in Macedonia. They endured all kinds of persecutions. Paul himself was persecuted, he was arrested, he was beaten, and we would expect the same sort of treatment to happen to his converts. Un-doubtedly it did on many occasions.
In any case, whatever they went through, it was severe. And yet, Paul points out that they did not give up. They did as Christians do in circumstances like that. They did as Paul himself did when he was imprisoned at Philippi. Rather than giving up, their joy in the Lord came bubbling to the surface because they counted it a great pleasure to suffer in this way for God. So out of this severe trial there was a joy beyond all measure, which, when added to their extreme poverty, brought forth this generosity that he commends to the Christians at Corinth.
How did the Macedonian churches serve as a model for other churches?
What prompted Paul to write his letter to the Philippians?
Why were the Philippians able to be joyful in suffering?
What was Paul’s formula for great giving?
Further StudyRead Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Find those portions of the letter that exhibit the generous spirit in that church. How did their giving encourage Paul?