How God expects us to Give
How God Expects Us to Give (2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 12-14)
Paul's conception of giving is a lofty one. To Him, giving is grace. Giving is a ministry of the Holy Spirit inwrought in personal experience and outworked in practical expression. Wherever he planted churches, the apostle made it his business to instruct the people of God in the doctrines of Christian stewardship. Particularly the churches in Macedonia—Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi—were renowned for their charity and liberality.
In the passage before us, the apostle used the Macedonian example of generosity to challenge the Corinthian church—and us. Apparently, the Corinthian assembly abounded in the gifts of "Faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence," (v. 7) but it lacked in the grace of giving. So, Paul confronts them with an example of giving to beget in them a sense of responsibility in Christian stewardship.
God Expects Us to Give Sacrificially
"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" (vv. 1-2, NKJV). Paul takes great care to show that it was not in the circumstances of prosperity that the saints in Macedonia gave their liberal offering. Some severe tests of affliction had come upon these local churches, and they had been reduced to what is described as "deep poverty" or, more literally, "down to the bottom poverty." But in all their affliction and poverty, there was joy and liberality. This is true sacrifice, and they had learned it from their matchless Savior, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2, KJV).
Paul makes it explicitly clear that he did not expect equal gifts, but he did expect equal sacrifice: "[It] is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have. . . . that there may be equality" (2 Cor. 8:12-13). The genius of God's plan for giving is its fairness. Men who give radically different amounts may be totally equal in sacrifice.
God Expects Us to Give Spontaneously
"For to their power I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" (vv. 3-4, KJV). The Scriptures make it plain that the grace of giving is not so much the result of outward compulsion as the consequence of inward expulsion! In a very real sense, it is "the expulsive power of a new affection." Thus, Paul admits that he had no authority to demand an offering from the Corinthian saints, but he could certainly afford them the opportunity to "prove the sincerity of [their] love" (v. 8, KJV). The pastor, the staff, and the leadership of this great church have no desire to demand an offering—indeed, we cannot, and would not if we could. We do have the solemn and joyful obligation of extending an opportunity for spontaneous expression.
The secret of the Macedonian giving was simply: they "gave of their own free will." This is an accurate rendering of the phrase, "they were willing of themselves." What is more, they took the initiative in beseeching Paul "with much entreaty" that he would receive the gifts. The initiative had belonged to the people, not the pastor.
God Expects Us to Give Spiritually
"And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God" (v. 5, KJV). In other words, their giving was the outward expression of their utter dedication to God. There most definitely is a kind of giving that is unspiritual, and that has ulterior motives. One form of it is a drawing attention to one's self (Matt. 6:3-4). Another form of wrong giving is with a spirit of ill will and reluctance. This runs contrary to the apostolic injunction that "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7, KJV). The worst form of giving is that of attempting to buy off one's indebtedness to God. How different was the spirit of these. Their giving was accompanied by an act of complete self-surrender. Their giving was the measure of their love for Christ, Savior and Lord. Giving is not the only indicator of your love for God, but it will always be one of the indicators. These days afford us the opportunity so to demonstrate our love for Him.