Text: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; Romans 12:8

In 1 Corinthains 16:1-3, the Apostle Paul started a fund to relief the poor saints in Jerusalem. However, the giving was delayed, perhaps due to the manifold problems which besieged the Corinthian Church. Therefore, Paul exhorted the Corinthian Christians to complete giving to the relief fund which they had begun.

In order to encourage the Corinthian Christians to complete their giving unto the poor saints in Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul cited the good examples of the churches in Macedonia (example: Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea).

The region of Macedonia had seen numerous long wars in history. Due to the toils of these wars, the region of Macedonia was not rich compared to its neighbours. Moreover, the churches in Macedonia had to endure much persecution for the gospel sake. Hints of these troubles can be seen in the other epistles. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul writes, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost”. He adds in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15, “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men”.

Nevertheless, the Macedonian Christians were able to rise above their circumstances to give to the relief fund of the poor saints in Jerusalem. Instead of considering their own needs, they empathised with the brethren in Jerusalem and gave generously to them. This was Christian giving manifested out of God’s grace in the hearts of the Macedonians. They were of the same spirit as the widow who gave her all to the Lord with her two mites (Mk 12:41-44). Everything that they had belonged to God.

Concerning the attitude and extent of the Macedonians’ giving, Paul records that “beyond their power they were willing of themselves” (v.3). Thus, some churches who promote the prosperity gospel teach that Christians must “give till it hurts” in order to receive the rich blessings of the Lord. This is an abuse and twisting of the good teaching found in this passage of Scripture. Paul was not asking Christians to give beyond what they were able. Rather Paul was pointing to the willingness of the Macedonians who consecrated everything they had unto the Lord including their money. If they were given more in their hands, they would have also put these resources to good use for the Lord’s glory. Thus, verse 3 is a wonderful testimony of what it means to exercise good stewardship in the Lord.

The liberality of the Macedonian Christians ought to provoke the Corinthian Christians to do likewise. The Corinthian Christians were far more well off economically compared to the Macedonians. However, they were so distracted by their internal problems that they had forgotten their duty to help the needy brethren.

Herein is a warning to us that when worldliness creeps into our lives and we stray from the Lord, our giving to the Lord’s work will also be affected. Moreover, this “giving” ought to be viewed as a “returning” for all the things that we have belongs to God. Is not God the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10)? We are but stewards of the resources that are placed in our hands. However, when we are rich, there is a tendency to forget that it is the Lord who has granted us power to get wealth (Deut. 8:17). “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth…” (Deut. 8:18a)

When we truly surrender everything to the Lord, we will find that the Lord will grant us grace to consider others before ourselves. We will then be able to give with simplicity, as commanded by the Lord (Rom. 12:8).

THOUGHT: What is the proper use of possessions in this life?
PRAYER: Father, all that I have belongeth to Thee.

Text: 2 Corinthians 8:8-9; Philippians 2:5-8

Although Paul could easily issue a command for the Corinthian Christians to contribute to the relief fund, he preferred them to give cheerfully and willingly from the heart. Thus, he urged them to consider the example of the Macedonian Christians, hoping that the fro-ward giving of the Macedonians would provoke the Corinthians to also “prove” their love for the saints.

The example par excellence however, would have to be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. “… that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (v. 9) This points to the humility of Christ in His incarnation. Though Christ was infinitely rich as God, yet He humbled Himself to come down to earth as a man, that man may find salvation from his sins. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8) Through the sacrificial giving of Christ, those who believe are now spiritually rich, having been blessed “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Indeed, through the poverty of Christ we have become rich. Thus, Calvin says, “The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men may become the sons of God.”

Since Christ has given of Himself so that we may have the gracious gift of salvation, surely the Corinthians Christians ought to do the same for the poor saints in Jerusalem in their need. Thus, the Apostle Paul urged them to consider what Christ has done for them, and prove their love by following in the same self-sacrificial spirit of Christ. They ought to place the needs of others above themselves.

Christ has set the example in giving. Will we follow?

THOUGHT: Christ gave His life for us. What about us?
PRAYER: Father, may Thou give me the mind of Christ.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew