Giving is a topic that most people don’t like the church or the preacher talking about too much. They’ll pardon the occasional reference and the annual sermon, but too much emphasis on offerings is a turn off. There is a sense that what we put in the offering is private, between me and God, and that it is no one else’s business. To some extent that is true. God expects everyone to make up their minds what they will offer to him, and to give it cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9). Paul even says to the Corinthians that they should determine in their own minds, not under compulsion, what they should give, and set it aside for the special offering he was taking up to help the saints in Judea (2 Cor. 9:7). Paul may appear to be putting pressure on the Corinthians about their offering, but in actual fact he is not. They had already promised to give an offering a year earlier (2 Cor. 9:2). Paul was on his way to pick it up, and as was his custom, men from the churches sending offerings would accompany him to provide a measure of accountability. It was the generosity of the Corinthians who had inspired the Macedonians to give to the offering as well, and Paul didn’t want the Macedonian representatives to find the Corinthians unprepared and the offering incomplete.

The inspiring generosity of the Corinthians had stirred up the desire of the Macedonians to also give to the offering in the first place, even though Paul had not expected it (2 Cor. 9:2). Their own hardships and difficulties made it hard for them to give, but they insisted and Paul finally gave in, and allowed them to participate (2 Cor. 8:1-5). Paul implies that their deep poverty and particularly hard trials made the Macedonians want to give generously to the offering for the Judean saints, who also were in need and being persecuted. With a great deal of enthusiasm and joy they gave more than Paul expected to help others with whom they could identify (2 Cor. 8:2). Their gift was not reluctant or begrudging, but generous and enthusiastic. Their deep poverty and extremely hard circumstances was not a cause for begrudging the gift, but on the contrary, it was the reason for faith in God and enthusiasm as joyous generosity. They really went beyond their ability in the anticipated sense of things!

Generosity provokes and excites generosity. The enthusiasm of the Macedonians was the direct result of generosity of the Corinthians. Because the Corinthians were willing to give, their example stirred up the passion and desire of the Macedonians. So this extraordinary outburst of generosity of the Macedonians didn’t occur in a vacuum, but rather was stirred up by the generosity of the Corinthians. Paul uses two different words translated generous. In speaking of the generosity of the Corinthians, he speaks of their willingness that it would provide a genuine blessing to the saints in Judea. Their generosity was an enthusiastic passion for meeting a real need. There was genuine benefit to the needy saints in their gift. So the gift was an overflow of their ability to help others in their inability. The chief characteristic of the generosity of the Corinthian gift was its practicality. The Macedonians gave beyond their means and with such joy and enthusiasm, Paul was overwhelmed by it, and he draws attention to the generosity of their sincerity. The chief characteristic of the Macedonian generosity was its honesty and sincerity. Their gift was genuine, a really honest gift out of love and a passion to bring relief to the needy saints in Judea!

The outcome of both gifts, however, was that it had repercussions in terms of their relationship with God. Paul promised that because of their generosity God would provide for them. He uses the metaphor of seed for the sower. In other words, God would make their labors productive, and he would support them, in order that their generosity to others might continue to flow, and that their own needs might be met (cf. 2 Cor. 8:13-15; 9:10-11). Secondly, their gift was causing thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 9:12-14). Men everywhere were thanking God because of the generosity of the Corinthians. Their giving was bringing praise to God and he was exalted on account of their giving. Furthermore, the beneficiaries and others inspired by their generosity were praying for the Corinthians, so that prayers were being offered up to God on their behalf. In this way, the generosity of the Corinthians was also bringing a harvest of the blessings of God into their own lives and fellowship. Somehow a connection of deep love now exited between the Macedonians and the Corinthians, inspired by example and involving prayer. Paul sees the church as providing for one another, because the abundance of the one is the source of blessing for the other.

Giving is not the one way street we think it is. Generosity in the kingdom of God always results in the provision of God. It inspires and refreshes the faith and confidence of others, and results in praises and thanksgiving to God! At the same time, generosity brings the church together and creates and deepens relationships. When you get down to it, giving is not a matter of putting an offering in the plate, but a matter of the generosity of the heart, a desire to provide a real benefit to others, and of a sincerity that is real when it comes to wanting to love God and show love to others.

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