More than once we read in the New Testament about the giving that the churches in the region of Macedonia did. Congregations in that area were located in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and perhaps elsewhere. They supported the apostle Paul when he preached in Corinth and other places (2 Corinthians 11:8,9; Philippians 4:15,16).
However, it is the tremendous giving that the Macedonian churches did in another matter that really catches our eye. The first five verses in 2 Corinthians 8 reveal this message about their giving:
(1) Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: (2) that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. (3) For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, (4) imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (5) And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
What can we learn from the contributions that these brethren in the Lord from the distant past made? There really are some great lessons here.
First, they gave even when they were in a condition that the Bible calls “a great trial of affliction” (8:2). We are encouraged by their example for it shows us that it is possible to remain steadfast even when trials abound in life. Their action also reminds us that in the specific matter of giving, a child of God can continue to give to the Lord even when he/she is facing trials.
Second, they had abundant joy, even though they were afflicted. To many it may sound like a fantasy to speak of being happy in the midst of afflictions, but these brethren remind us that it can be done (James 1:2,3).
Third, despite their economic status – they were in “deep poverty,” they were liberal in their giving. Thus, we understand that liberality in giving has nothing to do with the amount of one’s income or bank account. We recall what Jesus said about a woman that gave only two coins (which was all she had): “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all” (Luke 21:3). Once again, as we think of the Christians of Macedonian, we may smile and shake our heads
in amazement at the seeming contradictions that existed in their lives: affliction and joy, poverty and liberality.
Fourth, they went beyond their power or ability in the actual amount that they gave (8:3). We should never see giving as some sort of competition with others, and giving more or less than others proves nothing about how acceptable our giving is to God. Those Macedonian saints were remarkable, though, were they not? There they were in deep poverty, facing great trials of affliction, and all they did was step up and contribute beyond their ability. What an example!
Fifth, in spite of their financial woes, the Macedonians gave freely or willingly (8:3). They exemplified the teaching of 2 Corinthians 9:7 – that giving is to be done “not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” They did not have much money, but they were willing to part with a huge portion of what they had in order to help the Lord’s Cause and His people.
Sixth, they basically begged to be allowed to have a part in contributing to help the poor saints (8:4). They prayed or implored Paul and those with him to accept their funds. We might imagine someone begging to be excused from giving, but these folks were begging to participate in this contribution for the poor among the saints (Romans 15:25,26).
Seventh, before they gave their money to the Lord’s work, they first gave themselves to the Lord (8:5). With them, their heart went first and their generous contribution followed. If our hearts are truly devoted to our Master, then we, too, will give in the sacrificial, selfless manner that the Macedonians did.
The first-century Christians that lived in the region of Macedonia were not some type of sinless Supermen or Superwomen. They were common people. In fact, they were poor, common people. But, they were poor, common people with a heart, a big heart that was committed to the Lord Jesus and His Cause above all else. Their giving was only one aspect of their spiritual lives, but what we read in the Bible about the giving which they did is certainly worthy of our serious study, frequent meditation, and ongoing imitation.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.