In Ottawa tomorrow, the Federal government is expected to release its budget. Implicit in any budgetary expenditures, is the consideration of whose money is being spent. Without a surplus, which is the money set aside from previous taxation, the Federal government relies on current taxation, which is the money from present taxpayers. If they decide to spend money they do not have, they are spending money of future taxpayers. How generous they are in their spending is a barometer of how healthy they expect the economy to perform to cover their expenditures, and how much of taxpayers money they think they can spend without too much uproar.
How people view money is an effective barometer of their spiritual health. Money is neither good nor bad in itself; corrupt people can put it to evil uses, while godly people can put it to righteous uses. Though it is morally neutral, what people do with their money reflects their internal morality. In the words of Jesus, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
The early church gave to meet the needs of the poor. Most of its members were from the lower classes (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26), and many were unable to meet their own financial needs. As Paul wrote 2 Corinthians:8-9, he did not write about the poor in the Corinthian assembly; the Corinthians were apparently faithful in caring for them. Nor was the apostle’s focus on giving to the poor in general. He was concerned specifically about the many needy saints in the Jerusalem church. From its birth on the Day of Pentecost, the Jerusalem church had had to cope with the extreme poverty of many of its members. There were three main reasons for that situation.
Please turn to Acts 2
First, the Jerusalem church consisted largely of pilgrims. Many, if not most, of the first converts were visiting Jerusalem to celebrate the Day of Pentecost, when the church was born. They were Hellenistic Jews, who lived in the Gentile lands to which the Jewish people had been scattered in the Diaspora.
Acts 2:9–11 describes them as
Acts 2:9-11 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians--we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." (ESV)
"Keep your place in Acts 2"
On that Day of Pentecost, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2:41). Soon afterward, the number of men in the church reached five thousand (Acts 4:4), not counting the women. Since there were no churches or Christians anywhere else in the world, the converted pilgrims remained in Jerusalem. Only there could they sit under the apostles’ teaching and find fellowship with other believers. Most of them were not wealthy and could not afford to stay indefinitely in Jerusalem’s inns, nor would they wish to, given the condition of the typical inn. And many of those staying with Jewish relatives were alienated from family after becoming Christians and had to leave.
They would have had no option but to move in with the Jewish believers who lived in Jerusalem. Many of them were also poor, so housing thousands of converted pilgrims would have been a great hardship for them.
Another reason for the Jerusalem church’s poverty was persecution. New converts lost their jobs or businesses and were ostracized by their families and friends. Just as Jesus had predicted, they became the outcasts of Jewish society (John 16:2).
A third reason for the Jerusalem church’s poverty was the generally poor economic climate of the region. The Romans extracted all they could from their conquered territories, seizing their resources and imposing a heavy burden of taxation. The result was rampant poverty in Israel. Adding to the region’s economic woes was the worldwide famine predicted in Acts 11:27–29.
The Jerusalem church made a noble effort to meet the needs of its poor members. Acts 2:44–45 records:
Acts 2:44-45 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (ESV)
Acts 4:32-34 adds:
Acts 4:32-34 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold (ESV)
• But eventually, as the needs grew and persecution mounted (Acts 8:1), the Jerusalem church was overwhelmed with needs and undersupplied with money.
Paul recognized their need and determined to take up a collection for the Jerusalem church from the churches of Asia Minor and Europe (Rom. 15:25–27). He also sought by doing that to strengthen the spiritual bond between those largely Gentile congregations and the Jewish church in Jerusalem. The apostle knew that the love offering would help ease the suspicion, bitterness, and hostility with which Jews and Gentiles generally regarded each other. It would tangibly express the spiritual reality that through His death, Jesus Christ “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” between Jews and Gentiles, making them one (Eph. 2:14).
Paul first wrote to the Corinthians about this collection at the end of his first inspired letter to them (1 Cor. 16:1–4). But he had asked them to participate earlier, during his ministry in Corinth. Their rebellion against Paul had temporarily halted the collection, and since the relationship was restored, Paul instructed them to pick up where they left off. Paul had Titus encourage the Corinthians to begin the collection when he brought the severe letter to Corinth (2 Cor. 8:6).
Few people are more attractive or more contagious than those individuals who find happiness in generosity. It is sad that so many seem to find it hard to associate the two words “enjoyment” and “giving.”
The words seem to them to be mutually exclusive. Because ours is a society that is preoccupied with “getting,” we often fail to experience personally the truth of Christ’s saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) (Chafin, K. L., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1985). Vol. 30: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 30 : 1, 2 Corinthians. The Preacher’s Commentary series (251). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul listed several motives for giving. The first, because giving is the behavior of devout Christians (8:1–8), derives from the example of the Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea). 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 reveals that righteous giving is motivated by 1) God’s grace (2 Cor. 8:1), It 2) Transcends difficult Circumstances (2 Cor. 8:2a), 3) Is with joy (2 Cor. 8:2b), It’s 4) Not hindered by poverty (2 Cor. 8:2c), and is 5) Generous (2 Cor. 8:2d)
1) Giving Is Motivated by God’s Grace (2 Cor. 8:1)
2 Corinthians 8:1 [8:1]We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, (ESV)
Paul’s presentation of God’s grace is outlined by way of a discovery. That his audience/readers were "to know" (γνωρίζω) is in the passive (including Rom. 16:26) it (means) to discover. What Paul wished to make known to them for their encouragement was [not a matter of which they were already informed, and needed only to be reminded of, but] the great liberality of those Macedonian churches (Philippi, Beroea, Thessalonica) among which he was then laboring, in contributions for the impoverished Christians at Jerusalem. (Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Kling, C. F., & Wing, C. P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures : 2 Corinthians (137). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).
Since the apostle’s relationship with his beloved brothers/brethren at Corinth had been restored (7:5–16), he could now discuss with them the issue of giving. He began by calling their attention to the grace of God that has been given among/in the churches of Macedonia, whom he would use as an example of giving.
The Corinthians were apparently unaware of the magnitude of the Macedonians’ generosity, prompting Paul to want them to know. The Macedonians giving was not motivated primarily by philanthropy or human kindness, but by the grace of God at work in their hearts. The grace of God is manifested (1) in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ (8:9), whom Paul also thinks of as God’s “gift” (dōrea—9:15; cf. Rom 5:15, 17), and (2) in the hearing of that word from God which reconciles men and women to God. God’s invisible “grace” (charis), however, is also made visible and concrete in the “grace” God gives to members of churches, specifically their “faith,” “utterance,” “knowledge,” and “love” (v. 7). The “grace” that has been given to the Macedonian churches, and that Paul seeks in the church in Corinth, is sacrificial, freely given, generosity. (6:1; cf. 5:20; see also 4:15) The verb “given” is significant: (1) the passive voice (divine passive) indicates that God is the giver, and (2) the perfect tense is suggestive of a gift that, although given at a point in the past, continues to be given (Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (391). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
By making God the implied agent for the giving of grace, Paul skillfully avoids arousing intense competition between the churches in Macedonia and in Corinth. Yet he stirs them to action (Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 19: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. New Testament Commentary (272). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).
Human nature motivates people to hoard wealth. The common excuse for accumulating great amounts of money is to make one’s future entirely secure (see Luke 12:18–21). Only when Christians completely trust God for all their needs, as they should (see Matthew 6:28–34), can they begin to freely give out of what God has given them (see Matthew 10:8). Not only are material possessions gifts from God, but also the willingness to give is a gift from God. God’s grace--his undeserved favor—motivates us to give our time, money, and talents more generously to others (Barton, B. B., & Osborne, G. R. (1999). 1 & 2 Corinthians. Life application Bible commentary (388). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.).
Paul indicated that this was the grace of God that was given. Their giving was voluntary. They did not wait for any application to this effect from the Apostle; they were willing of their own mind to embrace the opportunity afforded them of fulfilling a duty ..with the best feelings of their hearts (Simeon, C. (1832-63). Horae Homileticae Vol. 16: 1 and 2 Corinthians (571). London.)
Please turn to Philippians 4
“Macedonia” here refers to the Roman province in northern Greece, extending from Apollonia in the west to Philippi in the east. Macedonia was the ancient kingdom of Alexander the Great, was located in the northern part of modern Greece. As noted above, the three churches of Macedonia Paul had in mind were Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Macedonia was an abysmally poor region, ravaged by wars and plundered by the Romans. But despite its deep poverty, the Macedonian believers were amazingly generous (cf. 11:9; Phil. 2:25; 4:15, 18).(Martin, R. P. (2002). Vol. 40: Word Biblical Commentary : 2 Corinthians. Word Biblical Commentary (253). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).
Its place in Paul’s mission is important, as Phil 4:15 testifies:
Philippians 4:15-18 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. (ESV)
The Macedonians did not give like worldly rich people often do, mere tokens of their riches, without sacrifice. Nor did they give like selfish Christians, whose love for temporal things matches their love for eternal things. Giving for them is a battle, because they are still holding on to the temporal. The Macedonians gave magnanimously and abundantly, consistent with Christ’s command to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). But Paul shuts out all thought of human merit by noting that they did so because they were prompted by God’s grace (cf. Eph. 2:10).
Years ago, The Sunday School Times carried the account of a Christian school for the children of “untouchables” in India prior to World War II. Each year the children received Christmas presents from children in England. The girls got a doll, and the boys a toy.
On one occasion the doctor from a nearby mission hospital was asked to distribute the gifts. In the course of his visit, he told the youngsters about a village where the boys and girls had never even heard of Jesus. He suggested that maybe they would like to give them some of their old toys as presents. They liked the idea and readily agreed. A week later, the doctor returned to collect the gifts. The sight was unforgettable. One by one the children filed by and handed the doctor a doll or toy. To his great surprise, they all gave the new presents they had just received several days earlier. When he asked why, a girl spoke up, “Think what God did by giving us his only Son. Could we give him less than our best?” (Michael P. Green. (2000). 1500 illustrations for biblical preaching (159–160). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)
2) Giving Transcends Difficult Circumstances (2 Cor. 8:2a)
2 Corinthians 8:2a for in a severe test of affliction, (their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part). (ESV)
Paul’s strong language vividly depicts the Macedonians’ desperate situation. Polus (severe/great) means “much,” or “many” and indicates the extreme nature of their test/ordeal. Dokimē (test/ordeal) refers to a trial (cf. 2:9 and the use of the related verb dokimazō in 1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Peter 1:7). The noun dokimē means a “testing” that proves someone’s or something’s worth or genuineness (compare 2:9) (Belleville, L. L. (1996). Vol. 8: 2 Corinthians. The IVP New Testament commentary series. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.)
• Remaining faithful in the midst of trial not only has a refining quality to someone’s faith but shows a material world, the genuineness of a truth faith in God not a false security in material wealth.
Thlipsis (affliction) literally refers to pressure, as in crushing grapes. Figuratively, it describes the spiritual pressure the Macedonians endured from their poverty and persecution.
Please turn to Acts 17
Scripture repeatedly describes the suffering endured by the Macedonian churches. Paul and Silas initially preached the gospel in Thessalonica:
Acts 17:5-8 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. (ESV)
But the Macedonians rose above their trying circumstances. They did not allow their situation to have a negative effect on their giving. In the midst of their trials, they put the needs of others, whom they had never met, ahead of their own. Though their poverty may have limited the amount they could give, it did not diminish their love.
• Devout Christians give no matter what the situation, because even the worst circumstances cannot hinder their devotion to Jesus Christ.
3) Giving Is with Joy (2 Cor. 8:2b)
2 Corinthians 8:2b  (for in a severe test of affliction), their abundance of joy (and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part). (ESV)
Perisseia (abundance) means “a surplus,” or “an overflow.” Paul used it to describe God’s saving grace that He pours out on believers through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:17). The Macedonians did not give grudgingly, reluctantly, out of a sense of duty, or under duress. Nor were they motivated by fear of divine punishment or of Paul’s displeasure. They gave gladly, freely, joyfully, knowing that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
The Macedonians’ joy transcended their pain, sorrow, and suffering. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
1 Thessalonians 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (ESV)
1 Thess. 1:6; cf. Acts 5:41).
Their giving reflected that reality, as they joyfully divested themselves of what little they possessed. They rejoiced at laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20; 19:21; Luke 12:33), knowing that the greater blessing is to the giver, not the receiver (Acts 20:35), and that God will give back in greater measure (Luke 6:38).
Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (ESV)
Illustration: It has been said that givers can be divided into three types: the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. Some givers are like a piece of flint—to get anything out of it you must hammer it, and even then you only get chips and sparks. Others are like a sponge—to get anything out of a sponge you must squeeze it and squeeze it hard, because the more you squeeze a sponge, the more you get. But others are like a honeycomb—which just overflows with its own sweetness. That is how God gives to us, and it is how we should give in turn (Michael P. Green. (2000). 1500 illustrations for biblical preaching (159–160). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)
4) Giving Is Not Hindered by Poverty (2 Cor. 8:2c)
2 Corinthians 8:2c  (for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy)and their extreme poverty (have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part). (ESV)
To express how little the Macedonians actually had, Paul described their impoverishment in strong language. Extreme/Deep translates the phrase kata bathos (lit., “according to the depth”). From this term we derive the English word bathysphere—the ship we use to probe the depths of the ocean—a Jacques Cousteau kind of word (Hughes, R. K. (2006). 2 Corinthians : Power in weakness. Preaching the Word (157). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.).
The corresponding English expression would be “extremely deep”; or in the vernacular, “the pits” or “rock bottom.” High taxes, slavery, low economic status, and persecution had all reduced the Macedonian believers to abject poverty. Ptōcheia (poverty) describes those with almost nothing, forced to beg to survive.
Poverty does not automatically create unselfishness nor does persecution automatically produce giving. Those who insist they were much happier when they had less need to remember that it isn’t what we have or don’t have that promotes happiness or generosity (Chafin, K. L., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1985). Vol. 30: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 30 : 1, 2 Corinthians. The Preacher’s Commentary series (254). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
The Macedonians’ confidence that God would supply all their needs (Ps. 37:25; Phil. 4:19) freed them to give generously. Devout Christians do not wait until they have more money; they give despite their poverty, like the poor widow of Luke 21:1–4.
Jesus said in Luke 16:10:
Luke 16:10 "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (ESV)
• Giving is not a matter of how much one possesses but is an expression of an unselfish and loving heart. The Macedonians’ refusal to allow their poverty to stifle their generosity made them models of Christian giving.
5) ) Giving Is Generous (2 Cor. 8:2d)
2 Corinthians 8:2d  (for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty) have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (ESV)
Paul now explicitly stated what has been implied throughout the passage, piling up words to express the profound generosity of the Macedonians. Overflowed translates perissueō, the verb form of the noun translated “abundance” earlier in verse 2. Scripture uses it to describe the surplus goods of the rich (Mark 12:44), an abundance of material possessions (Luke 12:15), God’s saving grace that abounds to sinners (Rom. 5:15; Eph. 1:7–8), the abundant hope produced by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13), the abundant comfort that believers have in Christ (2 Cor. 1:5), and God’s abundant grace toward believers (2 Cor. 9:8). Though it can refer to material riches (e.g., Matt. 13:22; 1 Tim. 6:17; James 5:2; Rev. 18:17), ploutos (wealth) is more commonly used in the New Testament to speak of spiritual riches (e.g., Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:8, 16; Phil. 4:19; Col. 1:27; 2:2; Heb. 11:26), as it is here.
Though they were not rich in material possessions, the Macedonians did possess a wealth of generosity/liberality. God is generous (v. 9; Rom. 5:6–8; 8:31–32; cf. Matt. 5:45; 7:11) and where his grace is truly experienced in people’s lives the evidence will be a similar love and generosity (cf. Matt. 5:43–48; 10:8; Rom. 15:7; Eph. 4:32; 5:1–2; Phil. 2:4–11; Col. 3:12–13; 1 John 4:7–12) (Kruse, C. G. (1987). Vol. 8: 2 Corinthians: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (147). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
Their generosity/liberality was not of themselves naturally, but of God’s grace bestowed on them, and enabling them to be the instrument of God’s “grace” to others (2Co 8:6, 19) (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (2 Co 8:1). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).
Poverty overflowing into wealth may seem paradoxical, but it fits the crazy-quilt logic of the gospel: joy + severe affliction + poverty = wealth. Here, wealth relates to a wealth of generosity and joy multiplied. Material wealth, on the other hand, may cloak spiritual poverty, as Christ’s condemnation of the wealthy but tepid church at Laodicea reveals (Rev 3:14–22). That church considered itself rich and prospering, but the Lord considered it “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” For the Macedonian, the phrase “wealth of generosity/liberality” (Haplotēs ) can be translated as “the wealth, which is their generosity” (II Corinthians, 400). The word translated “generosity” (ἁπλότης) appears only in Paul’s letters in the NT and means “simplicity,” “singleness,” “sincerity,” “willingness,” or “sincere concern” or “kindness.” It comes to mean generosity as those with a singleness of concern for another’s need stand ready to help. (Garland, D. E. (2001). Vol. 29: 2 Corinthians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (367). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).
Please turn to Philippians 2
Generosity/liberality is the opposite of duplicity, or being double-minded. Double-minded people find their ability to give crippled, because their concern for themselves and temporal matters conflicts with their concern for others and the kingdom of God. But the Macedonians were rich in single-mindedness, and gave with no thought of themselves or this world.
Their selfless generosity was a practical application of Paul’s command:
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (ESV)
Illustration: The relief fund served as an important, visible expression of the interdependence of believers worldwide. All of life is included in the shared concerns of those in Christ. For safety reasons, mountain climbers rope themselves together when climbing a mountain. That way, if one climber should slip and fall, he would not fall to his death but would be held by the others until he could regain his footing. In a similar way the Corinthians’ surplus supplied the needs of the Judean churches so that the Judean churches could, in turn, meet the needs of the Corinthians (2 Cor 8:14) (Belleville, L. L. (1996). Vol. 8: 2 Corinthians. The IVP New Testament commentary series. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.).
(Format Note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. (2003). 2 Corinthians (271–286). Chicago: Moody Publishers.)