Summary: The message looks at the Christians need for Generosity.
The test for many Christians becomes evident in the reaction they display when the topic turns from being Christ-like with our morals to being Christ-like with our money. Living in a society that is saturated with a materialistic mentality definitely does not help matters. Our culture portrays the idea that our main goal should be to accumulate more money and more things that money can provide. When confronted with the Biblical view of stewardship those cultural values are challenged. The idea of giving away those things that we have worked so hard to accumulate for the benefit of another person places a great obstacle in the way of achieving the goals promoted by our culture. To give money in a significant way is to threaten our identity, security, success, status, and sense of worth. However God’s economy operates completely opposite from the economy of our culture. In God’s view the more you give the richer you become. The truth is that our willingness to be generous is significant to the life of the church in many ways. If this is true, why do we become so defensive when the subject of giving is approached? Why does this subject have the ability to breed such conflict? The apostle Paul was not afraid of conflict or controversy. He dealt with such hot button issues as immorality, false teaching and division. He even dared to tackle the most controversial subject of all, money. In our text Paul commends the Macedonian Christians for their generosity and holds them up as an example for the Corinthian church to challenge them to be generous. Generosity is truly a fine art. Let’s take some time to see the insights Paul has to give on this subject.
I. The source of generosity.
A. The ability to give is a gift of God’s grace.
1. Motivating Christians and congregations not only to give but also to be fiscally responsible in their giving is a difficult enterprise even in the best of circumstances.
2. Paul begins with an example, not a plea. Although they were then facing a severe ordeal involving persecution, the Macedonian churches, such as those at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, had contributed generously.
3. “Grace” is a key word that appears ten times throughout these two chapters with differing nuances. Here it refers to human generosity, which Paul understands to be something given by God.
4. Grace is God’s unconditional benevolence toward us. When people are spontaneously generous toward others, Paul takes it as clear evidence that God’s grace is working in and through them.
5. The Macedonian Christians were far from being blessed materially in fact they were extremely poor as a result of the persecution they endured from the non-Christians.
B. The motivation to give is a gift of God’s grace.
1. The means by which the Macedonians’ Christian joyfulness has been manifested to Paul is in the size of their collection. The phrase, “in rich generosity,” more literally, “in the richness of their generosity,” refers specifically to the large amount of money they have laid aside in their offerings for the Jerusalem Christians.
2. Paul understands that God’s grace does not lighten the Macedonians’ afflictions nor remove their deep poverty. Instead, it opens their hearts and their purse strings to others.
3. Paul asserts, however, that the Macedonians can take no credit for this joyful, willing attitude. It all comes from God’s grace given to them. Paul therefore bases his appeal to the Corinthians on the grace of God that continues to be richly poured out in the lives of Christians.
4. Paul’s approach to fund-raising is grounded in solid theological principles, and it should lead the Corinthians to ask themselves, Where is the evidence of the grace of God that has been given to us?
C. We have the perfect example of generosity in Jesus Christ.
1. Paul does not leave the bar set where the Macedonians put it. Rather, he raises it to a height beyond compare, to the incalculable level set by Jesus Christ himself.
2. Jesus’ love for humankind is expressed in his gracious act of giving himself for our salvation.
3. Paul does not expect believers to leap to the heights of Jesus’ love. However, he does expect Jesus’ love to energize them to unparalleled expressions of love well beyond what they could have imagined for themselves.
4. The self-emptying of Christ for Christians should lead them to empty their pocketbooks for others, if only in proportion to what they have.
II. The sacrifice of generosity.
A. Sacrifice by giving even when times are tough.
1. The Macedonians also suffered from extreme poverty that Paul vividly expresses as “down to depths of poverty.” Persecution and social ostracism probably caused this rock bottom poverty.
2. The Macedonian Christians were enduring trials that had the ability to totally crush their spirits.