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Summary: In commending the Macedonian Christians, Paul revealed the secret of great giving.

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“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 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. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” [1]

Giving is neither the most anticipated nor the most welcomed sermon topic in this day. However, one should not conclude that the subject is ignored by the modern pulpit. Stewardship sermons are frequently relegated to the realm of caricature. I can count on one hand messages I have heard providing instruction for giving. I have heard messages pleading for generosity and messages reminding hearers of obligations to underwrite missionary enterprise or pleading for support to erect a new building, but I have heard few messages instructing Christians in the manner of giving or defining giving that qualifies as great.

Any of us would appreciate a reputation for generosity; and I am quick to say that as a congregation we do enjoy a reputation for generosity. By the same token, I doubt that many of us can name more than a handful of congregations which are generally viewed as great in giving. I wonder if we know the secret of great giving. If we know the secret of great giving we will be able to advance the cause of Christ even as we move toward being an encouragement to others. To this end, join me in study of one verse found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

THE MACEDONIANS WERE SPOKEN OF AS GREAT IN GIVING — Though the text does not specifically identify the Macedonian Christians as great, it does clearly establish that Paul considered them to be great in giving. Moreover, it is apparent that their greatness was unrelated to their personal portfolios. Paul commended these saints for generosity even though they were acknowledged as impoverished. The earlier verses remind us of the Apostle’s view of these Macedonian saints. “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 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. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” [2 CORINTHIANS 8:1-4].

The Apostle spoke of the generosity of the Macedonians as a grace which they had received from God. The word translated “favour” in the fourth verse is the Greek word cháris, usually translated “grace.” This grace allowed the Macedonians to ignore severe trial and extreme poverty as they prepared to give. Furthermore, the grace they had received so infected these impoverished saints with overflowing joy that it welled up in rich generosity permitting them to give beyond their ability—they gave as much as they were able, and then they gave some more. The Macedonian believers seem to have viewed the act of giving as a privilege and they saw their giving as a service to the saints of God. Such attitudes are humbling, as is the resultant generosity. Frankly, we tend to be uncomfortable in the presence of such generosity.


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