A Lesson from the Church of Macedonia
by Gary Dyksterhouse
II Corinthians 8:7 – "But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also"
During this chapter of Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth, he encourages the church to strive for excellence, and he does so in a way that should uniquely resonate with our current American culture: he aims to motivate them through a healthy competitive spirit. Paul begins this chapter/letter with a reference to the church in Macedonia, who in many ways was seen as a rival/competitor to the Corinthians. Without directly saying it, Paul is introducing one of Corinth’s rivals as a model for excellence, with particular focus on their generosity.
‘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.’
If Paul was attempting to be subtle, he failed miserably.
What can we take away from these verses?
- Generosity always begins with grace. It was grace received that changed the heart of the Macedonians. In the midst of their afflictions, they experienced the grace of God and it overflowed into generosity towards the Lord, towards their own church, and towards Paul.
- Afflictions are not a valid excuse to withhold your normal giving from the church.
- Coerced giving is not generosity. Point #2 and Point #3 are probably the finest line that a church leader can walk. As a church member who is currently not serving on leadership, I feel almost freer to discuss giving than I did as a Deacon. I am not sure if that is a sign of personal weakness or strength, but that is the honest truth. This is a sensitive subject, but I can confidently say that the Lord does not want your guilt offering, but He covets your grace induced generosity.
- The pull of the Gospel was so strong, that the Macedonians were literally begging Paul to be a part of ministry by donating to Him.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not currently serving in leadership, but like many of you, I have served in the past and look forward to serving in the future. Our missionary funds, our pastors, our administration, our lights, our aim to make disciples of Jesus Christ and influence the Delta for the glory of God will not be quarantined from Coronavirus over the coming months, regardless of what the CDC recommends. In fact, our church will have many opportunities to serve our community through these trials that may not have existed a short while ago.
Westminster will continue to need your financial support to complete the ministry that we all desire to be done in our community and our world. Please continue to consider the grace that has been bestowed upon you, and ‘of your own accord’ and through prayer, consider your generosity a way to overflow your appreciation for the good work the Lord is doing in your heart, and in the work of Westminster. The Lord gives us trials to grow our faith. My prayer is that we will be the kind of church that, no matter the affliction, is able to grasp hold of the grace of God, live in abundant joy, and beg to give generously to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.