- How did Paul complement the churches in Macedonia?
- Why did Paul mention this to the Corinthians?
- What challenges were they facing?
- What do we see about their attitude in giving?
- What can we learn from them about true giving?
- What does it mean that they gave themselves “first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us?” (Verse 5)
- What was Titus assigned to do?
- What was Paul asking the Corinthians to do (verse 7)?
- How can you develop a spirit of joy when giving?
- If you find it hard to give generously, how can you improve?
- How should you approach giving when you do not have a lot to give?
Malachi 3:10 – Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
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.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19 – As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Proverbs 3:27 – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. We want you to know brothers – Paul gives the churches of Macedonia as a positive example of generosity to the Corinthians. Effective teaching makes use of examples to convey a point. Through the Macedonian example, the people of Corinth would have a clearer understanding of giving in action.
2. The grace of God that has been given – The churches of Macedonia (and all churches) had received God’s grace. It was this grace that motivated them to give. It is important for believers to give out of the right motivation.
Many people historically have given to the church because they thought that this could in some way help them to merit salvation. In the worst cases, the Catholic church actually sold letters of absolution to people, promising forgiveness of sins if they met the required donation.
In Austria, the Catholic church deducts people’s tithes directly out of their bank accounts. It is basically membership dues. If you don’t pay your dues, then you are not a member and cannot have a church wedding or event.
Other times people are motivated to give out of a desire to be seen by people. This is what Jesus criticized when he saw rich people in the temple drawing attention to themselves while giving.
The prosperity gospel movement has popularized the notion of giving as a “seed,” which can then grow and bring back more. Prosperity preachers fuel this notion and encourage people to make donations so that they can in return receive God’s full, monetary blessing.
The correct motivation for giving as seen in this passage is in response to the grace of God. God’s grace is unmerited favor which he bestows on us. It can never be repaid. Yet his kindness should stir in us a desire to to serve Him with all of the things He has given us. Since Jesus did not spare His own life, surely we should not spare anything for God’s service.
Application: Evaluate your own motive for giving. Do you ever give because you feel pressured? Do you ever give because others are around you or because you want to be seen? Ask God to give you the heart toward giving. When you struggle with generosity, remember what He has done for you.
3. In severe test of affliction… and extreme poverty – The Macedonians were not wealthy. Many people think that giving is for the rich or ultra-wealthy. Giving is something that Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos should do.
“I will give when I make more and can spare some,” is a common line of thinking. Here we see that giving is not just for the wealthy. It was a severe test for them. That shows that it was sacrificial giving. They had to give up something. Maybe it meant giving up meat for a while. Maybe it mean foregoing a new set of clothes. Maybe it meant buying less seed to sow in the spring.
They gave out of “extreme poverty.” Their example reminds us of the widow in Luke 21:1-4. Jesus praised her because she gave all she had. Though her offering was small by most standards it was the most because it really cost her. She sacrificed more to give that than the rich people who gave one thousand times more.
Application: From the example of the Macedonians, we learn that giving is not dependent on how much you have. God calls every person to give generously. If you have delayed giving to a future time when you may have more, make the leap of faith and begin honoring God with what you have today. He who is faithful in a little thing is faithful also in much. Satan is a master at telling us to wait until a more convenient time to serve God. Do not listen to him. If you listen to him today, then you will likely do so again in the future.
4. Their abundance of joy…overflowed in a wealth of generosity – The Macedonians did not feel begrudged at all in their giving. The joy they felt is a window to their heart, to their pure motivations. If you give because of external pressures, you would not feel joyful while giving.
Acts 20:35 – Remember the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
People often seek personal happiness by trying to get things for themselves. But God put a higher spiritual law into our hearts. And that is that true joy comes not from seeking ourselves, but in putting others first.
5. They gave according to and beyond their means – Here we see the principle of proportionate giving. There is no fixed amount which God requires of His people. Nor is there a fixed percentage. Each person is to give according to their own situation.
Application: Do not seek to compare yourselves to others. Not every person’s situation is the same and not every person will offer the same amount. This is not for us to judge. We are responsible for ourselves and no one else.
6. Of their own accord – Giving should not be coerced. Churches and leaders should not try to shame people or pressure people into giving more. Giving is between each believer and God. It is on a volunteer basis. It is true that every believer should be motivated to give and to give generously because of God’s grace. But that has to come from their own heart. Otherwise it is not pleasing to God.
7. Begging us for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – From this statement we can get another glimpse into the heart of the Macedonians. They not only were not pressured into giving, but they themselves begged Paul to be able to take part! Though they did not have much, they desperately wanted to share what they had. What an example of generosity!
8. They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us – The Macedonians’ response far exceeded that which Paul expected. Their love for God compelled them to take part in the collection Paul was raising.
You will often hear the phrase “give to God.” But how does a person give to God? God is unseen. If you were to throw cash or gold coins at the sky they would most likely fall to the ground again. We give to God by giving to people.
Matthew 25:40 – “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
We love God by loving our brothers and our neighbors. We serve God by serving His people. We give to God by supporting His workers and His church.
9. Titus should complete among you this act of grace – Titus was sent to the Corinthians with Paul’s last letter. One of his assignments was to raise a collection from the Corinthians for the saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Apparently they had started this collection before, but had not yet finished it. Therefore in this letter Paul continues to exhort them to take part in the collection, calling it an “act of grace.” Paul encourages them to “excel” in it.
Application: Our goal should be to excel at everything God calls us to do. And being generous is one of them. How can you excel at giving in the next week? Based on the lesson today, is there any adjustment you should make in your giving?
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