For the past week, I’ve been reflecting on the portion of Scripture where the apostle Paul lifts up certain Christians in the region of Macedonia as an example of sacrificial giving.
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. (2 Cor. 8:1-5)
Here are some simple observations:
- The personal experience of God’s grace in salvation led to generosity. Their generous giving was then referred to as a specific “grace of God.”
- Sacrificial giving was a source of “abundant joy.” Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
- They continued to give generously, even when their checkbook balance and net worth said they were crazy. Even in “poverty” they “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”
- Grace produces a desire to give more, thus creating personal initiative. They were “begging” the apostles for more opportunities to give.
- Sacrificial giving of their finances resulted from the offering of their lives and bodies to God as a living sacrifice. “They first gave themselves to the Lord.”
Hindrances to Generosity
There are many hindrances to generous giving, but I’ll mention three.
- Heart hindrance: If our hearts and lives have not been surrendered to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2) then generous giving will always be an inner struggle of the will. When our life is surrendered to God then our money comes along with it.
- Love hindrance: If we love the world and the things in the world then our love for God is superficial (1 John 2:15-16).
- Debt hindrance: According to the Federal Reserve’s latest numbers, the average American household carries over $137,000 in debt. Of that, $16,000 is on credit cards. Therefore, we should ask ourselves, “What would the freeing up of that money mean for our families and our churches?” What of the interest alone? What ministry involvement and spiritual blessings are we saying No to because of being handcuffed to our creditors?
What is sacrificial giving?
Sacrificial giving is giving beyond our means. It’s no secret that we are part of a generation known for living beyond our means. What would happen if we all determined to change one letter in that phrase? From living beyond our means to giving beyond our means? Let me say it this way: If your giving to the Lord does not hurt, or infringe upon the comfort level of your lifestyle, then it’s not sacrificial. If your giving does not stretch you, and stress your faith, then it most likely is not sacrificial. Remember, faith is a muscle. If you never go to the gym then don’t expect to be able to bench press more than 100 pounds. With that analogy in mind, if you’re unwilling to take the risk of stretching your faith then your spiritual growth will be stunted, and eventually your faith muscle will atrophy.
This week, take some time to meditate on 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, and ask the Lord to work in your heart. Ask him what changes you need to make to your lifestyle and financial stewardship.