An Act of Grace

Honestly, it’s not really all that intuitive. Not how you’d expect the numbers to add up. But I guess that’s as a good a description of grace as any — it doesn’t add up.

AFFLICTION
+ ABUNDANCE OF JOY
+ EXTREME PROVERTY
WEALTH OF GENEROSITY

Noodle on that. Adds up for you? According to Paul, that’s how the math played out for the churches in Macedonia. And, writes Paul, this manifestation of head-scratching generosity was the grace of God.

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.

(2Corinthians 8:1-2 ESV)

Paul wanted the Corinthians to know the unusual way the grace of God had showed up among some churches in northern Greece. The manner in which these brothers and sisters demonstrated amazing grace had invaded their midst was through their own amazing generosity. They gave to the needy in Jerusalem “according to their means, . . . and beyond their means, of their own accord” (8:3). Not only were they willing to part with disposable income they didn’t have, but “they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints” (8:4 CSB).

Now, naturally at least, people without a lot material means tend to be pretty careful about saving it up to prepare for their own future. Penny-pinching only makes sense where there’s little prosperity present. Even more so if you’re one of these Macedonians trying to scrape by amid “extreme poverty.” Add to that tough times, a “severe test of affliction”, and the natural tendency is to be even tighter with your cash. It’s no longer about saving for a rainy day, it’s about getting through the present storm. And yet, when the need of the saints in Jerusalem hit their radar, they responded beyond their means. How come? “Abundance of joy.”

Though it was hard in their circumstance, it was well with their soul. Though they weren’t sure where the next meal might come from, they had tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Though they walked by faith, they were sure that God would “supply every need of [theirs] according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Php. 4:19). For they were sons and daughters of the Father. They abided in close communion with the Son. They walked in heavenly context with unearthly power by the Spirit.

They had been raised up and seated with Christ in heavenly places and thus were possessors of “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3, 2:6). Though their bank accounts on earth kept over-drafting, their treasures in heaven were overflowing. And so, they personified the grace of God in their actions.

AFFLICTION
+ ABUNDANCE OF JOY
+ EXTREME PROVERTY
WEALTH OF GENEROSITY

It just doesn’t add up. Unless of course the math has been modeled for you already by Someone else.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.

(2Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

Those who have known the grace of God should manifest the grace of God. God’s people should be among the earth’s most generous for they have generously received of divine abundance. Not because they were worthy, but because of their great need. Not because they could ever pay it back, but because they would have the opportunity, in the name of Christ, to pay it forward.

. . . see that you excel in this act of grace also. (2Corinthians 8:7b ESV)

Because of the joy known through His overwhelming grace. For the privilege of giving Him the all deserved glory.

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