During a season in which they were trying to keep their heads above water, it’s kind of amazing that they were concerned about keeping others afloat as well.
You don’t necessarily expect “a wealth of generosity” from a group “in a severe test of affliction.” If there’s anybody you’d excuse from getting on board with a giving campaign, it’s those who are going through the ringer themselves. And yet, for the churches of Macedonia, their time of troubles and their “extreme poverty” birthed a joyful generosity. In fact, they begged Paul to participate in gracing the saints in need in Jerusalem by providing them some financial relief.
So how come? What motivated a people in severe need themselves to focus on those in need elsewhere? Short answer: They put first things first.
. . . they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
(2Corinthians 8:5b ESV)
They gave themselves before they gave their money. They presented their bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1) before they tithed from what little treasure they had. Having given themselves first to the Lord, they then were in a state to be directed by the Lord. Having given themselves to Jesus, Jesus moved them, graced them, and enabled them to give as they could to others.
Their testing compelled them towards Jesus. He was the ultimate prize in their affliction. He is always the prize. Our times of trial are the perfect space to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection even as we share in His sufferings (Php. 3:10). And drawing closer to Jesus, abiding in the shelter of His wing, drawing from the life-giving strength of the vine, these Macedonian believers were able to look beyond their own affliction and show affection to brothers and sisters in similar situations.
We start with giving ourselves continually to the Lord — and that only by His grace. Then, as we abide in Jesus and He lives through us, that same grace abundantly flows, according to His will, as He uses us in the lives of others. Acts of temporal generosity ignited by living into His eternal gift. Doing good because we’ve determined to give ourselves fully to Him, trusting in His goodness. Our works motivated by His moving, even as, despite our circumstance, we rest in His finished work.
First things first.
By His grace. For His glory.