The first Presbyterian Church of Macedonia was a congregation that actually begged Paul for the honor and the blessing of giving over and above their means. What makes this passage so incredibly powerful was the fact that it was addressed to the Church at Corinth, a congregation blessed with many gifts, talents and resources. They were what we might call today a prosperous church. But they had a problem – their giving was not at all commensurate with their ability to give. Thus, Paul uses the giving record of another church where the people lived well below the poverty level but gave over and above their means. Paul wants to drive home a point to the Corinthians: Giving must be grace based and not law based and it must be rooted in an abundance of love for the Lord Jesus:
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 Corinthians 8:1-5)
Something had tested the faith and endurance of the Macedonians. They were a poor, afflicted and persecuted church. It is likely that becoming a Christian in Macedonia led to some sort of financial disaster for the converts. Notice the two contrasts Paul makes in verse 2 – “severe test of affliction…abundance of joy” and “extreme poverty…wealth of generosity.” The Macedonian Christians, unlike the Corinthians were severely tested in such a way that it lead to an extreme poverty. However, in whatever that extreme testing was it became for them a source of incredible joy that led to a spirit of generosity.
The Macedonians gave according to what they had. That should be true of all of us. But what made them unique and a source of genuine testimony was the fact that normal giving was not acceptable to them. They committed to another level of giving – sacrificial giving so much so that Paul actually asked them to stop because they could not afford to do this. But the Macedonians would not be persuaded. They viewed Paul’s exhortation for them to stop such over and above giving as an obstacle to some of the richest blessings they could enjoy.
Over the years I have learned that some of God’s people are the most generous in the world while others have no clue about Christian stewardship and want to pay for nothing. If it is not free some are not interested. Far too many saints have an entitlement mentality. Some feel entitled to every blessing God wants to give without any personal sacrifice. What we fail to comprehend is that sacrifice is the way of the cross and the means to blessing. Far from being a “name it and claim it” theology the pathway to blessing is suffering, hardship and trust forged in the crucible of affliction. And that is true of our giving patterns. To put it simply – we cannot out give God. What is your giving mentality?
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