In II Corinthians 8 and 9, we read that the Apostle Paul organized an offering from the Greek churches of Achaia and Macedonia for the benefit of the impoverished churches of Judea.

It may seem extraordinary that he should have devoted so much space in his letters to this mundane matter, referring to it also in Romans 15 and in I Corinthians 16, but Paul did not see it as such. 

Rather, he saw it as relating to the grace of God, the cross of Christ and the unity of the Spirit. In fact, it is very moving to grasp this combination of profound Trinitarian theology and practical common sense.

 

Christian giving is an extremely important topic on the contemporary church's agenda, for I doubt of there is a single Christian enterprise in the world that is not currently hindered and hampered by a lack of funds.

 

Here in this passage, the apostle develops ten principles of Christian giving.

 

1. Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God.

 

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.  And they did not do as we expected, but gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.  So we urge Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part." ~ II Corinthians 8:1-6 (NIV)

 

You will notice that the Apostle Paul does not begin by referring to the generosity of the churches of Macedonia.  He refers instead to the generosity of God, to 'the grace God gave the churches in Macedonia' (v.1). In other words, behind the generosity of Macedonia, Paul saw the generosity of God, for grace is another word for generosity. Our gracious God is a generous God, and he is at work within his people to make them generous too.

 

More remarkable still is the fact that three tributaries contributed to the river of Macedonian generosity (v.2) - their severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty.  In consequence, the Macedonians gave even beyond their ability (v.3), and they pleaded for the privilege of sharing in this service to God's people in Judea (v.4). 

Indeed, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to Paul and his apostolic band (v.5).  Also Paul had urged Titus to complete what he had begun in Corinth, the capital of Achaia, a little while ago (v.6).  What was this?  It was this same 'work of grace'.

 

This then is where Paul begins - with the grace of God in both the Macedonian churches of Northern Greece and the Achaean churches of Southern Greece.  Christian generosity is fundamentally an outflow of the generosity of God.