Saturday, 26 September 2015
…that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 2 Corinthians 8:2
Speaking of those in Macedonia (as Paul continues from verse 1), he says the grace of God was bestowed upon them “in a great trial of affliction…” That seems contradictory, but it is not. John Chrysostom says that “They were not simply afflicted, but in such a way as also to become approved by their endurance.”
Through their affliction, they were being molded. It is a theme which permeates all of Scripture. This affliction is partially noted in Acts 16:19, 20 and in Acts 17:5, 6. Further, Paul mentions the following to those in Thessalonica –
“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans…” 1 Thessalonians 2:14
It is in this state of affliction that Paul continues with the words “…the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” The deep poverty which permeated those in Macedonia came about for a couple reasons. The first is that in their persecution, they may have been denied suitable employment or even robbed of their goods. Although written to the Hebrew believers, the same principle may have applied to the Gentiles which is noted in Hebrews 10 –
“…for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.” Hebrews 10:34
Another reason is that “Macedonia and Achaia never recovered from the three wars between Cæsar and Pompeius, between the Triumvirs and Brutus and Cassius, and between Augustus and Antonius. Under Tiberius, they petitioned for a diminution of their burdens, and were accordingly transferred for a time from the jurisdiction of the senate to that of the emperor, as involving a less heavy taxation.” Charles Ellicott
Despite these things, they gave in a great way to sustain the saints in Jerusalem. As the Pulpit Commentary notes, “Their joy overflowed their affliction, and their liberality overflowed their poverty.” In this they had a singleness of purpose in providing a substantial donation for what they believed was a truly worthy cause.
Life application: It is often those who make the least who give the most. As wealth increases, the amount given percent-wise tends to drop. And so giving becomes less about what hurts than what will keep from hurting. Each should give as they feel is appropriate and without compulsion, but the wealthy who give large amounts should not look down on the poor who give small amounts. In the end, they may be giving more than the wealthy on a comparative basis.
Heavenly Father, help me to not be stingy in giving for the needs of others. It is often difficult to know when to give, how much to give, and whether the gift is given to someone who is truly needy. Be with me in my gifts and offerings and help me to wisely handle, but freely pass on, the earnings that You have entrusted to me. Amen.