This week I began a new sermon series on generosity. Through examples and commands, the Scriptures challenge His followers to strive for abundant generosity. In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul describes an amazing example from a very poor church (the church in Macedonia) that exemplified lavish generosity through an offering they took up for an even more destitute church than they (the church at Jerusalem). As you read these 10 qualities of a generous person, ask yourself how well your life embodies each.
First, some backstory. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, a relatively wealthy church. A year prior they had committed to collecting an offering for the poor church in Jerusalem. But, for whatever reasons they had not completed it. Paul address this issue in 2 Cor. 8 by using the generosity of the Macedonian church in hopes that they (the church in Corinth) would complete the offering. I believe this chapter points to these 10 qualities.
- Give out of a joyful heart. Paul describes the Macedonian church as overflowing with joy.
- Don’t tie generosity to their financial status. Famine and a heavy handed government worked against the Christians in Macedonia. They were destitute themselves, but didn’t let that limit their generosity.
- Willing give. This church didn’t have to be coerced. They initiated giving.
- Consider giving a privilege rather than a duty.
- Look for ways to give. They didn’t focus on their bad economic situation. Instead, they looked for how they could help others in spite of it.
- Have experienced a work of deep grace. Grace is a theme found throughout the 2 Corinthians. They truly understood what Jesus did for them and their lives evidenced that understanding.
- Welcome challenging giving opportunities. Paul wrote in verse 8 that giving can actually “test the sincerity” of our love. They weren’t afraid to step out in faith with this challenging opportunity.
- Match their intentions to reality. Unlike the Corinthian church that intended to give but didn’t, the Macedonian church decided to give and actually did.
- Expect wise stewardship of their gifts. In verse 20 Paul says he took pains to make sure that how they administered their gifts looked right not only in the eyes of God but also in the eyes of the givers as well.
- Enthusiastically give. One of the Christians Paul sent with this message was described as being zealous. I believe Paul mentioned this quality to point to their need to be enthusiastic about their promise to give.
Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India in the late 1800′s and 1900′s served for 55 years without a furlough and spent the final two decades of her life bedridden. She captures the essence of true generosity with this quote.
You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.
How would you describe your generosity?