2 Corinthians 8:1-2
"We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part."
Reflection by Kenneth L. Samuel
Most of us are accustomed to giving out of our abundance. We give away only what we can comfortably afford to give away. As long as the gift does not drastically alter our lifestyles or impact our bottom lines or take away from what we want, we deem it safe and reasonable. We usually give away only that which we really don't need and sometimes, don't even want.
Yet, it's not the example of giving out of one's abundance, but giving out of one's own need that the Apostle Paul lifts up for Christian emulation. The churches of Macedonia (present day Balkan Peninsula) that Paul had been instrumental in founding were struggling. Their efforts to forge new religious communities were met with virulent religious hostility and Roman suppression. The Macedonian Christians were "troubled on every side" and pushed to the brink of extreme poverty.
But amazingly, the persecutions did not diminish their joy. And even more amazing, the poverty of the Macedonian believers did not eradicate their generosity. Even though they were themselves in dire need, they willingly, eagerly and generously contributed to the collection that Paul undertook for the relief of poor Christians in Jerusalem. The Macedonians didn't give out of abundance; they gave away the very thing they needed for themselves.
Those who have the least are often the ones who give the most. Serving the critical needs of others requires a critical awareness of our own needs. Look at the person with cancer who visits the sick. Look at the father with a son in jail who volunteers to mentor youth. Look at the elderly person on a fixed income who dutifully tithes to support her church every week. Look at the person with the GED who volunteers to read to elementary school students. Look at the social ministries and relief efforts around the world that are not endowed by wealthy donors, but sustained by the generosity of persons who struggle to make ends meet every day.
These examples, and the great example of the Macedonian believers, call us toward a much greater generosity than that of convenience.
Dear God, in this season of giving, inspire us to take a close inventory of what we need the most, and give it away to meet the needs of others. Amen.
Looking for a way to say "thanks" to someone at church? Click here to preview and order How Can We Thank You?, a new collection of reflections from the Stillspeaking Writers' Group.