Living on God’s Economy—Grace-Giving
Second Corinthians 8 describes the sacrificial offering of the poverty-stricken churches of Macedonia: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:1–2).
Why is the testimony of these Macedonian Christians so powerful? The significance lies in their motive. In God’s economy, the motive is as important as the gift. Some Christians give financially, but they give for the wrong reasons.
Early Christians were not guilt-givers.
These Macedonian Christians did not give because Paul pushed or coerced them into giving. In fact, they had to beg Paul to take their gift—“Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift…” (2 Corinthians 8:4).
God never intended giving to hinge on guilt. He doesn’t want you to give because you have to give, but rather because you get to give. When Christians give only so they will not feel guilty, they rob themselves of the joy of giving.
Early Christians were not greed-givers.
The Macedonian Christians did not give to get. They did not give because they hoped God would reward them with increased finances. Some “health and wealth” teachers promise that if people give to their ministries, God will make these givers wealthy in return. This is not only an unbiblical teaching; it promotes an unscriptural motive.
God does load us with great blessings when we give. He gives far beyond our gifts to Him, and Scripture is full of promises for givers. When our basic motive for giving, however, is personal gain, we miss the bigger picture. Giving is not a game in which we have to try to trick God into increasing our blessings. God delights in blessing us; this is why He has promised to do so.
Early Christians were grace-givers.
In Paul’s account of the gift of these Macedonian Christians, he was careful to explain that biblical giving is the result of “the grace of God.” The liberality of these Christian givers was not of themselves, but of God’s grace bestowed on them.
Spiritual givers are motivated by grace; they give in response to God’s work in their hearts. Grace is a disposition created in our hearts by God’s Holy Spirit. Paul described grace in Philippians 2:13: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Grace is the powerful work of God in a Christian’s heart to make him willing and able to do His will. Nothing short of grace-giving is biblical giving.
The grace-giving of the Macedonian Christians was the result of their giving first themselves to the Lord—“but first gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Their financial giving followed as the natural by-product of this personal commitment.
Grace-giving surpasses the bounds of financial gifts. Hebrews 11:35–38 tells of many first century Christians who gave their bodies to be “tortured…And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth”—all for the spread of the Gospel. This proves that they indeed gave of themselves before they gave their money.
God’s economy operates on grace. When we consider the testimony of these first century believers (and many generations of others) who were poverty-stricken and often persecuted, their testimony challenges us to participate in grace-giving.
Guilt-giving and greed-giving ultimately produce resentment. But in grace-giving, you will find the joys of living on God’s economy.