Things couldn’t get much worse for the Christians in Macedonia. Believers were suffering horribly. And it was more than minor inconveniences, little disappointments, let-downs, and mild reproach for being a Christian.
Family members were being locked up by the authorities; their homes were being raided and their possessions confiscated; life’s earnings were disappearing overnight and jobs were being lost. Family keepsakes and heirlooms were being stolen. Mothers would watch as their teenage sons were beaten and brutalized for being a Christian. Kidnappings were happening, hand-in-hand with psychological abuse as they were taunted and rejected for belonging to ‘Jesus.’
Maybe some of the above examples have been produced by an over-active imagination but the reality of what the believers were enduring would be much worse than anything we would try to imagine. Paul told the Corinthian believers that the Macedonian Christians were in “an ordeal of severe tribulation” and he referred to “their depth of poverty.”
Sometimes we read through the chapters so quickly, we fail to stop and think about what the kitchen-talk may have been like in the homes of the early Christians.
“Dear, stop worrying about others. Let’s just focus on ourselves. We’re in a bad, bad way ourselves. We’ve got enough do deal with just now – without taking on the plight of others.”
“But Hazel, those dear believers in Jerusalem are suffering too and some are starving from the famine. I have been begging Paul to allow us to give despite our own poverty. Let’s try to give whatever we can give to help them in their need.”
A long pause.
“Dear, I’m sorry. That was my wicked flesh thinking so selfishly. You’re right. When I think of the sacrifice our Saviour made, the least we can do is make a few sacrifices to help others. I have a piece of woolen cloth we can give and an infant blanket. Let’s get the little package ready right away so it can be carried to Jerusalem with all the other things the Christians are sending.”
Listen to the couple whistle and sing first-century hymns as they scrape together a few things to joyfully give to others!
Paul seemed to be searching for adjectives and adverbs to describe the outflow of hearts that had been totally given to the Lord:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints– and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 2Corinthians 8:1-5
How did they do it?!! Imagine, begging to give. That is the opposite of reluctantly giving after someone begs us to give. What goes on inside a Christian’s head and heart when they start thinking like the hypothetical couple above – even though they were passing through severe trials themselves?
Paul gave us their secret:
They gave themselves first to the Lord. 2Corinthians 8:5
As Eugene Higgins once said: If you have a big enough ‘why’ you’ll discover the ‘how.’ He had just told the story of a man who shed 100 lbs. so he could donate a kidney to save his daughter. He then quoted a Christian writer who wrote: “When the why gets stronger, the how gets easier.”
In light of all the Lord has done for me, the least I can do for Him is ___________.
When one first gives their own self to the Lord, they will make choices that seem extreme to others but completely normal to themselves. Unnatural giving of time, energy, emotions, and material resources. Self-sacrificing love accompanied by self-effacing humility.
The Supreme Example is found in the same chapter as the Macedonian story.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich. 2Corinthians 8:9
Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today,
Warmly in Christ
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