“. . . but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God . . .” — 2 Corinthians 8:5
People, including myself, give out of our abundance; we give spare money, spare clothes, spare time, we volunteer our talent and skills, we donate our spare food. We give these willingly. But when giving cramps our lifestyle, we step back and let go, finding a hundred reasons. That is because we are relying on ourselves and only give our ‘spare’.
But 2 Corinthians points out that the ‘poor’ church of Macedonia gave out of their ‘deep poverty.’ Sounds crazy and illogical, doesn’t it? But more radical is how the apostle Paul explains the Macedonians’ liberal generosity: “they first gave themselves to God.”
The believers in Macedonia ‘gave themselves to God’, surrendering their life, their rights, their freedom, in submission to the Lord Christ. In claiming Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives (personal life, work life and public life), they experienced God’s overwhelming love and grace, overflowing joy and mercy, immeasurable peace, everlasting power and eternal faithfulness. That is always how it is with the Lord — He is never fair: we give our finite sinful, scarred and broken lives and He in return gives us His everlasting holy life, His name that is above all names, His right to the Father and His unshakeable love. We could never out give God.
Paul does not mention if God blessed the givers financially. What he does mention is that they experienced ‘abundance of joy’. But in so doing, the financially-strapped believers in Macedonia had a change of perspective. They experienced first-hand what Paul also experienced as he said, ‘He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.’ The Macedonians learned the gift of giving: that the abundant joy found in God is far more valuable than the cost of giving.
So what is the cost of giving money, clothes, donation of food or volunteering talent and skill?
“Too much and the world besides” if coming from people who do not know the Lord Jesus.
“Too little, not enough” if coming from believers who have given themselves to God and have experienced His abundant, overflowing grace and mercy.