“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will” (2 Cor. 8:1–5).

We do not usually think of severe trials and overflowing joy going together. Nor do expect extreme poverty to well up in rich generosity. Another unusual image here is Paul’s description of how the Macedonians “urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” This is refreshing to read after getting so many letters “urgently pleading with us” to give.

In this passage, Paul teaches the Corinthians the importance of giving from the heart. He teaches them to give for their own good and for the good of the people to whom they give. He was collecting money as well as teaching, but he was collecting for the needs of others, not for himself or for his own ministry.

“For God so loved the world that He gave… (Jn. 3:16).

“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:8–9).

Giving is a gracious work and an essential component of sincere love. Do you give your time? Do you give your home in hospitality? Do you give your possessions? Do you give your resources? Would you give your life? If your answer is, “I don’t have the time, or a home, or money,” those are not valid excuses.

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Cor. 8:12).

If you are willing, you may find yourself welling up in rich generosity, even in your poverty.

*Excerpted from Being Christian. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore