2 Corinthians 8:1-5 – They Wanted to Get in on It
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 Corinthians 8:1-5
Have you ever seen something go by and said to yourself, “I've got to get in on that”? Maybe it was a business deal that seemed almost too good to be true. Or maybe it was an opportunity to take part in some community or professional association which by its very nature conferred honor and recognition on its members. What about these Macedonians that Paul describes to the Corinthians; what did they want to get in on?
Who They Were
We know from Paul's first letter to the believers in Thessalonica (a city in Macedonia) that their commitment to Christ had cost them dearly. In spite of experiencing the same severe suffering that Christians in Judea had gone through earlier, they welcomed the message of salvation with joy (1:6; 2:14). Paul knew what he was writing about, for he himself had been the victim of angry mobs in the Macedonian cities of Philippi and Thessalonica (Acts 16:22; 17:13).
Paul now describes their precarious worldly situation as being one of “extreme poverty.” In fact, it seems that they were so poor, that despite the burden Paul had on his heart for the collection for the poor Christians in Judea, he had actually foregone asking these desperate Macedonians to contribute. Yet in the midst of their affliction, these believers knew an abundance of joy!
What They Did
In one of the most amazing descriptions of the outworking of the Holy Spirit in the life of the body of Christ, Paul tells us that they pleaded for the privilege of sharing in the support of the saints in Judea. These destitute saints knew what an incredible privilege it was to be used by the Lord in the glorious ministry that has been entrusted to the church. So confident were they in their dependence upon the Lord that, of their own free will, they joyfully gave even beyond what anyone would have reckoned was their ability. They realized that participation in the furtherance of his kingdom is one of the highest favors that our Lord grants us.
Think about it: when was the last time you begged the leadership in your congregation to be allowed to contribute to the ministry of the church?
How did this come about? Paul tells us that “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” They put things in the right order; and in their generosity we see the evidence of “the grace that God has given” having been received.
In verses 6 and 7 Paul tells the Corinthians why he was relating the example of the Macedonians to them. The Corinthian church had been blessed with an abundance of spiritual gifts, and he longed that they would know the joy of generous participation in the Lord's work also. What about you? Do you know the joy that comes from participating in the Lord's work?
We know that the extent of our participation in the glorious ministry that has been given to the church is not limited solely to putting dollars into an offering basket. Having first given ourselves to Christ, we will want to participate in that ministry not only with the material resources he has entrusted to us, but also with our prayers and every other gift or talent he has given us.