We will now look at an example that points to a church that was very poor, yet they gave out of “a severe test of affliction.” Paul uses the churches of Macedonia as an example to the prosperous Corinthian church. How could these poor churches give with “abundant joy” in their “extreme poverty”? We see the “how” in 2 Corinthians 8:5; “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” We have witnessed this attitude in some who are motivated by the Lord because He is first in their lives.
This would be like Paul appealing to some poor countries like Bangladesh, India or Africa, etc... to be an example to the churches in Europe or the US. The Macedonians gave “beyond their means,” or, in other words, they gave by faith what they did not possess. The original word for “extreme” is “bathous” meaning to “an extreme degree” and “poverty” is “ptocheia” meaning “insufficient possessions, even destitution.” Their giving was probably beyond what any of us really know and can realize.
The key to this issue is NOT how much or how little anyone or any church may have. It is whether we give “first to the Lord”! Finding our sufficiency in Christ puts every other human need in the right perspective. In this way, poor churches and countries become a testimony to the more prosperous churches and countries because they are like “Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (8:9). Therefore, they reaped bountifully with overflowing gratitude and joy because they sowed bountifully (9:6)!
Jesus watched those giving in the temple and observed “many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on”” (Mark 12:42–44).
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