THE GRACE THAT GOD HAS GIVEN THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES:
The "good work" of giving to others has its origin, Paul says, not in man's
generosity but in God's –- and not just in God's generosity in material
things, but especially in His grace in Christ. When we understand this, then we
see the need to abound in every good work -- in acts of kindness, in visiting
the sick, and in giving of our material blessings. There is a direct connection
between God's grace and our acts of concern for others, between God's generosity
and ours. And so there is a direct connection between the cross and the
checkbook, between the empty tomb and the full collection bag. Those who have
been bought with a price (2Co 6:20), the precious blood of Christ (1Pe 1:19),
willingly give themselves to the Lord (2Co 8:5). Having made that commitment --
of the entire being to Christ and to his Father -– there is no question of
the commitment of their material resources to the doing of good works. And so
one "grace" surely begets another, and another.
Paul writes of the "grace of God" bestowed upon the
Macedonians (probably the church, or ecclesia at Philippi) (2Co 8:1). Since this
"grace" did not guarantee its recipients against either "severe trial" or
"extreme poverty" (v 2), Paul must have meant the grace -- or gift -- of the
gospel of salvation in Christ. So the Philippians gave generously to help
others, even though they themselves were neither rich nor comfortable. They gave
because they knew the joy of God's love in Christ as God's grace had abounded,
or overflowed, toward others (2Co 8:2,7; 9:8).
Giving to the work of the Truth -- whether it be for gospel
proclamation or charitable assistance -- is no mundane matter. It should not
become just a habit or a tiresome necessity. Even though it should not be
flaunted as a reason for pride (Mat 6:1-4), neither should its necessity be
hidden away as an embarrassment (Mat 5:14-16; 2Co 8:3,4). It is nothing less
than an opportunity, and a wonderful privilege, to contribute in a small way to
the saving purpose of God. The printed appeal, which we have seen before -- the
cold figures on paper, which only an accountant could love -- these may be the
means by which other people may come to praise God for His grace, for present
burdens eased and for futures made infinitely brighter. We need to "see" the
circle of God's grace growing ever wider, and to "hear" more voices being raised
to praise His grace. And we need to remember, with our wallets and purses and
bank accounts, no less than with our Bibles and hymnbooks, the one who "though
he was rich, yet for our sakes... became poor, so that you through his poverty
might become rich" (2Co 8:9). "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift" (2Co
THEIR EXTREME POVERTY: "To prove the sincerity of our
love to the Lord Jesus, we must be liberal in our contribution to the Truth.
From this there is no exemption -- for rich or poor, 'If there be first a
willing mind, the contribution is accepted according to that a man hath'; 'deep
poverty' is no excuse for not doing; and riches only lay an increased obligation
to excel in munificence. In giving her mite, the widow gave all that she had;
and in so doing, gave more than all the rich, who contributed of their abundance
without experiencing the least inconvenience. Think of that, ye who are rich,
'she gave all her living'; think that ye can behold her generous countenance in
the judgment and not remorsefully cry, 'Shame upon us, for our not having been
rich towards God!' Aye indeed, you will then feel the force of the Master's
warning, 'Beware of covetousness!' 'Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his
poverty might be rich'; yet ye have not the heart to part with the Mammon of
unrighteousness to aid the Truth in its arduous combat with error and sin" (FLD
"We are in abundance in all that the Lord has supplied for us.
He has given us His word and His light which makes us rich beyond all measure.
We share an ever greater love with God, His Son and His church. We also have
extreme abundance in this country [the USA]. Let us generously give to the
welfare of those who are struggling in persecution and those who are without.
Let us support the efforts of the Bible Mission which is bringing light into the
dark corners of the world. Where, like our new Iranian brethren, they are
sentenced to death for their beliefs. The work of missionaries helped them
escape out of the country safely. But they are not alone. And there are many who
need our support in prayer and money. God has blessed us in so many ways"
A direct ct with 1Co 16:1. His authority now being questioned,
Paul beseeches, rather than commands.
HE WHO GATHERED MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO
GATHERED LITTLE DID NOT HAVE TOO LITTLE: Quoting Exo 16:18, regarding the
manna from heaven. In other words, those who gathered much were eager to share
with others, since the manna collected would not keep for a second day. And
likewise, those who gathered little were able to receive what they needed. So
should we treat this world's goods -- for surely we can carry nothing away, out
of this life. Shrouds have no pockets!
Paul is concerned to establish the principle that a man should
give as he can. In so doing, and by appealing to this verse, he shows that God
is able to make up the shortages. In reality God does not need us to give
anything. He can provide without our aid. However, in allowing us to give, he is
associating us with Himself in His provision. What a wonderful provision! Like a
father allowing a small child to help him with a task, when in reality he can do
the task far better with no help at all! This is why "God loveth a cheerful
giver" (2Co 9:7) -- the amount given is never the issue; it is instead the
spirit of the giver!
THE BROTHER WHO IS PRAISED...: Perhaps Trophimus, who
traveled with Paul to Rome in conjunction with gift (Log 45:182; cp 2Ti 4:20).
Or perhaps Luke, who had just completed writing his gospel (WGos 1;