From Mark Booker
“...for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” 2 Corinthians 8.2
I’m always blown away by the example of the Macedonians about whom Paul is writing in this verse. Despite their 'extreme poverty' they wouldn't be denied the opportunity to give generously to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.
In the late 90's, Mandy and I spent several weeks in a mountainous, remote region of Lesotho in southern Africa. There was a lot of poverty. Day after day, our host would take us to a small village to share the word of God. Invariably, we would be served a substantial meal while our hosts looked on (on one occasion, the meal was boiled sheep organs! this is the reason that, to this day, you won't find lamb being served at the Booker household...). The generosity of people who had so little was overwhelming. We were humbled and instructed by their example.
Paul is using that kind of example to spur the Corinthians on to generosity. The Macedonians had so little but they gave freely, earnestly, according to and beyond their means (vv3-4).
What fueled their generosity? First, joy (v2). Joy arises from our awareness of God's gift in Christ. They had life, full life, and this, not their stuff, was their hope. And second, in light of this, they had given themselves first to the Lord (v5). Joy in the gift of God resulted in surrender. What I have is yours, God, so let me (joyfully) use it in accordance with your will. That's the picture Paul provides.
When you think of the Macedonians think of joy and surrender, of joy leading to surrender. Does that describe our lives? Until it does, I'm afraid our efforts at generosity - with our time, talents, and resources - will be meager at best.
Do we know the gift of God in Christ? The gift that leads to joy, that leads to surrender, that leads to generosity? As he seeks to encourage their generosity, that's the question Paul is really presenting the Corinthians...and us.
And he answers it for them in verse 9: "For you know the grace (gift!) of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might be come rich." Do we know this gift?