2 Corinthians 8:1-4 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.
What a challenging role-model the First Century Macedonian churches, to which Paul is referring, are to us today! We are daily made aware of the desperate plight of brothers and sisters in Christ around the whole world – suffering intense persecution in North Africa (and continually moving south); fleeing war-torn Ukraine and seeking to provide for refugees throughout Europe; being silenced and denied freedom to meet and evangelise in Asia; and, closer to home, suffering loss and deprivation from floods and other natural disasters.
As I struggle with the perennial problem of just how ‘generous’ to be with the many ‘blessings’ with which God has blessed me in my ‘comfortable’ circumstances, I am particularly challenged by Paul’s words, “they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability”! I want to act wisely and responsibly with respect to the needs my own family, but the phrase “and even beyond their ability” must influence my thinking and decision making.
Sadly, there is no simple, mathematical formula to guide me in all this, but I do need to take into account that I was born with a heart that is naturally ‘self’-centred, and that Jesus, my Saviour, had to address this condition with challenges like: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34).
I guess it is just something I will need to keep working on and committing to the Lord in prayer, asking him, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to keep on re-shaping my thinking and my attitudes to be more like the Lord Jesus, and less like what I have inherited from Adam! I think this is why he has revealed himself as he has in Scripture, “for the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12), and why he needs me to keep reading my Bible EVERY DAY!