Now we make know to you, brothers and sisters, the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, that during a severe ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in the wealth of their generosity. For I testify, they gave according to ther means and beyond their means. They did so voluntarily, begging us with great earnestness for the blessing and fellowship of helping the saints. And they did this not just as we had hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
Now how often do we hear the words "abundant joy" and "extreme poverty" in the same sentence? Let alone that abundant joy, occurred during a time of severe suffering... or that extreme poverty led to an overflow of generosity? Leave it to the Apostle Paul to make us stop and think... " Did I hear that right?!"
That is the story of faith communities of 1st century Macedonia. Who - while undergoing severe persecution for their Christian faith... and living in conditions of extreme poverty - found abundant joy in giving "beyond their means"... giving even beyond hope of Paul and the disciples - to help in need.
- It seems we don't need that last sentence. The generosity of the people is already obvious. But what might not be obvious is how they got to that place - a place of faith that inspired them to give beyond their means. That's what the last sentence tells us.They gave themselves first to the Lord. The Macedonians were ordinary people of faith, made extradordinary by God's grace. And we too are extradonary - blessed by God's grace. And we too are extraordinary - blessed by God's grace. Do we give ourselves first to the Lord? How would it feel to give beyond our means?
Gracious God, we too are struggling through hard economic times and we worry about our livihood. Guide us, as you did the faithful of Macedonia, to give ourselves first to you. Inspire us that, trusting in your grace, we too will find the joy in giving in giving "beyond our means." Amen.