Generosity in Affliction

We all know the feeling of being unsure of whether we will have enough. Maybe it is when you were at a family meal, and everyone was passing around the food. You watched helplessly as others before you took their share and wondered if there would be anything left for you. Or perhaps in the recent pandemic, you went to the grocery store and watched as others were buying up all the supplies as you patiently waited to get to the toilet paper aisle. Whatever it was, we all know the uncertainty that comes from wondering if there will be enough for you.

There is a great story of the New Testament Churches in Macedonia that rose to meet a great need that was being experienced in Jerusalem. A love offering was being taken up by the local churches and was going to be sent to minister to the church elsewhere. But, in meeting those needs, the text tells us a few revealing things about what was happening during this time that we can learn from today. Take a moment to read 2 Corinthians 8 and consider what we can learn from the chapter, specifically the first few verses.

Depth of Poverty

First, they gave not because they had so much to give but because they longed to show love. Paul tells us that those that were giving to the Church in Jerusalem were actually giving out of their poverty, not out of their excess. It was not like the Macedonian church had so much money and, therefore, wanted to give a bit of what they had.  Rather, when they gave, it hurt a lot.

Abundance of Joy

Second, they found great joy in giving. The text literally says that they were begging to give. Just pause for a moment and consider the times when you were trying to give—were you “begging” to give? They were begging, because they understood the importance of their generosity. They knew the rewards it would produce in both this life and the next (2 Cor 4:16-18), and they knew the pleasure they would get from living a life that is pleasing to Christ (2 Cor. 8:10).

God’s Grace is the Foundation—even in affliction.

The church’s ability to love so radically finds a foundation in a true understanding and outworking of the grace of God in the life of the redeemed. While they may cognitively be making choices regarding heavenly rewards, the foundation for all the giving that is happening is the grace of God working in their life. The more they have pressed into the foundation of the grace of God in their lives, the more that grace has come out of them during their affliction.

We like to believe that during affliction, God’s grace means that he will remove the thing that is hard. Paul dispels this myth in 2 Corinthians 12, when he talks about the thorn in his own side. Paul tells us that God’s grace, in the midst of affliction, is the power to be making God look really good (glorifying Him), even when it is hard. The ability to glorify God is simply God’s grace realized and lived out.

Does Your Graciousness Show?

Are you, now, during this unprecedented outbreak of worldly suffering, pain, confusion, and scarcity (poverty of resources) showing the kind of generosity that was shown in 2 Corinthians 8? Are you begging God for the chance to show love to someone? Are you willing to give out of the depth of your own poverty (giving away one of the four rolls of toilet paper you might have)? Are you looking at the money you have in the bank, as you hear of your brothers and sisters in Christ who are losing their jobs and viewing your finances as a tool to love? When you are in the grocery store are you looking out for you and you alone, or are you considering how you can love?

Let’s be like the churches in Macedonia that gave not out of the abundance of their possessions but out of their abundance of Joy even in the midst of deep poverty.

Joshua M. Greiner
Josh has been on staff with Faith since 2010. He graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Political Science (2008) and from Faith Bible Seminary with a MDiv (2013), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a ThM in Biblical Counseling (2017) and is pursuing a PhD in Counseling from SBTS as well. He serves as the Pastor of Faith West Ministries, the Chaplin of the West Lafayette Fire Department, an instructor with Faith Bible Seminary, and a Fellow with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). He is married to his wife Shana, and they have four children together.