2 Corinthians 8:1-2 “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian Christians. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
Paul uses the word “grace” here in a way that we aren’t used to seeing. Usually, when we think of grace we think of God’s undeserved love for us, that unearned favor with which he regards us. This love led him to make a gift of his dearest treasure. He gave up his only Son for the sins of the world, including you and me. Grace is how we know that God is on our side, that we can trust him, and that we are safe with him in spite of the many ways in which we have offended him.
But sometimes grace is used in another way. Since God so loves us, he also is moved to give us gifts of his power. He works within our hearts and souls in a way that changes us. He lifts us up and ennobles us. Everyone who comes to know and trust how freely God loves us in his grace also receives gifts from him–grace, if you will–to live a life of love. If your heart has been captivated by God’s grace, you can’t help but be filled with it. It is going to produce a different kind of life in you.
That is the example Paul holds before us with the Macedonians. Their example offers not so much a pattern to trace, or a standard by which we should be measured. Rather, it is an example of the wonderful difference grace makes, the beautiful things produced in the lives of people by the love and forgiveness God has impressed upon their hearts. The Macedonians were poor. They received a lot of grief from their non-Christian neighbors. Still, they were incredibly generous. That generosity assures us God’s grace is real. It makes a genuine difference.
God’s grace still impacts the generosity of his people in unexpected ways. Parents in my church once placed before their little girl the opportunity to give to our building fund. They didn’t tell her she had to give. They didn’t even say she ought to give. They simply talked about some possibilities. She might set aside a portion of the money she received in gifts. She might give up some of her other things to support the program. Do you know what she did next? She went into her room and cried. The thought of giving up something of her treasure made her sad.
But when she came out of her room, she had a plan. She wanted to give something to Jesus for his church. There was no coercion. All that had been laid before her was the opportunity. Something else had replaced her tears with the desire to give.
Is it hard to see why such a thing would bring joy to a parent’s heart? A little girl’s gift may not be impressive in size, but it is evidence of God’s grace, isn’t it? The love of Jesus is alive and working in a little heart. Is it hard to see why Paul was excited to share the example of the Macedonians? Here was evidence that the preaching of God’s grace had taken hold in their hearts. Your giving, too, is evidence that God’s love hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. His grace has changed you. That itself is a gift, a grace, for which to give thanks.