“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…..they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”
Written by Jesse Hamrick
There’s a hymn called Pass Me Not and the last couple of lines of the chorus are, “While on others Thou art calling…Do not pass me by.” We sang this last Sunday morning while visiting Heritage Grace Church and the sermon that would follow later caused me to reflect how God showed Himself faithful not to pass me by or let me miss this lesson. You see, the previous Sunday I had been away at a retreat that had me back home in Commerce late afternoon on Sunday and I missed what I later heard was a wonderful sermon on benevolence and giving. I was delighted to find I wouldn’t miss out on the message when a similar one was preached while we were attending a service out of town.
The sermon opened with 2 Corinthians 8:1-8 and verses 1-5 tell of the church of Macedonia who relied on the grace of God, “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. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…..they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” By grace, these people gave joyfully and lavishly to the church and those in need. They gave of their time, their money & materials, their labor & skills and they did so out of love. They were not stingy or hesitant in doing so. They did not let their poverty or small means, or even their afflictions deter them from giving of themselves. Do we do this with our materials, our time, our money? Do we give joyfully?
It’s amazing how the Lord uses His word to zero in on our blind spots to sin and lovingly corrects us as a father when we, as children, go astray. The pastor asked the question, “Do we worry that our own survival, livelihood or comfort will be hindered in giving to others? Is this not a love of money?” (Pastor Lynn Kahler) When we do this, we have made money and possessions our security and hope. My own heart was convicted that I had at times wondered if we would be short the finances to pay our bills if we gave so lavishly. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us not to be anxious about our lives, what we will eat or drink, about our bodies or what we will wear. The birds of the air do not sow or reap or gather but God feeds them and cares for them. How much more does He care for us? Our Father knows our needs so why should we act as if He doesn’t?
I recalled my hesitation to lend out some of my treasured books in fear that they would not be returned – which has happened before. I had self-justified this as being careful, but hearing this message revealed to me my own stinginess in giving to others. Scripture tells us that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. God has given me a bounty of good, edifying books. I am convinced that I should give and lend them freely without expecting them back or being disappointed if they are not returned. Why should I be stingy and greedy with what God has given me? Perhaps one of these books could help a brother or sister to better understand God’s word or encourage them in their faith. Am I to withhold that from them? By no means! We are to give freely of our “riches” being rich in giving. My understanding of giving had been so narrow and flawed and I pray that by God’s grace I will grow in my understanding and ability to give as lavishly as those Macedonians did or, most importantly, as our Father has given to us.