2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Moreover, brothers, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;…
I. TRUE LIBERALITY IS A CHRISTIAN GRACE — as truly a grace as knowledge, diligence, and love. What light this throws upon the whole subject of church finances!
1. Failing to see that liberality is a grace, we have made it a burden. As a grace in the heart, liberality struggles for an outlet in acts of benevolence; as a duty or a burden, it needs to be urged. Hence all this claptrap machinery for raising church money.
2. This grace, like any other, may be obtained —
(1) By consecration. No man is prepared to receive it until he has "first given himself to the Lord." Paul enforces such a consecration (ver. 9).
(2) By prayer. What reflections would arise in the mind of one praying for the grace of liberality! What views of responsibility would the Spirit of all grace flash upon his mind! How would the claims of self dwindle into insignificance in the presence of the claims of Christ.
II. THIS GRACE LEADS MEN TO GIVE ACCORDING TO THEIR ABILITY; YEA, BEYOND.
1. Neither the scanty income of "deep poverty," nor the increasing demands of accumulating wealth, nor the claims of fashionable life, will prevent such a man from being liberal "according to that which he hath," etc. He will never begin to retrench at the church, because he knows that God can retrench upon him in a thousand ways.
2. The reason "God loves a cheerful giver" is because such giving can only flow from grace, and such giving is always a means of grace. Instead of a collection dissipating all religious feeling, our "joy" ought "to abound unto liberality." If liberality is a Christian grace, and giving is a means of grace, why should not a man feel as religious while giving as he does while singing and praying?
3. Ordinary poverty is generally considered a lawful excuse for not giving. But "the deep poverty of the Macedonians abounded unto the riches of their liberality" (vers. 2-4). The offering is sanctified by its motive and spirit. It is not the intrinsic value of the contribution, but the love of the contributor and his relative ability to give, that makes the contribution acceptable to God.
4. There are three classes who fail to do their duty —
(1) Those who give largely, but not "according to their means"; if they did, they would give hundreds instead of tens, and thousands instead of hundreds.
(2) Those who give nothing because they are too poor.
(3) A class made up of rich and poor, whose religious joy is so seraphic that it always soars above the financial wants of the Church. They are always trembling lest the pastor should drive all religion out of the Church by taking so many collections! blow, what is wanting in all these classes is this grace of liberality. This would lead the rich and the poor to give "according to their means."
III. THE GRACE OF LIBERALITY, LIKE ANY OTHER, MAY BE CULTIVATED (ver. 6; 1 Corinthians 16:1).
1. Here is systematic beneficence. The grace of liberality needs exercise just as much as faith and love. Besides, the Churches need money now — every week. This systematic way of giving by weekly instalments keeps the duty of self-denial before the mind. Such a system of beneficence would soon develop the grace of liberality and increase the funds of the Church to a point where she would have an ample fund "laid by" all the time, ready to meet all the claims at home and abroad!
2. Those who wait to give largely, when they do give, usually let the grace of liberality die for the want of exercise; so that, when the time comes when they are able to give largely, they have neither the grace nor the desire to do so. And those who give but little or nothing through life, and give largely when they come to die, rarely ever give enough to pay the interest on what they ought to have given under a life course of systematic beneficence.
3. It is only those who enjoy the grace of liberality as a growing principle in the soul that can realise the saying of Christ: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
(J. M. Bolland, A. M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;