For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
–2 Corinthians 8:3-4
Have we, as contemporary Christians, ever come as close to the level of devotion and generosity as these verses model for us? Paul writes that these believers “gave as much as they were able . . . and even beyond their ability.” These believers clearly gave out of their poverty – not out of their affluence.
Typically, we say we give “what we can afford”. That often means we donate whatever we can spare without cramping our lifestyle. We fit God into the budget after much of the other stuff is afforded. But these Christians saw things differently; they gave more than they were obligated to give. Verse 4 implies they not only “gave beyond their ability” but also “pleaded . . . for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints”. These believers gave beyond their means. Perhaps they even budgeted some things differently in order to give more than they were ordinarily able to do. Their attitude was that it was a privilege to share in God’s work.
If we find that concept too difficult to understand, perhaps it is because we are giving incorrectly. These Christians “gave themselves first” and “then they gave to others in keeping with God’s will”. When we give our gifts to God, it should be a reflection of the fact that we have already given ourselves to God. Prior consecration means that to give our gifts to God, without giving ourselves to Him, is not to do it God’s way. God is not anxious for our money; He desires our love. If we are truly devoted to Christ, giving our gifts to Him will simply be a reflection of our prior consecration. You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.
What motivates us to give to the Lord? Are we consecrated to Him? If we are, giving our gifts will come naturally. Perhaps then we will see our giving to the Lord as a privilege and follow the example of the believers in 2 Corinthians 8:3-5.
Used with permission from Sunshine Community Church, Grand Rapids, MI and The Barnabas Foundation.