“But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge… see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Cor 8:7)
The Covid-19 pandemic situation is still unfolding across the globe after having caused widespread devastation to nations and their economies since the start of this year. The world as we know it will never be the same. Currently, affected nations and health authorities are still scrambling to contain the virus outbreak while seeking ways to resuscitate their shattered economies. There has been massive unemployment and loss of livelihood for workers and their families.
Since charitable giving is one of the first areas to suffer in an economic downturn, churches have felt the pinch and some smaller ones are reviewing their planned ministry and other operating expenditures. Without a doubt, we are living in unprecedented times, as this current pandemic is described as more severe than the Great Depression in the early 1930s. What can we learn from God’s Word about giving during such a challenging time?
Re-setting our Priorities
During this time of crisis, the Lord is calling His people to press the “pause button” in their busy lives. Many church leaders have encouraged believers to use this time to read and reflect upon God’s Word and to re-visit their life’s goals and priorities in the light of God’s Word, assessing whether these goals and priorities are in alignment with His will for us. Our discipline (or lack of it) in giving faithfully to God’s work is one area we should re-visit as a matter of priority.
Our Giving Matters to God
In Mark 12:41-44, it was recorded that Jesus intentionally sat on a bench facing the temple treasury in the outer court watching the temple visitors putting money into the offering box. Then He told His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).
Our Lord Jesus commended the generosity and sacrifice of the poor widow. God is pleased when a believer gives generously and sacrificially. It is not the portion but the proportion of our giving that matters to God. To the rich, their donations were small change, but to the poor widow, her gift was an expression of her devotion and sacrifice to the Lord. And that is what matters most to God.
Examples of Macedonian Church
Paul cites the Macedonian believers as exemplars of the grace of giving. In spite of their severe poverty and affliction, their joy in Christ overflowed in abounding generosity. “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” (2 Cor. 8:2). Severe affliction and extreme poverty do not usually add up to a wealth of generosity. Being human, our tendency is to withhold whatever resources we have so as to safeguard our own interests and well-being. But the Macedonian believers, after experiencing real deliverance and joy in Christ, were so full of gratitude that they first gave of themselves to the Lord, then begged Paul to allow them to contribute to the needs of their poor brethren in Jerusalem.
Giving as Act of Worship
How do we account for the overflowing generosity of the Macedonian Church? Paul attributes their generosity to the grace of God. “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor 8:1). To give sacrificially with joy is not natural; it is the inner working of God’s grace as we yield to His lordship. Giving is an act of worship in grateful response to a loving God who chose to die in our place in order to reconcile us to Him. As the Lord is leading Hermon to a new place of worship and ministry beyond CCKBC, may the grace of Christ overflow in our generous giving to the church, that our gospel witness may bless the new community He is leading us to. Amen.
-Eld Elgin Chan