A Generous Spirit
2Cor. 8:1 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5 and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6 so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
Paul was using the churches of Macedonia as an illustration for the people of Corinth. No matter how difficult life might be in Macedonia, they continued to have a generous spirit. They were poor and struggling themselves, and yet they gave all that they could to share with others. Their first love was the Lord, and they saw him in those with need. Their overwhelming love for Christ compelled them to have a generous spirit.
Somewhere along the line we have created a dichotomy in our Christian thought. I had a man talk to me this weekend about his confusion in service to Christ. He said he’d read many books and some told him that Christian responsibility included feeding the poor, while others said that our responsibility is to preach the gospel. What I find confusing is that we would think that there’s a difference between those two statements, but I knew what he was saying. Somehow we’ve gotten into our minds that if we help the poor that we are being consumed by a social gospel which somehow forgets to actually preach Christ. But then I asked him what he would do if it were actually Jesus who lived down the street and if Jesus were the one that was poor and hungry — would he feed him? He almost chuckled out loud and said, “Of course I would!” I reminded him of these words…
Matthew 25:28 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Being a Christ-follower means that we have a generous spirit and that we reach out to those in need as if they were Christ himself. We are to have a generous spirit, giving out of our abundance and even beyond to welcome those among us who are in need. The Corinthians struggled with a generous spirit — the Macedonians did not.
The refugees of our world need to experience a Christianity that lives out what we read in our Bibles. Jesus called people to be radically counter-cultural. Our culture is telling us to fear, Jesus is telling us to love. It is when the community of faith lives out the word that the scriptures become authoritative. Without the witness of the community of faith to the lived realities of scripture, the preaching of the word will be powerless.
Where will we find ourselves today — in Corinth or Macedonia? May Christ’s love compel us to reach out to the stranger among us with a generous spirit of love. Remember, we are doing this not only for them, but for Christ. Welcome him in a spirit of generosity.
Lord, may I have a generous spirit, even when it is difficult. Amen.
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