We live in a world of immense need, and often we are presented with opportunities to give: the offering plates are passed on Sunday morning, late night television commercials remind us of starving children, and organizations like the Red Cross launch text campaigns on social media to help those harmed by natural disaster. In moments when we are inspired to respond generously, we are tempted to think, “Finances are really tight right now and I don’t have anything to give.” This focus on lack of resources functions to silence the generous impulse. But this way of thinking in which the fear of scarcity forecloses on generous action is called into question by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8.
In this chapter, Paul brags on the churches of Macedonia because while they were enduring a time of severe affliction and living in extreme poverty they were still filled with “abundant joy” and showed extravagant generosity to “the poor.” Indeed, Paul explains, “they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints . . .” (vv.3-4). How is this possible? How can people enduring severe affliction and extreme poverty exhibit abundant joy and radical generosity? Because they gave not according to what they did not have, but in accordance with what they did have (v.12). They didn’t start by asking, “Do I have enough to give?” which is a question driven by scarcity and fear. Rather, they started by asking, “Given what God has already placed in my hand, what can I freely share with others,” which is a question driven by abundance and gratitude. This change in perspective is exactly what is necessary to become a cheerful giver that activity reflects the extravagant generosity of God. This is the kind of giving that God desires from us, the kind of giving that makes sense of Jesus’ saying, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
Is your worldview driven by scarcity or abundance? How would things change in your life if you focused on what you have to give not on what you don’t have to give?