They Gave Themselves | 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 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. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 | ESV
When Paul challenges the Galatians to “sow to the Spirit,” he repeatedly urges them to practical expressions of generosity and giving. “Let the one who is taught the word, share all good things with the one who teaches.” “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” So it’s only fitting that we start with the spiritual practice of generosity and giving. There are so many ways in which the spiritual practice of generosity may be expressed! Tithing of funds, offering of services, giving of time, sharing of self. Perhaps one simple, doable, durable action word captures all such expressions: open. Open our hearts. Open our hands. Open our homes. Open our schedules. Open our ears. Open our wallets. What amazed Paul about the Macedonians is that when it came to helping the poor in Jerusalem he didn’t have to strong arm them to give – they had to strong arm Paul to let them give. Open hearts precede open wallets – at least if it is a genuine spiritual practice and not an empty religious ritual. The Macedonians first gave themselves to the Lord, then to Paul and his fellow workers, and consequently they not only opened their hands, they emptied their pockets, pantries, and pensions! Opening ourselves to God’s purposes and plan frees us from religious manipulations (from within or without) and empowers us to open our hands in healthy, life-giving, simple, doable, durable ways.
What are you sensing God is calling you to “open” in your life?
Lord Jesus, show me what, where, and why I am holding back and keeping closed that which you would have me open. Show me the “baby steps” to get there, to help make the opening in my soul needed to truly open my heart and hand as you would have them to be.
In the next 30 days, eat one meal with an outcast – or at least with someone different.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.