1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7But 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
Generosity is a matter of character. And like many aspects of character we assume we can actually “put it on” or simply “start doing it” when we “grow up” or when we have more responsibility and capacity. So we may assume we will establish a standard of giving when we have a lot more money than we have today. But that’s not the way it works. You won’t become generous because you have a big salary, or win the lottery.
Our “Secret” of Giving
As Christians generosity is meant to flow from our disciple-life with Jesus. The secret of the Macedonian’s generosity was not that they were wealthy people. Their secret of generosity was that they “gave themselves first to the Lord” and “then by the will God” to the apostles and their work. The tithe was not the beginning point for them; rather their relationship with Jesus and His church was their starting point for giving.
Set your Standards of Giving
The standard of giving that you have today is likely to be your standard of giving in the future, unless you begin to change it in response to Jesus and allow for a Gospel-shaped generosity in your standards. This is how character develops. Its a hardened habit built over time and testing. Then the tithe under the grace of Jesus becomes a generosity baby step. Paul tells the Corinthians to see that that they excel in the grace of giving not through the force of a command but through the force of Jesus’ love in their hearts!
8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9