Are you generous? Do you give of yourself, your time and your money? You probably answer yes to that question. I think most of us think we are charitable and giving. And it is good to give when you have abundance. It is good to give even when you do not. That is being generous. Paul commended the churches who, even though they were extremely poor and going through very hard times, remained joyful. They were so full of joy that it overflowed and they actually gave gifts of money and whatever they had to those who needed it. Paul says they gave beyond their means. They were able to do so because they had dedicated themselves wholly and first to serving God and because of that they served the Church as well. (Verses 1-5).
If there is someone among you who is having trouble, who is hungry, needs clothes or help, then it is your place as a servant of Christ to give to him. It is a privilege to give especially when you give beyond your means and have faith in God to supply your needs as you serve Him by loving. Why? Not because you think God will give you more money or blessings if you give, but because it pleases Him. Because your generosity makes Him smile and makes you more like Jesus. Consider what Jesus did for you. Verse 9 reads,
“For 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.”
If God placed it in your heart to give, if you were given the idea or plan to carry out, be it giving, or some other service then there is benefit to you in completing the job. You may want to give, serve, build, or do, but the desire means nothing without the action. In other words, it is not the thought that counts, but the doing. I may want to mow the neighbor’s lawn, but my desire doesn’t cut the grass. If I don’t actually complete the job then my neighbor is not benefitted and God is not served. If God gives you the idea, the plan, or the desire, He will certainly give you what you need to carry it out. He doesn’t ask you to give more than you are able so that you will then be the one in need. He asks you to be generous. Verses 11-14 read,
“So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
How can Paul commend giving beyond one’s means in verse 3 and in verse 13 say not to give if you do not have it? These do not contradict one another. There is a difference between giving what you think you can afford and giving what God says you can afford. Imagine if you have $10. You, being a good steward have a budget, you give $2 to God first, and then of the remaining $8 you spend $5 on rent and electric. Now it is time to go to the grocery store and you also want a new pair of shoes, since yours are thin at the bottom. That will take the rest of your money. But there is a person in need, if you give him a $1, you will not be able to go out to dinner and if you give him $2 (which is what he needs), you won’t be able to buy your shoes. Giving him $3 would be burdening yourself and make you go hungry, since you won’t be able to buy groceries. Giving him the $1 would be giving within your means, giving him the $2 would be giving beyond your means but you would still not be burdened or hungry. You would have faith that God would make your shoes sufficient for you.
Having faith in God allows you to give more than you think you can afford. It allows you to trust God will take care of your needs. But you are also called to be a good steward of what He has given you. You give to Him first and you take care of your bills. He didn’t ask you to go homeless so you could provide a home for someone else. He didn’t command you to starve in order to feed another.
I challenge you to be generous, give beyond your means. Give to someone in need. Work together with your fellow Believers and give to someone who needs you. Have enough faith in God to love others in action.