Many people live beyond their means. But today’s Gospel talks of a group of people who gave beyond their means!
What might that look like, giving beyond our means? For this group of people, the Macedonians, it meant they gave even when they really couldn’t afford to give anything at all. Though they were very poor—completely destitute captures the sense of their “extreme poverty”—they were willing to part with what little they had to help someone who had even less. It meant they were willing to go without.
What would giving beyond our means look like for us? It’s worth thinking about, especially in these economic hard times. It’s also worth thinking about in a culture where we are encouraged to live a lifestyle that doesn’t always leave us much to give away.
Certainly it means giving at cost to oneself. Might it also mean giving to the point that our own lifestyle suffers? That our own “buying power” is diminished? That we too go without?
I love how Paul puts it in verse 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. The Corinthians were a people who were all about excellence. Does that remind you of another culture at another place in time? Paul says, “That’s great. I applaud your deep commitment to excellence in all things. Now how about giving? How about being excellent in your giving as well?”
Hmmm. It seems to me it could be really exciting to be so fully devoted to Jesus that we are a people who excel in generosity and willingness to give beyond our means. I think there could be a ton of joy in that.
I guess there’s only one way to find out!