“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.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
There is not much specific that is known about the churches in Macedonia. We don’t know how many attended the churches, who they were personally or what they struggled with spiritually. One thing that we do know is that they were in love with Christ, and because of this, they were generous. This particular account in 2 Corinthians shows the Macedonian churches “begging” to be a part of funding missions work. So why would these churches be so eager to give? Scripture tells us that they were not financially abundant, and yet when the opportunity arose to give to the work of the gospel, they begged to be part.
I believe this answer to lie in verse 5. It says, “…they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us,” or put another way, the Macedonian churches were the Lord’s. The people that formed the churches in Macedonia had given themselves to the Lord and had not turned back from the commitment they made to follow their King. Their heart was the same as Paul’s, who said “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) They were the man in Matthew 13:44 who went, and in his joy, sold all that he had in order to buy the field; he had found a greater treasure, and the Macedonians found the same thing in Christ.
The Macedonian churches treasured Christ above all things, even their possessions, and they wanted to have a part in advancing the kingdom of God. Their attitude towards giving is worth including in Scripture, not because they gave, but because what their giving came out of. Like a pirate in a movie finding buried treasure, they had found their treasure (2 Cor 4:7) and it was far greater than they imagined, it was Christ Himself. Those that have much can give out of excess, and this principle is the same for the Christian who gives freely and joyfully from the abundant provision found in their Master and King. For the Christian, giving is imaging their Savior who gave, and it comes from the overflow of knowing Him.
Ask anyone who has been in military service and they will tell you that the haircut at the beginning of boot camp was not the difficult part of enlisting. It wasn’t the saluting, the early morning wakeup calls or the answering of a Drill Sergeant with a firm “Yes sir!” The difficult part was knowing what it would cost to enlist, that it would cost your very life. Once the soldier has committed their life to serve, things like haircuts, early mornings and following orders are relatively simple. This is how the Christian should live, this is what the church in Macedonia knew and did. As Paul wrote, “…they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Cor 8:5)
For the Christian, all else in this life is easily given over to the King of kings because He is of greater worth. Scripture tells us of the worth of Christ and anyone who has encountered Jesus knows this to be true. But the Bible also warns about the cost of committing your life to Jesus. Luke 14 says,
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Scripture wants us to understand the cost and see the value of a life submitted to the Lord. It pulls no punches and says clearly over and over again that following Jesus will cost you your life (Matt 16:25), but He is worthy of it. Like the soldier who sees the value of providing freedom to those he serves, and the Macedonians who knew that the proclamation of the gospel was eternally valuable, once something has the priority of value in our lives, our lives show this priority.
Each of us must examine our priorities and see if they directly reflect our relationship with Christ and His Lordship in our lives. This means that we seek His will in our life, that we desire to bring Him glory and that we want others to know the great love and grace seen in the face of Jesus. That is why the Macedonian churches gave, because they wanted others to know this joy of the surpassing worth of Christ.