“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 ESV
The Corinthians had lost their eagerness to give for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, and henceforth, Paul urged them through the example of the Macedonian churches. Even though these churches experienced extreme poverty and affliction, it gave them joy to give sacrificially for the sake of the Gospel.
Paul wrote of three ways that characterized the generosity of the Macedonian churches. Firstly, they gave “according to their means”. This means that no specified amount was required of them, so they gave according to what they had. Then, secondly, they even gave “beyond their means”, in other words, in a sacrificial manner. This does not mean that they starved themselves, but that they gave above and beyond what would be expected. Thirdly, they gave of “their own accord”; in other words, they gave voluntarily and out of their own desires. They were not obligated or manipulated into giving.
Christ serves as the best example for us in terms of giving: “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.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV) Jesus kept nothing back.
The heart of the matter is always the matter of the heart. When we don’t give willingly and sacrificially – not just financially, but in service, time, energy and fellowship – towards God’s Kingdom, the problem lies within our hearts. This comment on 2 Corinthians 8 out of the Gospel Transformation Bible gives it very clearly to us: “In essence, if we don’t desire to respond to God’s grace with sacrificial giving, then we have not yet fully understood the nature of the gospel. The answer to our motivation problem is not adherence to a new command but a more thorough knowledge and experience of the extravagant self-giving of Christ.”