Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints — 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7Now 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.
In this passage of Scripture, The Apostle Paul writes of what we might call the first “world hunger” offering. In the passage from 2 Corinthians 8, Paul commends to the church at Corinth, the Macedonian Christians who, despite their own trials, shared a grace-filled offering for God’s people in Jerusalem. As Paul speaks of this gift from the Macedonians, he uses descriptive terms such as “the grace of God,” “abundant joy,” “wealth of generosity.” and others. But the most interesting description of the Macedonian giving is the phrase found in verse 5 of this text. Paul says this about the Macedonians’ offering: “and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord…” 2 Cor. 8:5
Giving of oneself is set out by Paul as the spiritual understanding of our grace-filled giving. Our giving is about more than what is in our pocketbook at any given moment. Giving in grace is a life filled with response to God’s grace in Christ. It is the joy and delight in the giving of oneself in response to God’s rich and abundant gift of grace. This is the measure of grace-filled stewardship.
1. What do you think Paul means when he says about the Macedonians, “…they gave themselves first to the Lord.”?
2. What characteristics might be present in this attitude of giving?
3. How would this attitude that Paul describes affect your understanding of giving and your faith practice of giving?
4. If we understand stewardship as “how we walk each day in the midst of God’s grace, how might “giving oneself” be lived out in this context? Does this apply only to the sharing of gifts or does it impact other facets of life such as relationships with others?
5. How does the concept of “giving oneself” impact your understanding of stewardship?
6. Beyond the obvious, such as family, friends, and church, what are some examples of God’s grace that you have seen or experienced this past week?
7. What are some ways you have “given yourself” in grace this past week?
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.