But as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you-see that you excel in this act of grace also.
2 Corinthians 8:7
In the context of this passage the "act of grace" referred to is the special project Paul had taken in ministering to the poor in the Jerusalem church (see chapter 9 for more detail). He has made this a personal ministry hallmark. He has collected from all the Gentile churches where he has preached the gospel. And Corinth had been working for nearly a year now in this particular ministry project (2 Corinthians 8:10-11). The time had come to finish the collection.
Paul had no reservations about talking directly about this sort of thing. He expected that Christians would be generous. His main example comes from the Macedonian church. The believers there were going through persecution, yet managed to give very generously through their poverty with great joy and excitement for the ministry work. The Corinthian church seemed to be in relative peace, and they had an opportunity to really add to the gift that would be brought to Jerusalem. This was going to be a chance for them to pour God's grace out in a tangible form.
The same is true today. Giving is about God's grace. It is not about my pleasure or desire to give. It is not about the generous giver being courted and cajoled and pampered by the leadership of any ministry. It is about the chance for God's grace to pour out in our giving. We often applaud the generous donation, but the amount is not the evidence of grace. It is the commitment, love, and sacrifice that come with the gift that bring grace.
I read this and am challenged to make sure my heart is in the right place. And the real check on that is when the plate is passed. Am I participating in the unrestrained grace of God with my gift? Am I giving reluctantly in an ungracious manner? Am I ready to see God glorified, not caring for any credit (be it tax incentive or my name on the project) in my gift? Those are the kinds of questions that help me define gracious giving in my own heart.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13