Generosity in Adversity

By Pastor Emmanuel Akatukunda

2 Corinthians 8:1-8

This season of the COVID-19 and the lockdown is perhaps the toughest many of us have ever gone through. It has also exposed the best and worst in us. Trials are like a burning furnace; they reveal what is in the inside of us. If our hearts are filled with greed – a desire to have more and more for ourselves but disregarding the needs of others – they will be exposed. If we are filled with generosity – a desire and willingness to share whatever we have with those who are in need – it will also be revealed. I have been personally encouraged by the generosity of many of you. Some of you have gone out of your way to share with and support God’s people who are in need.

Today, I would like to share with you how you can be generous even in times such as these. I will be sharing from 2 Corinthians 8:1-8. This passage relates to our situation. Jerusalem was experiencing intense famine and Paul writes to the Church in Corinth requesting them to support the churches in Jerusalem. As believers we have an obligation to act generously towards all those who are in need, especially fellow believers. Let’s turn to the Word of God:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

The believers in Macedonia were Paul’s model church when it came to the grace of giving. It is not because they were rich. No. In fact they were extremely poor. But they were outflowing with joy. They were a joyful community. They were a church that was totally committed to – surrendered to – God and His will. They were also a people who gave sacrificially. They gave beyond what was comfortable and convenient.  There are at least five lessons that we can learn from the Macedonian believers when it comes to being generous. 

  • Generosity is the matter of the heart

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:2).

We do not give because we are rich. Generosity is an attitude. It is from the heart but it is expressed in tangible ways. Generous people give. They forgive those who offend them; They share helpful information with those who need to benefit from it. Generous people are networkers. As you can see, generosity goes beyond giving. Generous people are always looking for ways of making other people better. They are not afraid to share whatever they have for the good of others. They want others to shine. The needs around us can be an opportunity for us to express our generous spirit.

  • Generosity reveals our sufficiency in God

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:2).

As Christians our generosity is based on our sufficiency in Christ and not the abundance of material things. You can be rich and generous. You can also be deprived of material things but generous. We can be generous despite our circumstances. Generous people are joyful people. Generosity and joy go hand in hand because generous people are contented people. A generous person does not give because they must but rather because they want to. It is their joy to give. They delight in giving; in making other people better. And the Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

  • Generosity is sacrificial

3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 2 Corinthians 8:3-4. Generous people give beyond what is convenient or comfortable. The Bible also reminds us that Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6

Generous people are not thinking about the cost; they are thinking about how to serve others.

  • Generosity is an act of worship

And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 2 Corinthians 8:5.

The Bible tells us of a story of a woman called Mary who saved up whatever she could to buy a very expensive perfume and then poured it on the feet of Jesus. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3). For people who did not know her – those who could not see what was in her heart – they thought that it was a waste of money. But for Jesus, Mary’s act was prophetic worship. She was preparing Him for the impending death.

True generosity is a result of our inner surrender (self-giving) to God. It is an act of worship. It is an expression of our faith in God as our source of provision—as the one who sustains us.  We give in obedience to God’s Word. We first commit ourselves to God and then to those whom we serve.

  • Generosity is a discipline

But since you excel in everything —in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7). We can learn and grow in generosity as an outflow of our love for God and others.

In my experience, I have encountered generous people who, like the Macedonians, do not necessarily have much but are incredibly generous. They go out of their way to support God’s work and His people. Sometimes their giving makes me feel uncomfortable. I feel like telling them, “stop!” because I know what they are going through. They have very little to live on.

One of such generous people is a widow named Anne. Anne is one of the best cooks I know. She does not have much but she delights in serving God’s people. On many occasions she would plead with me (and a few others) to visit her. On every visit we would be surprised by how much delicious food she had prepared. I must confess that I could not help to think about how much it must have cost her; let alone the time she took to prepare. But her delight was to see us enjoy the meal she had prepared; and indeed, we enjoyed!

But Anne is not just a good cook and a wonderful host.  Her heart of generosity is deeper than that. One morning she had gone to the market to shop for groceries. She then saw a group of people gathered in a certain corner of the market. When she went to see what was going on, she discovered that some one had abandoned a child on a garbage heap. The child was barely a week old. Anne then asked the market authorities if she could take the child and take care of him. After seeking help from police and local community authorities, she was allowed to keep the child. Many people discouraged her from taking the baby home. How could this old woman take care of the child? What if the child was HIV positive? Where would she get the money to look after the child? What if the actual parents came years later and demanded for their child? But Anne did not let any of those discouraging remarks deter her. She took up the boy. She gave him a new lease of life.

As you see, every day there are opportunities for us to act generously to the people around us. Generosity begins from the heart. Ask the Lord to open your heart to the needs around you. Ask Him to give you wisdom about how you can respond. Act in faith, trusting that God will use what you have to bless the person in need. Ask God to help you grow in the grace of giving. I pray that you will be the person whom God uses to make others better.

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