Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-24, John 1:1-3, Philippians 2:4-11
I like to think I’m a generous person.
I happily give to people and causes that matter to me. My family supports campus ministers, international children’s relief organizations, and our local church. We donate stuff we don’t want or use anymore. We pat ourselves on the back, sometimes share on social media, and then go on our merry way. It doesn’t hurt, and it makes us feel good. But are we generous?
Here’s what we really are: comfortable givers.
Paul is writing to comfortable givers in this chapter of 2 Corinthians. He is fundraising for the Jerusalem fund, a task he mentions throughout his letters as he travels and writes to various Gentile churches. Specifically, he is asking Gentiles (non-Jewish converts to Christianity) to send money for the poor in Jerusalem (likely Jews), which Paul references in Acts 24:17.
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul tells the wealthy Corinthians about the overflowing generosity of the poor Macedonians for the Jerusalem fund. “They begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints,” he writes of the Macedonians’ eagerness to give (v. 4).
In essence, Paul is describing the Macedonians with an unnatural equation: severe trial + affliction + extreme poverty = abundant joy + wealth of generosity.
This equation can only be true in the math of mercy. Paul has no shame about telling the Corinthians how generously the Macedonians have given, and that he expects them to do the same. He is asking them for money—and a lot of it—using words like “surplus” and “generous.”
But here’s why it seems Paul isn’t afraid to ask for money, why he is bold in telling the Corinthians just how much the Macedonians sacrificed to give: because we learn to give from the great giver Himself, Jesus. Paul is reminding the Corinthians—and us—that when we believe in Jesus, our hearts are molded in the shape of His. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
We love because Jesus loved us first (1 John 4:19). We give because Jesus gave everything for us and to us. And so we don’t just give money; we give ourselves. This can look like radical or everyday hospitality—acts of service on a grand, public scale, or little ones like changing the millionth diaper or washing yet another dish, simply so someone else doesn’t have to.
Generosity isn’t a series of acts or financial decisions. Generosity is a posture, a way of living in the way of Christ. Generosity is worship, an act done in response to the ultimate generosity of our living King Jesus. We don’t give or act generously to feel good or to check a box. We give to respond to Jesus. We give to break our hearts of their grip on material, physical comfort and let them reset in the shape of Jesus’ perfectly generous heart.
We live in a world of self-care and me-time and “treat yo-self.” We are entitled to comfort, or so we believe. When the Bible’s call to radical generosity rubs up against our idol of comfort, it should chafe a little. As members of Christ’s church, we’re called to be more than just comfortable givers. We look to Jesus and we see everything poured out for us. And becoming like Him, as we endeavor to “adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), means pouring everything out for Him.
Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.