May 28, 2023

Churches that Abounded in Their Liberality

Written by:
Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy

Concerning the Macedonian churches, the apostle Paul commended, “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Cor. 8:2). The apostle was citing those churches as an example of generosity that the Corinthian church should know and follow. 

Their liberality was the fruit of God’s grace in their hearts. 

In verse 1, Paul introduced the generosity of the Macedonian churches as manifestation of “the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia”. Their generosity was the fruit and evidence of God’s grace operating in their hearts. One of the effects of God’s grace that had saved them and continued to sanctify their minds, was their willingness to give generously and sacrificially to the needs of God’s people and churches everywhere. They were mindful of those in need, especially other believers.

Their liberality was shown amid great afflictions.

While they were “in a great trial of affliction” (v. 2a), the Macedonian churches expressed the spirit of generosity. Their afflictions were by no means small. The three words that Paul used, speak of the severity of their afflictions. The Greek word for “great” (polus) means “much” or “many”, and indicates the extreme nature of their ordeal. The Greek word for “trial” (dokim) refers to their ordeal as a severe test. The word “affliction” (thlipsis) literally refers to pressure, as in crushing olives or grapes. It describes the constraining, crushing weight of persecution and poverty that most Macedonian churches endured. Paul specifically noted that they were experiencing “deep poverty” (v. 2c). However, they did not let their suffering negatively affect their attitude of giving for others’ needs. Amid their trials, they put the needs of others first. They considered the care of other believers and churches as more urgent than that of their own needs. By God’s grace working in them, they rose above their afflictions to show charity.

Their liberality was extended with great joy.

The Macedonian churches were sincerely rejoicing that they could extend help in a generous manner. In fact, Paul says, “the abundance of their joy … abounded”. The Greek word for “abundance” means “a surplus” or “an overflow”. The Macedonians were abounding in their generosity without reluctance or grudging. They did not talk or act like they were under duress to give their support to others. They gave spontaneously and gladly, knowing that it was God’s will concerning them. 

Their liberality was not restricted by their poverty.

The Macedonian believers were impoverished, so Paul depicted their condition as “deep poverty”. The word “deep” translates the Greek phrase kata bathos, and it corresponds to the English expressions, “the pits” or “rock bottom”. The Greek word Paul used for “poverty” (ptōcheia) indicates that they had almost nothing, and were utterly impoverished. How amazing it was that they were giving cheerfully despite their dismal economic condition. If they were so poor, how could they abound in their giving? It must be that they fully trusted God to provide for their own needs, when they parted with the little in order to relieve others’ needs. Their liberality was the result of great faith and utter selflessness. 

Their liberality was overflowing.

Paul testified that the Macedonian churches “abounded unto the riches of their liberality”. The Greek word for “abounded” (perisseúō) implies that their generosity is overflowing. Scripture uses it to describe the surplus goods of the rich (Mark 12:44), an abundance of material possessions (Luke 12:15), etc. The word “riches” (ploutos), though referring to material wealth, is very commonly used in the New Testament to depict spiritual riches as well (cf. Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:8, 16; Phil. 4:19; Col. 1:27; 2:2; Heb. 11:26). It appears that here, too, the spiritual richness of the Macedonian believers is referred to. Though they were materially poor, they were super-abundant in their liberality. The Greek word for “liberality” (haplótēs) has meanings such as “simplicity”, “purity”, “sincerity”, “faithfulness”, and “plenitude”. Paul’s use of this word indicates that the Macedonian churches were sincere or single-minded in their giving. Because they were single-minded to do God’s pleasure even in their crippling circumstances, they became generous. Double-minded people, on the other hand, will be worried about their own concerns and reluctant to part with the little they have in hard times. The Macedonian churches’ selfless generosity was evidence of their total devotion to Christ and His kingdom. 


May we, too, be guided by a similar consecration as the Macedonian churches in serving our Lord and His kingdom. If all of us in Gethsemane would look not only on our own things, but also on the things of others, surely we too can be a great blessing to the lives and ministries of many thousands of God’s people and many churches around the world. May God help us to be a blessing to others. 

Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church adheres to the system of faith commonly known as the “Reformed Faith” as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
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