At this point, you may be thinking that you are just not up to that sort of giving. But if that is the case, you have to read on because Paul not only gives a great formula for giving, but he gives the secret to that kind of giving, again using the Christians in Macedonia as an illustration. He wrote in verse 5, "And they did not do as we expected." They expected the Macedonian churches to give something, but they just did not give as expected. "They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will."

The reason Paul encourages his readers to give is that when we look to our resources, we really are trusting human ability. And whenever we are trusting human ability, we are trusting that which is inevitably finite and incomplete. Even our trust is sinful. But what happens with the measure of trust we have - if we take a small portion and give it away to the Lord? He will give the increase. When we give out of our poverty - we are not trusting what we have, because we have nothing - we are trusting God to see what he will provide for the extension of his kingdom in the world.

We read in the Book of Acts that the Christians at Antioch sent money to Jerusalem. Paul collected money as he traveled into Macedonia and into Greece proper. He refers to the one trip several times where, together with representatives of the Gentile churches, he went to Jerusalem to present this great offering. I suppose Paul thought of this as a testimony to the great unity of the Christian church. That is because here was a true, common brotherhood of those who had been born again and were brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ, showing a family concern for one another. So as Paul is writing to the Corinthians, he encourages them to give.

I suppose thousands of sermons have been preached on what the Lord Jesus Christ gave up in order that we might be saved. And thousands upon thousands more have been preached on our great spiritual blessings in Christ. All of that is right, of course. That is what the text is talking about. But it is most significant that in the context of the passage Paul is not talking about spiritual blessings, but rather very material ones, in particular, the obligation of the Christians at Corinth to give generously of their substance to God's work and for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem. In other words, this text, which is so often spoken of spiritually, in an illustrative sense, says, "You should be great in your giving because your model is the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave everything he had for you."

At the very end of 2 Corinthians 8, the fourth thing I notice is that Paul tells the Corinthians how in spite of their sin he boasted about them to Titus and to other people. He must have said to Titus, "These Corinthians are Christians. When they get this letter, the Holy Spirit will work in them. They are far more mature than their behavior is indicating. They are going to repent of their sin and they are going to get back on the right course." At the same time he must have also said, "I sure hope that is an accurate analysis." When Titus returned and the report was good, Paul could say, "See, I was right. God is working in those men and women in Corinth. They are God’s people and they are going to make it. They are going to grow and mature in the Christian life." And Paul, as he tells about that, is not afraid to be vulnerable.