One of the most memorable moments of my trip to the Philippines last January was sitting in on a young adults Sunday school class at Bethany Baptist Church in Makati. (I took the picture above from the upstairs balcony of this church.)
The text for the lesson was 2 Corinthians 8 about the Macedonian churches who, out of their poverty, were motivated and enabled by the grace of God to give joyfully to the advancement of the gospel.
In the morning church service, that church—comprised of Filipino Christians from the greater Manila area—gave three offerings. I am not exaggerating. The final offering was for five families in the church who were going through times of financial trial due to sickness or deaths in the family. When the pastor announced the amount of that offering (as he had announced the two previous offerings), I was amazed and humbled at the generosity of these Christians.
In fact, I was sure I had just seen a modern demonstration of the grace giving in 2 Corinthians 8:1–2: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”
I thought about my own giving, and I was challenged to want God’s grace to abound more fully in it. I think it is easy for us in America to slip into a mentality of scarcity and easily feel maxed out in our giving. How, when you live on a fixed income, can you increase your giving for the work of God?
- Give a cup of coffee. Maybe it won’t be a literal cup of coffee, but $2 and $3 expenses add up—especially when you set the money aside to give. Just two $2 cups of coffee a week adds up to $208 a year. (And I know lots of Christians who would love to give an additional $200 a year to missions.) Even just one cup a week is an extra $100 freed to give.
- Budget your expenses. Sometimes we feel financially burdened because we really don’t know how our money is being spent. A budget—made with a commitment to include giving—can show us spare change we’ve been wasting.
- Remember God blesses little things. Sometimes we assume that since we can’t give as much as we would like we shouldn’t give at all. The fund to send William Carey to India started with just over thirteen British pounds (about $16) in a wooden snuff box. From there, small, sacrificial gifts continued to trickle in, and God blessed the faith of His people to the end that Carey was sent to the field, led thousands to Christ, and translated the Bible or portions of the Bible into 40 languages. And it all started with a collective gift of $16 in a snuff box.
- Keep the needs of mission fields before you. You know how when you see a missionary presentation in church, you feel burdened for, even gripped by, the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people it shows you? Keep those needs before you year round. You might do this with a world map highlighting the population of various countries. Or by following missionaries on social media who post about the people to whom they minister. Or by praying through your stack of missionary prayer cards.
- Be willing to sacrifice. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t enjoy the provision and comforts that God gives us. Neither can I say that I’ve always found the balance between gratitude and sacrifice. But I do know that I have never regretted giving and have found my gratitude increased when I’ve given generously in response to God’s grace.
- Remember the promises of God. Hoarding convinces us that we are our own providers; giving is our opportunity to see God provide for our needs. It was to one of the poor, but giving, churches of Macedonia that Paul wrote, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
- Meditate on the grace of God. The real point of 2 Corinthians 8 is not the poverty of the Macedonian Christians; it is the generosity of grace. It was grace that made the Macedonian Christians want to give—even out of their poverty. And when we meditate on the grace of Jesus, it causes us to want to give as well. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Looking back over this list, some of these points are practical, and some motivational. And I probably have the order backwards because when we desire to give, we will find a way. (Take, for instance, a certain congregation of Filipino Christians I observed give generously three times in one service….)
With that in mind, perhaps you would read this list again from the bottom up…and see if by the time you reach the top you can’t see a way to further invest your treasure in God’s eternal work.