IN 2 Cor. 8 the Apostle informs the Corinthian brethren that the Macedonian congregations had been subjected to great persecution; and that while thus suffering, their joy, notwithstanding their "deep poverty", (2 Cor. 8:2) abounded so exceedingly that the munificence of their contributions for the afflicted saints transcended their power of giving without personal sacrifice. The sum total of these donations, he terms "the gift of God bestowed on them", [2 Cor. 8:1] because this "fellowship" resulted from an intense sympathy with those who were suffering and enduring for the Truth's sake; and will therefore redound to their great recompense from God in the approaching day of the Lord Jesus. They began well and ended well. "They first gave their own selves unto the Lord"; [2 Cor. 8:5] then to the Apostle and his co-labourers; and consummated the whole in cheerfully giving to the necessities of the Truth more than their extreme poverty justified.
This is a noble example of the devotedness and liberality of the poor to the suffering Truth. The Holy Oracles abound in such examples. We say, "the riches of their liberality abounded" [2 Cor. 8:2] for the Truth's sake; and this is the same thing as if we had said, "for the Lord's sake". [1 Pet. 2:13] The saints of Macedonia were suffering shame, reproach, imprisonment, and death "for the gospel's sake", [1 Cor. 9:23] "for the Kingdom of God's sake", [Luke 18:29] "for the name of Jesus' sake", [Matt. 10:22] "for his sake", [Rom. 4:23] "for the word's sake" [Mark 4:17] -- all parallel expressions found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. They were encouraged thus to suffer by the precepts and example of Jesus, who had said, "There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in the present, time, and in the future age unending life"; [Luke 18:29,30] so also "for the joy that was set before him" [Heb. 12:2] he embraced a life of poverty, affliction and reproach: "he endured the cross, despised the shame". [Heb. 12:2] Hence, because the saints were suffering for the gospel of the Son of God, they were suffering for Jesus' sake; and the congregations of Macedonia in communicating to their necessities served the Truth, and proved their love and devotion to the King of Saints; for what is done to them for the gospel's sake is as if ministered personally to him.
The Corinthian brethren were rich, as well in temporalities as in spiritual gifts. At this crisis, Titus was among them and engaged in stirring up their liberality. In order, therefore, that they might not fall short, and by contrast with the munificence of the poor Macedonian brethren, render Paul's boasting concerning them vain, he writes to them that as they "abound in every thing" [2 Cor. 8:7,8] they "abound in this grace (of liberality) also" [2 Cor. 8:7,8] -- "to prove the sincerity of their love". [2 Cor. 8:7,8]
Here, then, is a great principle set before us by the Apostle, namely, that to prove the sincerity of our love to the Lord Jesus, we must be liberal in our contribution to the Truth. From this there is no exemption -- for rich or poor, "If there be first a willing mind, the contribution is accepted according to that a man hath"; [2 Cor. 8:12] "deep poverty" [2 Cor. 8:2] is no excuse for not doing; and riches only lay an increased obligation to excel in munificence. In giving her mite, the widow gave all that she had; and in so doing, gave more than all the rich, who contributed of their abundance without experiencing the least inconvenience. Think of that, ye who are rich, "she gave all her living"; [Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4] think that ye can behold her generous countenance in the judgment and not remorsefully cry, "Shame upon us, for our not having been rich towards God!" Aye indeed, you will then feel the force of the Master's warning, " Beware of covetousness! " [Luke 12:15] "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 Cor. 8:9] yet ye have not the heart to part with the Mammon of unrighteousness to aid the Truth in its arduous combat with error and sin.
The Apostle brings to light another principle, namely, that of equality. "I mean not" says he, "that other men be eased, and you burdened." [2 Cor. 8:13,14] The rich have no right to monopolize the privilege of doing all for the Truth, nor the, poor to the exclusion of the rich, "that there may be equality". [2 Cor. 8:13,14]
Lastly he teaches us that we shall be recompensed in the age to come according to our liberaliy to the Truth in this . Hear this, ye rich men; "When thou makest a dinner, or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:12) [and 13 and 14)\]. And the Apostle says, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, nor of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver". (2 Cor. 9:6,7)
The profession of apostolic Christianity has made many a rich man poor; but we have never heard, or read, of the poor man who has been enriched by it as pertaining to the good things of the present life. We are not placed here to accumulate riches for those who may come after us; but to labour for the truth, in doing the truth ourselves, and in contributing to its establishment in our own day and generation. In occupying our time thus, we labour for the meat which endures to everlasting life. We do not believe that in the midst of so much ignorance, superstition, unbelief and woe as now prevails in the nominal household of faith, that a Christian can die rich, and possess the kingdom. It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye.