In fact Paul was shocked at how the Macedonians, who were in the midst of poverty themselves, responded to the need. “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” (2 Cor. 8:2-4)
Does that sound like tithing? Would tithing have resulted in such overwhelming action? I don’t think so! Here were believers who were so blessed by God’s generosity toward them that even out of their own need they could respond with generosity to others.
The New Testament puts the focus where it belongs. We don’t give money to God so God will act generously toward us. He begins the cycle. Having overwhelmed us with His generosity, we will respond in the same way to others.
But what if I don’t feel God is being generous with me, do I still give to others?
Paul said that giving and receiving in the body does go in cycles. Those who have plenty today, might well be those who are in need tomorrow. The goal is to share so that no one has too much or too little.
But how much is too much and how little is too little. I think it’s obvious that almost every one of us who live in first-world countries are incredibly wealthy financially by world standards, so few people really know God’s generosity.
Why do so few people really understand God’s generosity? Because they measure it by what they perceive to be their wants and needs. Comparing our homes, cars and toys to others in the culture leads to envy and greed. In the face of our demands God will rarely seem generous.
Paul understood God’s generosity at a far deeper level than material comfort. Because he was focused on God’s agenda for his life and not his own, he saw God’s hand of generosity in every area of his life. Look at how he described it: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)
As we let God dismantle our agenda for our own life, that we are able to see a glimpse of what Paul is talking about here.
Because we are busy trying to get God on our page, we can’t see the incredible things he is doing in our life every day.
When we start everyday without our own preferences for how we want things to turn out, we find ourselves constantly amazed at what God is doing in our life and are genuinely thankful at every turn. If he doesn’t give me something, it’s because I really don’t need it.
This is why our expectations are disappointed so often. It’s not because God doesn’t care about us, but because he is committed to freeing us from the tyranny of self. Only then can we enjoy God’s resources and discover just how generous he is.