“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The wonder of the spiritual disciplines is that their influence goes far beyond the life of one individual who practices them. They transform a community. For instance, the praying person brings blessing to those he knows. The meditating believer gives grace to all she encounters. The person of solitude adds needed wisdom to conversations. So too the generous person provides and transforms the lives of those around her.
The Generous Macedonians
One group of people who understood this principle was the church in ancient Macedonia. They heard about the needs of other believers and gave “as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:3). That alone is enough to commend them. But Paul paints an even clearer—and more convicting—picture. When the Macedonians heard of his financial need, they were “in the midst of a very severe trial” and living in “extreme poverty” (v. 2). One would expect, given their poverty, that the Macedonians would have determined to pray for someone else to provide for Paul’s needs, believing it to be outside of their power to help. And yet, filled with “overflowing joy,” they practiced “rich generosity” (v. 2). The believers in Macedonia were completely unhindered by their own lack of means. All they knew was that they wanted to give. And God worked a miracle: He produced generosity out of poverty.
Oh, to live a life like the Macedonians! How much we need to learn from their example as we navigate a world that is obsessed with self-preservation, the amassing of wealth, and the pursuit of the American dream. We would do well to read this story often, asking ourselves if we have hearts of self-preservation or hearts of generosity. Our level of personal wealth doesn’t matter. This is a matter entirely of the heart.
Jesus simplified the Law of Moses into two, all-encompassing commands: love God and love others (Mark 12:30–31). Biblical love is a giving up of oneself, a laying down of one’s life. The apostle John makes it extremely clear: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). When we give—either of money, of possessions, of time, of talents, of energy—we love others well.
Giving is not a loss of hard-earned money or of desperately needed time. It’s an opportunity to show Jesus’ love and generosity. A Christian’s call to give is a call to imitate Jesus. When we live generous lives, we experience the freedom and joy that He experienced! And that joy becomes addicting. Pretty soon, we find ourselves just like the Macedonians who gave and gave and gave, all with hearts of “overflowing joy” (1 Corinthians 8:2).