Religious institutional Christianity often uses the story of the Macedonians to inspire us or guilt us into being liberal givers like the Macedonians. (2Corinthians chapters 8,9)
However, maybe it is more accurate to call it ‘guilty inspiration’?
Religious preaching makes us note that the Macedonians gave liberally even though they had no money!
The Macedonians were God-giving. Their giving came with an abundance of joy in spite of being under great persecution and extreme poverty. (2Cor 8:2) Amazing!
Paul explained that this strange mix of persecution, great joy, and deep poverty caused the Macedonians to abound in the riches of their liberality. (2Cor 8:2 NKJ) What does that mean?
Meaning of liberality
Many might think being very liberal in this context means being generous with your pocketbook.
After all, the dictionary defines liberality as the quality of being generous.
But the Biblical meaning is much different!
New Testament definition of liberality
liberality Greek: haplotés
- simplicity, singleness, sincerity, purity, graciousness
- not compounded or over complicated
By the way, do you know haplotés is also used about Jesus?
“..the simplicity (haplotés) that is in Christ.” (2Cor 11:3)
Hmm, pause and think about that. Macedonians and Jesus = haplotés.
Importance of the word “in”
Sometimes more understanding comes when we consider little bitty words in scripture verses. e.g. the word “in”
- abounded in the riches of liberality
- the simplicity in Christ
This particular “in” in scripture is
eis – prop. into, unto; lit. “motion into which”, implying penetration and union to a particular purpose or result.
So the Macedonians had experienced a union, a penetration into Jesus’ purity, simplicity, sincerity, graciousness. And it was for a particular purpose or result.
The Macedonians were ‘one’ with Jesus. They were a true reflection of God’s liberality. They reflected Jesus’ purity, sincerity, graciousness. There was no duplicity in their giving, no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive. No ‘notice what I did’ or even a ‘pat on the back’.
Give according to ability
What caused these Macedonians to be effusive in the riches of liberality, i.e. of simplicity?
Paul explained – “…that according to their ability…” (2Cor 8:3)
Doesn’t this sound like self-effort?
It’s up to you. So muster up that ability with positive thinking, positive confession, talk yourself or guilt yourself into it. Be inspired by the preacher’s persuasive words declaring a great need and we need your ability to give.
Right? No way!
Quite the contrary, supernatural stuff was going on here.
- according to – katá – properly, “down from, e. from a higher to a lower plane, with special reference to the end-point
- ability – dunamis – power, might, force (dunamis is where we get our word ‘dynamite’)
Down from a higher plane (Jesus) to a lower plane (the Macedonian’s hearts – it’s intended end point) – God’s power came and wonderful fruit resulted. Now mind you, Jesus is in them/in us – so this ‘higher plane’ is not heaven or somewhere up there that power comes down. It is an internal dynamic.
Oh to give like true Macedonians! Oh the rush of joy!
- Biblical ‘liberality’ flows simply and freely. It abounds in simplicity, purity, sincerity and singleness. It is not complicated! This kind of liberality has nothing to do with religious Christianity and all to do with Jesus.
- You were made to naturally and easily reflect this beautiful liberality. It’s a God empowerment. He loves seeing you ‘be Him’ in your own unique way.
- Get free from religion’s persuasive kind of guilt giving. There is no ‘have to’ with God. Let Him empower you with His kind of liberality. It is part of fullness. Enjoy the powerful flow!
P.S. Next post – what is the real source of the Macedonians’ liberality and cheerful giving?