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 Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. (2 Corinthians 8:3-5 NIV)
The background of this scripture lesson is a great Palestinian famine. Suffering and hunger were rampant. Paul enlisted the aid of the Gentile churches for relief of Jewish Christians.
The Macedonians responded in a remarkable way, with no excuses. One might say they had every right to find an excuse as they were severely persecuted and impoverished themselves. And yet, as God’s own people, their hearts were moved by God’s grace and the expressed need. Excuses for not giving were abandoned and they ultimately gave beyond their means and pleaded to do so.
Some years ago, our family was starting the stewardship journey of a capital campaign in our church. Believing we should encourage our children to take part in the experience, we sat our two boys down, explained the campaign and its purpose, and suggested we find a way to give of ourselves to support our church through the campaign.
My “bright” idea was to suggest our two boys come up with their own definition of the word sacrifice—in a one-word definition. (The one-word definition is where I went wrong.)
Our older son, a mature twelve-year-old at the time, shouted with fervor, “That’s easy, it’s the word ouch!”
Hurriedly his eight-year-old brother, not to be outdone, responded with a hearty, “That’s easy, it’s the word joyful!”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!” his big brother stated.
Trying to save the day, my wife jumped in and asked our younger son to explain what he meant. He answered her in these questions:
“Well, aren’t we doing this for our church?” Yes, my wife replied. “Then, aren’t we doing this for God?” Again, a yes in reply.
“Well then, why would God want this if it is not joyful?”
Our sons’ wisdom has morphed into a new definition for giving at our house. The combination of these two words is a definition for giving back to God out of God’s goodness and grace—it’s a “joyful ouch.” And in the joyful ouch, we discover our best self, the self created in the image of a loving, generous God.
In response to God’s goodness, bounty, and grace, what is your “joyful ouch”? Can you remember the times when you’ve offered excuses instead of giving?
In your journal, list other times you’ve felt joy in sacrifice.
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