Does Poverty Produce Giving?
In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul writes about giving. In a couple of Paul’s letters we read that on one occasion Paul is travelling through the Gentile churches receiving an offering for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering. He writes about that collection in chapter 8. In writing to the Corinthians Paul cites the example of giving of the churches in Macedonia. This is what he writes: Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. The churches in Macedonia were not rich. They were very poor; however, they liberally gave. How does poverty lead to giving? Interestingly enough, statistics show that poor people give a higher percentage of their income to charity than rich people. That is sort of counter intuitive but it is true. The less money you have the more willing you are to give. The Macedonian church was not only poor but they were suffering great affliction. And thus we see the equation, “Poverty + affliction = giving”. That’s not an equation that most of us want to experience, is it?
But that equation leaves out an important component that Paul mentions…joy. The Macedonians had an abundance of joy. I wonder if the statistic that poorer people give a higher percentage of their income is “burying the lead”. I wonder if it could be true that poorer people have more joy than richer people? Could the key to giving be joy, not lower income? Is it possible that joy produces a desire to give? Is it possible that genuine joy in a relationship with the living God produces in us a desire to worship God through our giving? These Macedonian Christians implored Paul to take their money for the Jewish Christians. It wasn’t because they had much money. Rather, it was because they had great joy. I don’t think that poverty produces giving. I think that joy produces giving. If you are not a “giving” person, would you consider what your level of joy is? Reflect on all that God has given you…forgiveness, spiritual gifts, peace, eternal life…allow the joy to well up in your heart and see if that won’t produce in you a genuine desire to share that joy in the tangible way of giving.