The work of Jesus while on the earth can be summarized like this. He revealed the Father to us by what He explained, and He showed us the Father by how He lived. This is so we could become more like our Father.
Paul captured an aspect of this as he extolled the churches of Macedonia. A need arose elsewhere in the church body where the saints suffered financial hardship. Paul made mention of the situation to the various churches he planted. The Macedonians had suffered as a whole themselves in recent years. There had been four civil wars in recent history, and the area was struggling to provide for their own basic needs.
Paul did not expect much help to come from the Macedonians, because they didn’t have much from which to give. Paul even states it is wrong for someone to place a burden upon themselves in order to give relief to others. But, to Paul’s surprise, the Macedonians desired to give and gave generously. They gave far more than Paul thought possible. So Paul brags about them to the Corinthians.
The concept here is not really about the money though. Paul is commenting on the hearts and spiritual development of the Macedonian churches. They had been churches of poverty in the physical sense. Wars had destroyed much of their resources. But, Paul shows the Macedonian people as spiritually mature and spiritually wealthy. They walked in the footsteps of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor so that you by his poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9). The Churches of Macedonia had grown in grace, grown in knowledge, and grown in their love for other believers in Christ. They gave to those in need because they could not think of not giving. Their love for others moved them to act.
Paul shares this as a positive example for the Corinthians to follow. It wasn’t to shame them, but to spur them on in the same direction. And so it is for us. Do we have the same heart as the churches of Macedonia? Do we have love and a generous heart toward saints in need? Even when we don’t have much, do we reach out to brothers and sisters with what we do have? Paul assures us, as he did the Corinthians, that we can. It is an area that should develop as we grow toward spiritual perfection. Paul says: “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also” (II Cor. 8:7).