by James A. Fowler
If Christian giving is grace-giving which expresses the Divine character in and through us, and that as we discern the specifics of God's will in accordance with the means that He has supplied and entrusted to us, then Christian giving is but the overflow of God's supply.
Paul speaks of the Macedonian Christians indicating that "in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality" (II Cor. 8:2). This is not to say that when we have "enough" or "too much" or are "over-full" with the material things God has entrusted to us, that we then over-flow in giving unto others. Who is to determine how much is "enough" or "too much?" One of the members of the Rockefeller family is reported to have been asked, "How much is enough?" The reply was, "Just a little bit more than I now have." Our selfish perspective can never determine how much is enough in terms of physical and materials things. It is God's prerogative to determine the "how much" of what He entrusts to us.
The abundance out of which we overflow in Christian giving is the abundance that is ours in Christ Jesus. It is spiritual abundance, and every Christian has that kind of abundance! In II Corinthians 8:2 Paul refers to "abundance of joy." In II Corinthians 8:7 he writes, "you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, (therefore) you should abound (same root word as "overflow" in vs. 2) in this grace also." In Jesus Christ we have everything God has to give. We have spiritual abundance. We have "every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:3). "All things belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God" (I Cor. 3:21-23).
What we have in Jesus Christ is the basis of Christian giving. The spiritual abundance we have in Him will of necessity flow out and overflow unto others. That is what is meant by "the overflow of Christian giving." It is not just giving out of the overflow of our assets, but the overflowing, outgoing action of God's grace in and through us.
Christians often fail to recognize the "riches" that are theirs in Christ. In II Cor. 8:9 Paul points the Corinthians to Christ saying, "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." It is not that we become rich materially, necessarily, but we become rich with the spiritual riches that are ours in Jesus Christ. To the Ephesians Paul refers to "the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7) and "the unfathomable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8). Those are the riches that cause us to overflow in Christian giving. As the chorus says, "Freely, freely, you have received; freely, freely give."
The Macedonian Christians in II Cor. 8:2 were not rich materially; instead they were in "deep poverty," but they "overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." We could translate those words, "they overflowed in the richness of their not aspiring to be rich." They were content with their riches in Christ, and out of such they overflowed in Christian giving.
©1999 by James A. Fowler
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