Beyond Your Ability

The story is told of a lawyer and businessman who were making a tour of a foreign land and were being guided by a missionary, who also served as their interpreter. “That’s an odd picture. I suppose they are terribly poor,” the businessman said, pointing to some workers in a field.

“That’s the family of ChiNou,” the guide answered. “When the church building was being erected they were eager to give but had no money. So they sold the one ox they had and give the money. This spring they are pulling the plow themselves.”

For several moments there was an uneasy silence. Finally the businessman spoke: “That must have been a real sacrifice.”

“No, they didn’t call it a sacrifice,” said the preacher. “They thought it was fortunate they had an ox to sell.”

The apostle Paul wrote about the brethren in Macedonia: “that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:2-5). Paul was using the Macedonian brethren to inspire the Corinthian brethren to give toward the needy saints in Judea.

God speaking through an apostle encouraged His children to give by letting them see the diligence of others who gave toward His work. He didn’t want to command them to give but rather touch the sincerity of love that was in their hearts which would move them to give (2 Cor. 8:8).

There are some principles that are given in God’s word that will help us in our giving to His work. We are guided to give as we are prospered (1 Cor. 16:2), to give according to what we have (2 Cor. 8:12), to give generously, bountifully, purposefully, cheerfully and not grudgingly or of necessity (2 Cor. 9:5-7). In the New Testament, the Lord does not designate an amount as He did in the Old Testament. Surely, ten percent if at all possible would be a good starting point (Heb. 7:2).

Have you evaluated your giving? Based on the Biblical principles listed above, we all need to sit down and consider what we put in the offering plate each Sunday, and what we do to help with special requests for help. If the followers of Christ in the illustration above did not think selling their ox was a sacrifice -- what do you think would have been a sacrifice for them?

We may not know the answer to that question, but we do know that most of us have not come close to that kind of giving. May God help us to be givers who give beyond our ability! (Thanks to Don Truex for the illustration on giving an ox)

By Ron Drumm

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