Giving 'Til It Hurts Feels Good

By Joey Fernandez

          It is said that a tragedy brings out the worst and the best in people. In this tragedy called COVID-19, one of the most inconsiderate things I saw was that of thoughtless people buying alcohol sanitizers like crazy to protect themselves from the virus, not realizing that even if they swim in a pool of alcohol, they can still catch the virus from someone who wasn't able to buy any because the greedy gobbled it all up. To balance this, God in His mercy and wisdom, also allowed me to see an outpouring of kindness and generosity.


          Since the quarantine started, our senior neighbor who lives alone suddenly did not need to go out to buy daily necessities. Her young distant relative found out that seniors will be among the hardest hit by the virus and so just decided to show up every few days to bring her food and meds. The couple who lives right next to her also knocks on her door from time to time to give her some bread or a home-cooked dish. I read similar stories of kind hearts on my friends' FB posts: A couple who helped a stranger buy more groceries than he can afford so that he brought home to his family a huge bag instead of just a kilo of rice and 2 cans of sardines; rank and file employees with meager salaries gladly chipping in and assembling homemade PPEs so that medical front liners can be given some much needed protection from the virus; and many other stories that warm your heart to build up your respect for your fellow Filipinos.

          The kindness brought about by this crisis reminds me of how Christians should be in the forefront of genuine generosity in times of other people's needs. Not the generosity that comes bundled with a camera and a social media post displaying your act of kindness, but the one shown by the Macedonian churches who pleaded for the chance to give liberally amid their deep poverty. Generous and gracious giving must be an attitude developed by every Christian.

2 Corinthians 8

[1] Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, [2] that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. [3] For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, [4] begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, [5] and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

          One must look at the language Paul used to describe the hearts of the Macedonian church to realize how selfless they were. He used strong words to describe them. As if poverty was not bad enough, Paul had to use "deep poverty". They did not only go through affliction but a "great ordeal of affliction". The tone he used made it appear that the Macedonians themselves should have been candidates for relief. And yet, they pleaded with Paul to be part of the work of the saints! The "wealth of their liberality overflowed" as they gave with an "abundance of joy".

          Could someone this poor possibly be so generous? Paul gives us the answer in the first verse of the passage when he said: "the grace of God has been given in the churches of Macedonia...", and that grace enabled them to give. A solid indicator of saving grace is the desire to give generously to those in need, and one who has no desire to give exposes his own selfish heart and raises doubts about his own faith. Christian giving is motivated by God’s grace. It is not just an act of obedience and worship.

          If you look at giving as just another obligation, what separates you from the "hypocritical scribes and Pharisees who tithe but neglect the weightier provisions of the Law" (Mt 23:23)? If you give out of your excess, you’re probably just a little better than your neighbor who puts his unwanted but still valuable things in the trash. The dividing line is found in sacrifice. The Macedonian church gave voluntarily, but more importantly they gave sacrificially. They gave themselves to the Lord FIRST and then to Lord’s work through Paul. They considered others more important than themselves. Because of their giving, they will forever be remembered as the most selfless church in biblical history. So prominent that they were immortalized in God's timeless Word by the Apostle Paul himself and became known as the models of selfless Christian giving.

          The Lord knows that we all are suffering from this prolonged enhanced quarantine. Some of us have probably started to worry. What if provisions run out? Even with the grace period given by billers, how can bills on top of the other be settled? These are legitimate questions for heads of families. What separates the Christian from the world is that he has faith in his Savior. Faith that God is the Provider of the home and not himself. Faith that God will supply his every need and that Scripture has repeatedly declared that one cannot out give God.

          There is a reason why God allows us to read inspiring stories of acts of kindness and generosity, and it is not for us to be just entertained. It is to encourage us to be generous givers and to enjoy the blessings that God promises to His obedient children. You don't have to help everyone. Like the Macedonians, give "according to your ability" and if possible, even "beyond your ability". Look around and see if you have a neighbor who may be in need. Open your eyes and heart to that friend who may be struggling but may not have the courage to ask for aid. If you are blessed to still have a job or business, be sensitive to the needs of your church and exert every effort to send your tithes and offerings. Keep in mind that the church continues to operate daily and takes care of her members in need. Remember our pastors and workers who live by faith and trust that God will use people like us to care for their families after they made a vow to serve Him full-time.

          I pray that you will read 2 Cor 8, meditate on it, and ask God for the courage to respond in obedience and faith. Then, be encouraged by Solomon's wisdom when he wrote: The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered (Proverbs 11:25).