“Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” 2 Corinthians 8:1–2 (NLT)
I returned home a few days ago from a 12 day mission’s trip to Mexico. Although Paul was speaking of the churches in Macedonia, what he says here is equally applicable to many of the churches and people in Mexico. I saw that generosity does not necessarily flow out of the abundance of material possessions, but instead it flows out of hearts that are filled with abundant joy.
It was an honor to travel with Roger Tomlinson of Dayspring Outreach Ministries, Pastor Robert Whitecotton of Norwalk Connecticut along with two Mexican pastors, Manuel and José. We covered over 2600 miles in six states traveling south into the state of Oaxaca. Roger takes seriously the call to take the gospel “to the ends of the earth.” Some of the churches that we visited were in very remote locations and we traveled long distances over very poor roads to reach them. Some of the pastors live on the equivalent of less than \$100 per month and yet they exhibited such generosity and appreciation toward us.
I don’t know if all of the believers in Mexico are as generous and joyful as the ones that we met, but nevertheless, I was challenged and encouraged to follow their example. I have heard people say that they will be generous in the future when they have an abundance of wealth or possessions, but the ones that we met were generous even though they had very little. Jesus said to the church in Smyrna: “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich!” Revelation 2:9a (NLT). They may be poor in terms of worldly wealth and yet they exhibited riches in love and joy.
These poor people exhibited riches of joy and generosity and yet most of us will not strive to be like them, but instead we desire to possess earthly riches and often we will show deference to the wealthy. “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” James 2:5–6 (NIV)
The bottom line is this: it does not require wealth to be joyful and generous. There is possibly no correlation between wealth or poverty and generosity or joy because there are rich people who are generous and joyful and there are those in poverty who are sad and stingy, but whether we have much or we have little, let us decide to be joyful and generous. It is how to be truly rich.