Those “Strange” Macedonians

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: II Corinthians 8:1-5


I.         Have you felt a little strange lately?

            A.        It is human nature to want to be liked by others.

                        1.         As a result, we will modify our behavior to fit in with those around us.

                        2.         You’ll see teens dressing in similar fashion to those they consider to be friends because they want to fit in.

            B.        Yet, some groups aren’t worth becoming one of - Proverbs 1:10

            C.        People don’t like people who don’t fit in - I Peter 4:1-5

            D.        As Christians, we stand out as lights in the world - Philippians 2:14-16

            E.        That means Christians don’t always fit the world’s expectations

                        1.         We aren’t different just to be different

                        2.         We’re different because our goals are different.

II.        Paul tells about a group of Christians who were different, even among Christians - II Corinthians 8:1-5

            A.        There are lessons to be learned from the Macedonians that we should take note of.

            B.        Here are Christians from a poverty stricken region, who begged for the privilege to help less fortunate Christians in another region. From their meager resources, they gave generously, beyond what Paul thought was possible, pleading that it be taken for others.

            C.        The New Testament tells us of at least three congregations in Macedonian: Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.

                        1.         Paul answered a call to help the Macedonians - Acts 16:9

                        2.         Now, years later, the Macedonians desired to help others

            D.        Many lukewarm Christians might be tempted to label these Christians as “fanatics,” or perhaps “reckless” with their money.

                        1.         Certainly it appears that the Corinthians in comparison were more cautious and conservative with their funds.

                        2.         Yet it was the Corinthians who were urged to imitate the Macedonians.

III.       How the Macedonians were Different

            A.        A Victorious People

                        1.         II Corinthians 8:2 - These people did not allow the oppressive circumstances they found themselves in to rob them of what they desired to do.

                        2.         They were greatly afflicted

                                    a.         Because Paul and Silas freed a woman from a demon in Philippi, they were attacked - Acts 16:17-23

                                    b.         In Thessalonica, the Jews stirred up a mob - Acts 17:5-9

                                    c.         They suffered a good deal of persecution for their beliefs - I Thessalonians 1:6-7

                                    d.         They were troubled by others - II Thessalonians 1:6-7

                                    e.         Being a Christian in this region was not easy, but the Macedonians endured.

                        3.         They were extremely poor

                                    a.         The phrasing here is that of people at the bottom of the economic ladder. They weren’t simply poor, but very poor.

                                    b.         Persecuted and poor. That would destroy the faith of a number today, but not these brethren.

                                    c.         How easy it would be to use these as excuses not to help at this time.

                                                (1)       Suffering does make some people self-centered and hardens them against the needs of others.

                                                (2)       They could have written the brethren in Judea and said, we certain understand what you are going through. We’re having a tough time of it too. But they didn’t

            B.        A Willing People

                        1.         II Corinthians 8:3 - No one had to beg them to help others. They weren’t pressured to give, they gave because they wanted to give.

                        2.         The Greek word for “willingly” is authairetos, which means self-chosen or voluntarily.

                                    a.         They didn’t need someone to preach passionate sermons to stir up their emotions.

                                    b.         No one was expecting this impoverished region to be able to give much, if at all.

                                    c.         They heard of the need and voluntarily chose to give

                        3.         There are people, who in their wealth, enjoy having people coming to them begging favors of them, but the Macedonians were not like these. They were people humbled by poverty who saw giving to others a privilege.

                        4.         The widow’s mites - Luke 21:1-4

                                    a.         She willingly gave all she had, small though the amount may have been.

            C.        A Wise People

                        1.         Giving wasn’t a painful duty but a precious privilege to the Macedonians

                        2.         They understood Jesus’ teaching - Luke 6:38

                                    a.         Giving isn’t a necessary evil.

                                    b.         It is a gift that gives more in return

                        3.         They didn’t offer excuses

                                    a.         It’s too far away. Shouldn’t charity begin at home? We have people here who need help.

                                                (1)       The problem is that people who use this excuse rarely concern themselves with the needs in their backyard.

                                    b.         Or that they were too impoverished to send money. No, they saw a chance to do good and jumped at it.

                        4.         They understood that God would take care of them - Matthew 6:31-34

            D.        A Joyful People

                        1.         Again notice II Corinthians 8:2

                        2.         The Macedonians did not let circumstances shape their attitude.       

                                    a.         They weren’t defeated by affliction or poverty. They rose above it.

                        3.         It is interesting that letters to the Macedonians talk much about joy

                                    a.         Philippians 1:9-11, 25-26

                                    b.         I Thessalonians 1:6-8

            E.        A Generous People

                        1.         The Macedonians exceeded all expectations.

                                    a.         From a human viewpoint, they gave more than they were able to give.

                                    b.         But because of their trust in God, they were willing to deprive themselves to help others

                        2.         The miser begrudges the little he lets slip out - Proverbs 23:6-8

                                    a.         He might give, but it brings him no joy

                                    b.         The Macedonians were the opposite. They gave -- they gave a lot – and it brought them great joy.

                        3.         The woman with the alabaster jar - Mark 14:3-9

                                    a.         Notice that she did what she could.

                                    b.         It isn’t the amount, but whether you joyful do what you can

                        4.         Giving was a character of the early Christians - Acts 4:34-35

            F.        A Self-Sacrificing People

                        1.         They first gave of themselves - II Corinthians 8:5

                        2.         The reason the Macedonians stood out had little to do with their financial gift. That was more of a side-effect of what truly made them special.

                                    a.         They gave God an even bigger gift of themselves - Romans 12:1-2

                                    b.         It is God whom we serve - Romans 6:13

                                    c.         As a result we honor God - Proverbs 3:9

                        3.         God isn’t looking for your money

                                    a.         He doesn’t need anything from us - Psalms 50:8-15

                                    b.         He does more for us than we can ever do for Him - Ephesians 3:20-21

                        4.         But when you put God first, blessings come - Proverbs 19:17; 10:22

IV.      The Macedonians weren’t so much strange as different from what people would expect them to behave

            A.        They weren’t caught up in this world, but in the world to come

            B.        You might be concerned about the Macedonian’s hardships and their poverty, but you need not worry

                        1.         They were immeasurably rich in the only things that matter – spiritual things.

                        2.         They were rich in their liberality

            C.        God’s grace was given to them - II Corinthians 8:1

Based on articles by Bonds Stocks

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