“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” (2 Corinthians 8:1–2, KJV)
In 2000, a film titled “Pay it Forward” emphasized a movement that swept the nation. It was not a new idea but one that had been forgotten. The plot of the movie involved a boy, Trever McKinney who was in the seventh grade. He had a class assignment to put into action something that would change the world for the better. The basic idea was that people would take the good done to them and in turn bless three others with the same blessing they received. In the movie there are scenes of the human drama played out showing both success and tragedy. Then again, many people were blessed by the principle of paying it forward.
In Christian circles, I heard much about this principle in something called Servant Evangelism. The idea was to bless others. In this, it was suggested to purchase coffee for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop, or a meal for the one behind you in the fast-food restaurant. I cannot remember the exact situation, but I remember someone doing this for me. Yes, it was a blessing. In the context of our relationship with Christ, to pay it forward has a greater significance and power. It is the power of God’s grace.
In these two verses, Paul wrote of this principle. While he did not use the phrase “pay it forward,” he did in thought. Paul had visited and founded churches in Macedonia. He presented to them the message of God’s grace through which by faith in Christ they were saved. The grace God bestowed on them was not in vain. They paid it forward.
Paul indicated that they, because of the abundance of God’s grace, gave even though they experienced hardship. They, because of their relationship with Christ had experienced “a great trial of affliction.” What these believers went through would have turned anyone living in the flesh to retreat from the faith. However, this is not what happened. God’s amazing grace was so manifested in their lives that no hardship would kill their joy. Their relationship with Jesus produced great joy.
Moreover, the believers in these churches experienced “deep poverty.” Though they had very little according to the standards of the world, they were extremely rich because of their relationship with God. Their experience of the riches of heaven produced a heart filled with generosity. Thus, “their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” As they received the grace of God through Paul’s ministry, they abundantly blessed him with the resources he needed. They received abundant grace and paid it forward with generosity.
Every believer has been blessed with God’s amazing grace. We, of all people, have the ability to pay it forward. As we have received grace, by His grace may we be a blessing to others. It may be in meeting the material needs of others. Yet it may also be by meeting the emotional needs by being a support in times of need. We also have the ability to bless by telling others about the grace they can experience by faith in Christ alone. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10, KJV)