Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts.
I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could - far more than they could afford! -
pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.
This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.
That's what prompted us to ask Titus to bring the relief offering to your attention, so that what was so well begun could be finished up.
You do so well in so many things - you trust God, you're articulate, you're insightful, you're passionate, you love us - now, do your best in this, too.
I'm not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians' enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you.
You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us - in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.
So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale.
Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it.
Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't. The heart regulates the hands.
This isn't so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you're shoulder to shoulder with them all the way,
your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even.
As it is written, Nothing left over to the one with the most, Nothing lacking to the one with the least.
I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have.
He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea.
We're sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message.
But there's far more to him than popularity. He's rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God's gifts to honor God as well as we can,
taking every precaution against scandal.