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2 Corinthians‬ ‭8:1-2‬ ‭NASB:

“Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”

How can we understand all the pieces in verse two? How did the Macedonians’ deep poverty overflow in the wealth of their liberality (or “simplicity,” the literal meaning I’m seeing in the Greek)? I’m also a bit confused as to why Paul mentions their abundance of joy and deep poverty together, almost as one unit? I don’t know if I’m just getting tripped up by the translation into English, here. ‭‭

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Here is the BLB translation of 2 Cor 8:2b (which I judge quite good here)

that in much proof of tribulation, the abundance of their joy and of their deep poverty abounded into the riches of their generosity.

To better understand the force of this verse let me set it differently:

Paul suggests that the churches in Macedonia had two characteristics:

  • abundant joy
  • deep poverty

These created/caused them to react in a way that is described as:

the riches of their generosity (literally simplicity and graciousness)

That is, Paul appears to be saying that because the Macedonian church understood hardships created by their poverty, AND because of their great Christian joy (presumably founded in Christ and His salvation) they became very generous (compare Rom 12:8) and were willing to help by giving; this, despite their great poverty.

The Cambridge commentary says this:

the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26. “In spite of their troubled condition they had displayed great joyfulness, and in spite of their poverty they had displayed great liberality.” De Wette. The Geneva Version instead of ‘deep poverty’ has the poverty which had consumed them even to the very bottom. The literal rendering of deep is down to the depth, or according to depth. “Munificence,” says Chrysostom, “is determined not by the measure of what is given, but by the mind of those who bestow it.” Cf. Luke 21:3. “The condition of Greece in the time of Augustus was one of great desolation and distress … It had suffered severely by being the seat of the successive civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, between the triumvirs and Brutus and Cassius, and lastly, between Augustus and Antonius … The provinces of Macedonia and Achaia petitioned in the reign of Tiberius for a diminution of their burdens, and were considered deserving of compassion.” Arnold’s Roman Commonwealth. Corinth (see Introduction to First Epistle), from its position, would no doubt recover more speedily from such a condition of depression.

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