2 Corinthians 9: 6 – 15
6 Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures for ever.’[a]
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
- A blessings to give –We need to start giving from the space of blessing and thanksgiving remembering how God has blessed us. The Greek word here is eulogeias meaning literally “with blessings” and the use of the plural is intended to denote abundance. This is the same word Paul uses in verse 5 for the gift the Corinthians should send to Jerusalem. The decision to give and to give freely and gladly to the collection is like sowing a seed which will produce an abundant crop at harvest time. We give not to receive but because it is a blessing to do this. The English translation “decide” reflects firstly Paul’s use of “heart” (kardia), which in ancient thought is the seat of decision making not of emotion. In addition Paul uses the verb proērētai (prioritise) to denote the pre-planned nature of this giving.
- Cheerfully/ hilariously -Paul then asserts that giving should not be reluctantly or under compulsion but as a cheerful giver. The Greek word for cheerful is “hilaron” from the word “hilarious”. At first sight this command to cheerful giving can sound like the familiar parental instructions to a child “…and do it with a smile on your face!” Two things need to be considered. The first is that the decision to give lies with the individual. Paul has consistently underlined that there is no compulsion beyond the obligation of grace itself. Secondly 2 Cor 9:1-5 it is in the nature of planned giving that it makes possible a sustained and joyful response. It is last minute scrabbling for funds that breeds resentment and joyless giving
- Sowing seed. The way Paul uses this farming imagery is crucial. The emphasis is on the heart of the sower, not the need to be met nor the promise of the harvest that is reaped. We need to distinguish between the gift and the giver. Pressing financial need puts the gift itself at centre stage. But mature fundraising and biblical stewardship is always about nurturing the giver and this is Paul’s focus here. Now sowing is always in some field and the ministry of the church is one of the fields in which we are to sow. There are fully legitimate financial needs within our church that need to be clearly articulated but we must become more skilled in presenting that need in terms of ministry and lives changed. All too often there is too much focus on the needs of the church as an institution, the need to pay the bills.
It is God the abundant provider who provides the seed we scatter. Paul’s language trips over itself trying to express this abundance of God using the verb “abound” (perissuein) used earlier in chapter 8 and the pregnant phrase “in all things, always, everywhere”.
Any sparse sowing is not because there is no seed, but because of possible lack of trust in the heart of the sower or the desire to hold on .The emphasis is on the heart of the sower not the promise of the harvest that is reaped.
- Holding on vs letting go – But in the economics of grace to hold on to what we have is to receive little blessing in return. God’s provision means we will have enough to live and enough to give and share in every good work. The abundance of God is not given simply so that we will have enough to live on but so that we can be generous in every good work. To have sufficiency is to have the freedom to give not the freedom to hoard, to retain and to possess. Paul uses the same word, autarkeia, to mean contentment in Phil 4:11. Knowing how to be content with what we have gives us the freedom to be able to give and not to keep what has been given to ourselves.
- Living expenses – 3 buckets -us bucket, giving bucket, dream bucket.
Before we can decide how much to give we have to know how much we need to live on. This is not just a matter for careful budgeting (though that is important) it is also about an inner contentment. Mature stewardship is an enormously liberating experience, the recognition of receiving gladly and sharing gladly, finding a contentment whether in surplus or short supply. The abundance of God’s giving is not a green light to the accumulation of riches but an invitation into the economy of receiving and giving, which is at the heart of the Kingdom of God.
Stewardship is inextricably linked with spirituality and is never reducible to how much I can get away with giving. We should also note that the obligation to extend and share grace through our giving rests upon all Christian people, whatever their personal circumstances. They must make an appropriate response for themselves. It is wrong to assume on behalf of others in our churches that they cannot afford to give. It is spiritually damaging to deny access to the economy of grace by failing to nurture generous givers.
- A Harvest of Grace
What is the harvest that giving reaps. Clearly we cannot exclude financial blessing because this is precisely what the Jerusalem Christians would receive. But to find in these verses a crude promise of financial reward for speculative giving is to miss the entire point of Paul’s teaching. Giving is a response to grace received; it is God centred stewardship not an extension of the consumer culture. Our sowing is not for want of seed, but for want of trust in the heart of the sower.
- Heart, time and money – Paul ends with an acknowledgement of praise and glory to God who is both the source and the goal of life giving grace. There is so much talent in this church and we need to find ways to be giving of our hearts, our time and our money.
The tough question is: how are you sowing – richly or reluctantly? The promise in this passage is that God will multiply what you sow back to you in everything – not just in money, or even spiritual blessing but also in the gift of contentment, of peace of heart and mind. The challenge is that we need to sow before we can reap. There is a domino effect in giving; when we learn to give, precisely because money is so close and important to us that it releases lots of other areas of our lives. Are we ready to put God to the test (Malachi 3:10), to trust his promises? A second tough question might be: Which field are you sowing in: your field or God’s? We cannot separate money from lifestyle. If all that we have is sown in the field of our own personal choices and satisfaction then we miss out on the blessing twice. Once because no matter how much we sow in our own field it will never be enough. Secondly because there will be so little left to be sown in God’s field and therefore so little spiritual harvest to be enjoyed.
Paul said that deciding to give, to be involved in the collection was a test of the faith of the Corinthians. I can give my time and my talents to the ministry of the church but the acid test is whether I will give my money as well. In truth, those who give most generously will give of all three together, in proportion to what God has given to them.
We are going to spend some time now prayerfully considering what we need to pledge between the Lord and ourselves.
- WESLEY QUOTES:
“EARN ALL YOU CAN, SAVE ALL YOU CAN, GIVE ALL YOU CAN”.
“Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?” ― John Wesley