remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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. 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. as it is written: “they have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” [2 corinthians 9:6-9]
paul, knowing that hearts are not naturally inclined to give, reminds us that even nature reflects a reality–if we put little seed in the ground, it yields little fruit, and if we put much seed in ground it yields much fruit. often, these verses are used to affirm the error of the prosperity gospel: that if we sow your money to the ministry, that we as individuals will be rewarded with material wealth in abundance. that assuredly is not what paul is promising here.
instead, what he is encouraging is that while God does not need “our”money, time, energy, prayers, etc., he does use the means of “our” money, time, energy and prayers in order to achieve his glorious ends. the soil of God’s purposes is fertile! oh that we had the boldness and kindness to steward our resources in such a way that showed trust in his sovereign purposes!
paul’s tells us how we should give:
- as we have decided in our hearts: out of our abundance! planned! purposed! just as paul had exhorted the corinthians in 1 corinthians 16:1-2, to set aside money each week, we should budget and be strategic in the ways that we have decided to give. not strategic and wise in a worldly way, but in God’s kingdom advancing way–giving recklessly! this doesn’t happen by accident, but by decision!
- not reluctantly: it is the natural inclination of our hearts to say “mine!” when confronted with the loss of stuff, time, resources. you know this if you have spent any time with a 2-year-old. if you are 12, 22, 52, 72 or 92, you now have had decades for that attitude to take root in your flesh, and deep down you are no different than that toddler. paul desperately wants the corinthians and us to not feel that feeling, he wants us to let go, to live with open hands, and to rightly say to God- “thine!” what a freedom to give without reluctance! it is why Jesus taught us to pray “thy will be done!” [matthew 6:10] it is God’s will to give to us, so that we might give to others!
- not under compulsion: we all have been manipulated into giving–(erin wrote of this two days ago, if you haven’t read it, go back and do it!)–paul has zero desire to wrongfully guilt or pressure or exact any money from those who do not want to freely give.
- cheerfully: why does God love a cheerful giver? it is important to ensure our theology is consistent here. God does not love a cheerful giver because of the giver’s gift–God loves a cheerful giver because God loved us and gave to us first [1 john 4:19]. If we abide in him [john 15:4], if we are his [isaiah 43:1], if he lives in us [colossians 1:27], if we are pursuing him [psalm 40:16], if we are in his presence [psalm 16:11] we cannot but overflow and reflect the joy he has for his great name and our good through our giving. giving should not feel like a heavy burden [matthew 11:28-30], it is for our joy! God himself is the most cheerful of givers! he has given us all things in his Son! [romans 8:32]
paul finishes with a promise–read it again:
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. as it is written:
“they have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.” [2 corinthians 9:8-9]
God will take care of us. he sees us. he knows our financial situations. he knows we have student loan debt. mortgages. rent. medical bills. he knows we feel guilt and shame about poor financial decisions. but like other mistakes and other sin, it does not condemn us. we should run to Jesus. we should push in, push forward and seek joyful obedience by the Holy Spirit. we will have what we need. when we give freely, lovingly, cheerfully, we demonstrate our joy in Christ, and thus point to Christ’s ever enduring righteousness!
oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! [1 chronicles 16:34]