We live in a transactional society. We pay. We get. It’s always supposed to be fair and even. But it rarely happens that way. So, we try to get paid top dollar or get more from our money than is fair to the seller. But then Jesus came to earth and obliterated that mindset. He came to die on behalf of sinners who can never repay the debt we owe.
With the gospel in mind, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to teach about giving, generosity, blessing and how to make a difference in the lives of others. Living in an agricultural society, he used the image of sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting.
The physical reality is that a seed can become something more, but you must let it go and plant it in the ground so that it grows. Otherwise, it remains just a single seed. Our possessions are no different. What you keep is all you have. What you give, God multiplies. God uses this principle to teach believers about the faith involved and the results that come from our giving.
- Giving with a cheerful heart is an attitude of faith.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” When we are reluctant, we show a lack of faith in God, as if He cannot provide for us. When we give out of necessity, we display a legalistic faith in self: I can make something happen by my giving.
The believer should give with a glad heart because it is a response to God. We don’t obligate Him to act when we financially give. Our motivation for giving is rooted in the work that God has already done. It is an act of faith in God’s goodness. God gave first and we are empowered by His grace to give back.
- God’s grace is sufficient for your needs and your holiness.
Paul then stated in verses 8-11, “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. As it is written: ‘He scattered; He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.”
Our big question is often: What will we harvest out of our planting? We want to know what all of this giving produces. The verses make clear that God can supply our needs, but not necessarily our wants. When we withhold, we act out of fear that God is incapable of caring for us. But I think the greater emphasis in these verses is that God will “increase the harvest of your righteousness” (v. 10). Faithful giving results in spiritual growth. It prepares us and gives us a means to grow in the righteous character we’ve inherited through Christ. If you wish to grow in faith and holiness, then give.
- The result of your faithful giving is ministry to those in need.
Paul goes on to write in verses 12-14, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. They will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others through the proof provided by this service. And they will have deep affection for you in their prayers on your behalf because of the surpassing grace of God in you.”
Our collective generosity as a church does so much more than we can imagine. Giving provides for the needs of others. Giving produces thankfulness in others. Giving strengthens the relationships we have with others. Giving is a Kingdom investment that bears fruit now and eternally. Our giving provides for the needs of others — the hungry, families in crisis, church staff — and the means of gospel witness to the community.
My call for us is threefold:
- Giving is a response to grace, not an act motivated by guilt. If you give because of guilt, stop, because living that way is poison to the soul. Embrace grace.
- Tithing provides a means of holy living. Rich Mullins once wrote in a song, “The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the giver of all good things.” Giving is an act of faith and a means of maturing in the faith.
- Financial generosity allows us to display the eternal reality of the gospel message. Paul said in verse 15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” Our giving points to the gospel. We give because of it, through the power of it, to display it, and to make new avenues to talk about it.