2 Corinthians 9:6-15: The Joy of Generous Giving (Part 2)
2 Corinthians 9:6-15: The Joy of Generous Giving (Part 2)
Our Scripture reading this morning comes from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. It says,
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
May God bless the reading of his Word.
Let’s pray: Father, we’re gathered around this text of Scripture today because we want to hear from you. And we want to hear from you because we want to know you more and love your more and be more conformed to your image. So, please, bless our efforts and glorify your name. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
This morning, I’ll be sharing part two of a two-part message that we started last week entitled “The Joy of Generous Giving.” We’re looking at this subject in conjunction with our church’s “Season of Giving,” as we’re calling it, for some much-needed renovations on our building. We purchased this building almost two years ago and have been occupying it since last November, but most of the building is still only in a semi-usable condition—especially downstairs. So we want to transform this building into a place where people will feel comfortable and welcomed and that will be conducive to gospel ministry for years to come. Yet, as you might expect, these renovations will cost a lot of money. So, we’ve designated this season as a Season of Giving for these renovations and are asking the people of our church to prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you give.
Yet, the purpose of these two messages from 2 Corinthians 8-9 isn’t just to highlight the Season of Giving but also to help disciple the people of our church—especially those who are younger in the faith—in this very important aspect of the Christian life—how to relate to money in a way that pleases God.
And as I’ve been thinking about this subject of handling money in a God-pleasing way these past couple of weeks, the Lord’s really impressed on my heart the need for us to have our thinking about this subject shaped not by the prevailing norms of contemporary culture but rather by the timeless truths of the Bible. Unfortunately, the surrounding culture has a way of relentlessly pressing us into its mold.
One aspect of that mold, in many cases, is to view money as a key validation of our personal worth and to find our significance in our wealth. For example, how many of the purchases that we as a society make are driven in large part by a desire to signal to others how wealthy we are and the kinds of things we can supposedly afford? From the cars we drive to the clothes we wear, so much of it is viewed as desirable because of the message it sends—the message that we’re wealthy. You may have seen the news story that came out a couple of weeks ago about the company that’s basically selling an $1800 trash bag. This online luxury retailer called Balenciaga is selling what it calls a “Trash Pouch” that’s made of calfskin leather and comes in several colors, including black, white, blue, and yellow. Now, why would any sane person spend $1800 on a glorified trash bag? Well, keep in mind that this “Trash Pouch” does feature Balenciaga’s logo—presumably so that your elite influencer friends can be reminded of the kinds of items you’re able to afford.
Now, thankfully, I haven’t seen anyone in our church carrying around any trash bags as accessories yet—though if you’d like one, we do have a few trash bags in the closet back there—but it’s nevertheless very easy to fall into this mentality of seeking to find our significance in our wealth. Don’t think you’re immune to that tendency just because you’ve never shopped at Balenciaga.
Yet, maybe you’re here this morning and can honestly say that you don’t care much at all about how wealthy other people perceive you to be. Maybe you drive a vehicle that’s fifteen years old and buy your clothes at Walmart and really have no interest in appearing wealthy. You have nothing to prove and no one to impress. Now, that’s good, but you may fall into another common error related to money. And that is to look to money as your source of security. Even though you may not find your significance in money, you may find your security in money. Instead of looking to God to take care of you and provide for your needs, your confidence is ultimately in the money in your bank account or 401k or whatever it is.
Perhaps your unspoken mentality, patterned after Psalm 23 is, “Money is my shepherd; I shall not want. It allows me to lie down in my wonderful Tempur-Pedic. It leads me to acquire waterfront property beside some nice still waters. And, as long as I manage to hang onto it, it will restore my soul. It leads me in paths of prosperity for my own sake. Even though I walk through the valley of an uncertain economy, I will fear no evil, for my money is with me; its interest and its dividends, they comfort me. My money prepares a table before me in the presence of my envious neighbors; it anoints my life with such pleasant luxuries; my 401(k) overflows. Surely prosperity and security shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in a really nice house forever.”
Now, obviously, that little parody I wrote might be a bit of an exaggeration. But it nevertheless represents the sort of mentality that many of us are tempted to have with regard to money—to look to money as our source of security instead of looking to God.
So those are the two temptations: looking to money for our significance and looking to money for our security. And our main passage this morning of 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 will address both of those temptations and will do so by turning our gaze toward God as our source of both significance and security.
And as we find our significance and security in God, that enables us to hold the earthly blessings he’s given us with open hands and experience the joy of generous giving. And that’s the main idea of this passage—just as it was our main idea last—this week being part two of that message. God invites us to experience the joy of generous giving. And in addition to the six principles for giving that we looked at last week from 2 Corinthians 8, we find an additional four principles here in 2 Corinthians 9. If you were here last week, you may remember that Paul’s writing this to the church of Corinth in order to encourage them to contribute generously to an offering he’s collecting for the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. And he emphasizes these four principles in chapter 9.
Bountiful Sowing Results in Bountiful Reaping
First, bountiful sowing results in bountiful reaping. Bountiful sowing results in bountiful reaping. Paul writes in verse 6, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Now, even if you’re not a farmer, you can still understand this universal rule of agriculture. It’s pretty basic. Sowing less seed will result in a lesser harvest, and sowing more seed will result in a greater harvest. The harvest you reap is directly related to the amount of seed you sow.
Now, one question that often arises with this verse is the question of whether Paul’s referring to a material harvest or simply to a spiritual harvest. Was he telling the Corinthians that, if they gave to this offering generously, they could expect material blessings as a result, or is it best to understand this primarily as a reference to spiritual blessings? And that’s a great question. I believe the verse itself and the context clearly lead us to expect both. There’s no question that spiritual blessings are included, but I believe Paul’s also referring to material blessings as well. And that interpretation is supported by many commentators, including historic commentators like John Calvin and contemporary commentators like John MacArthur. The “harvest” here is most naturally understood to be of the same nature as the seed. You know, if I plant tomato seeds, I don’t expect to eventually harvest green beans; I expect to eventually harvest tomatoes. Similarly, the most natural expectation of sowing material blessings is to reap blessings of that same nature.
We also find support for this interpretation in the context. Looking ahead to verse 11, Paul says to these generous givers, “You will be enriched in every way….” “Every way.” That includes both spiritual enrichment and material enrichment. In addition, look with me at Proverbs 11:24-25. It says, 24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. 25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. Both of those verses seem to be pretty clear references to material wealth. Now, are there exceptions to this? Yes. One foundational rule for interpreting Proverbs is that a proverb isn’t a promise. It’s a general principle that’s true most of the time but not a promise that’s true all of the time.
And I believe that’s the way we should understand Paul’s teaching back in verse 6 of our main passage as well. This teaching that bountiful sowing results in bountiful reaping is best understood as a general principle rather than a promise—at least, as it relates to material wealth. I’m sure that, if you looked hard enough, you could find Christians who have given generously and yet still had their transmission die on them or something like that. But, generally speaking, we can expect bountiful sowing to result in bountiful reaping.
Also, I do want to clarify that Paul’s not presenting this as some sort of “get rich quick” scheme or suggesting that we should give money in any way that’s disconnected from delighting in God himself. That’s going to become increasingly clear as we continue working through this passage. We also need to be very careful to avoid the error of a contemporary movement that’s sometimes called the “Prosperity Gospel,” which teaches that God guarantees us material blessings in this life and also often leads its followers to pursue these material blessings as a central focus in their lives. And that’s a problem, because it draws people into pursuing God’s blessings above God himself.
When I was kid, I had a best friend whose name was Ryan. And Ryan and I would do a lot of fun things together all over the neighborhood—riding bikes, building forts, probably causing some trouble. But one of my favorite things to do with Ryan was to play his Super Nintendo. We could play that thing for hours. And I really liked it because I didn’t have any video games myself. My family wasn’t able to afford them. But I really liked playing Ryan’s video games. And I remember one time, I went over to Ryan’s house to see if he was there, and his dad opened the door and said that Ryan had gone somewhere with his mom. And so, I said, “Oh okay…Would it be alright if still came in and played Ryan’s Super Nintendo?” I was probably like 8 or 9 years old. And his dad looked at me kind of funny and said, “Uhhh, no.” And it was kind of awkward. I didn’t really understand why it was awkward at the time, but now I look back, and it makes a lot more sense. You don’t do that. You’re supposed to hang out with people because you like them, not because you like their stuff.
And it’s the same way with God. He wants us to seek him who for he is, not just for the gifts and blessings he gives. And that’s what makes the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” so heinous. Essentially, it leads people into a terrible form of idolatry in which they delight in God’s gifts more than they do in God himself—exalting the gifts above the Giver. I’ll just say: that’s not Christianity. That’s pagan idolatry baptized with Christian language.
So, that’s an important caveat. However, let’s not allow the abuses and heresies of the Prosperity Gospel movement keep us from recognizing the legitimate teachings of this verse related to material blessings. We can expect bountiful sowing to result in bountiful reaping—not only of spiritual blessings but even of material blessings as well. And I’ll just say that that’s something I’ve experienced in my own life. Becky and I aren’t living in a mansion or driving a Lamborghini or anything like that, but we’ve given considerably above a tithe to the church for as long as we’ve been married, and I can testify that God’s not only provided for us financially but has even prospered us.
And the question sometimes comes up of Christians wondering, “How much should I give? Am I required to give a 10% tithe of my income? And, if so, should I tithe on my gross income or net income?” Well, I believe the Bible’s answer to that question of “How much should I give?” is…“How much do you want to be blessed?” That seems to be the thrust of Paul’s teaching in verse 6.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver
Then, moving forward in the passage, a second principle we find is that God loves a cheerful giver. God loves a cheerful giver. Verse 7: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Now, we already addressed this pretty extensively last week, so I won’t spend much time on it this morning. But I believe it’s important for us to remind ourselves that, in God’s view, the heart behind our giving is everything.
God in no way wants us to give out of a sense of guilt or obligation. Instead, as we see here, he wants us to give cheerfully and as an overflow of the joy we have in Jesus. Last week, we looked at what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:2 about the Christians of Macedonia. He wrote that “their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” You may remember me sharing the picture that comes to my mind as I read that verse of dropping some Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke. Most of us have probably seen or at least heard about what happens when you do that. A chemical reaction occurs, causing the mixture to overflow rather forcefully out of the bottle. The bottle can’t contain what’s inside of it any longer, so it all just overflows. And that’s the dynamic at work in generous giving as well. Jesus stirs up joy in a person’s heart—in the words of this verse, an “abundance” of joy or more joy than they can hold inside them—and that joy then “overflows” in the form of generous giving.
And, going back to verse 7 in our main passage, that’s also the dynamic at work in the “cheerful giver.” The joy of the “cheerful giver” is a joy that comes from Jesus and from receiving his saving grace at conversion and also beholding his glory and experiencing his presence in our daily lives. That’s what fills us with the joy that should motivate our giving. So, practically speaking, as we think about how much we should give, there’s a balance between challenging ourselves to give with greater generosity and yet also limiting ourselves to what we’re able to give with joy.
God Promises to Provide for the Needs of Those Who Give
Moving forward, the third principle is that God promises to provide for the needs of those who give. God promises to provide for the needs of those who give. Look at verses 8-10: 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Focusing first on verse 8, the key phrase for us to notice is “all sufficiency.” If we give generously, God will make sure that we have, as Paul says, “all sufficiency in all things at all times,” with the result that we’re able to “abound in every good work.” In other words, God will supply to generous givers ample material provision so that they’ll have the capacity to do even more of the good works that they’ve already been doing.
We then read in verse 10 that “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” So notice how God will not only “supply…your seed for sowing” but will also “multiply” that seed. You see that? God “supplies” the seed in the form of the initial financial blessings he gives us. Then, we sow that seed in the form of generous giving. And then, as we harvest what we’ve sown, God “multiplies” our seed so that we have even more to sow the next time. So, it’s a wonderful cycle. The more seed we sow, the more of a harvest we’ll reap. And the more of a harvest we reap, the more seed we’ll have to sow again. The idea is that our capacity for generosity grows greater and greater—as does the joy that we experience in generous giving. So, the point is that, if we’ll give generously, we can be confident that God will meet our needs. In the language of verse 8, he’ll give us “all sufficiency,” and in the language of verse 10, he’ll “supply” that “seed.”
So, let me encourage you not to let anxiety about the future keep you from being generous in the present. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with preparing for the future. Proverbs 6 talks about the ant storing up its food in preparation for the winter. However, there’s a difference between storing up enough food for one winter and storing up enough food for ten winters. I once heard a pastor say that there’s a difference between saving up for a rainy day and saving up for a rainy decade. Don’t let anxiety about the future drive your life or keep you from the level of generosity God may be calling you to in the present.
Remember also what Jesus says in Matthew 6:26-30. He tells us, 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?...28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Jesus then concludes with this promise in verse 33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So, both in Matthew 6 and back in 2 Corinthians 9, God promises to provide for the needs of those who give.
God Entrusts Us with Wealth So That We Can Give It Away
Then, finally, the last principle we see is that God entrusts us with wealth so that we can give it away. God entrusts us with wealth so that we can give it away. We already saw this principle to some degree in verses 8-10, but we see it even more clearly in verse 11. Paul writes, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way….” Think about the significance of the word “to” in that verse. “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way….” The “to” indicates the purpose of the enrichment. God doesn’t just enrich us for no reason at all but rather has a specific purpose in mind.
It’s kind of like, in our family, when some of our relatives will send birthday cards to our kids. Most of the time, they’ll include cash in the cards, but sometimes they include a check. And the check, of course, will be made out to either Becky or I because we’re the ones with bank accounts. But, of course, even though the money’s technically directed to us, it’s not ultimately intended for us. It’s for the child who’s having a birthday. It would be an embarrassing breach of trust for us to take that twenty dollars or whatever and use it on ourselves. Similarly, according to this verse, we’ll be “enriched in every way” for a purpose—so that we can “be generous in every way.” The reason God gives us monetary blessings isn’t so that we can hoard all of those blessings for ourselves but rather so that we can use those blessings to be generous. We’re blessed so we can be a blessing. That’s the expectation.
And this goes back to the idea that all of our money actually belongs to God. Ultimately, it isn’t really “our” money but rather is God’s money that he’s temporarily entrusted to us with the expectation that we’ll use it for his glory and according to his instructions. The term that’s often used to communicate this is “stewardship.” We’re not owners of wealth but simply stewards who are charged with using God’s money in accordance with God’s will. Kind of like when you entrust your money to a financial advisor, that advisor isn’t free to do whatever they want with it. If they decide to use your money to take their family on a cruise in the Caribbean, that’s not cool, right? That’s generally frowned upon. There’s a good chance the financial advisor would end up doing some jail time for pulling a stunt like that. Because that money was yours, not theirs, and needed to be managed according to your instructions.
Similarly, the Bible’s clear that God owns every penny we possess. As Psalm 24:1-2 states, 1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Friends, we don’t own anything. It all belongs to God.
So, let’s just acknowledge that this is a major paradigm shift even for many Christians. And the implication for our giving is that we’re not just called to be slightly more generous than we may have been in the past but that our entire mentality toward giving needs to be radically altered—because it rests on the wrong premise. You know, if you start with the wrong premise, you’re going to arrive at the wrong conclusion. Kind of like if you’re lost in the woods and are trying to use a map to find your way out but are mistaken about where you’re presently located on that map. If that’s the case, you’re probably not going to find your way out of the woods any time soon. Starting with the wrong premise results in just about everything you do after that being in error. Similarly, if you start with the misguided premise that you own the money you possess, it’s really going to mess you up when it comes to handling that money in a way that glorifies God.
So the question we should be asking isn’t, “How much of my money do I want to give to God?” but rather “How can I best steward God’s money in a way that glorifies him?” And, as we can see back in verse 11, a key reason why God entrusts us with wealth is so that we can give it away.
So, hopefully these four principles are helpful for you. Yet, if we’re going to approach what God’s entrusted to us in a way that pleases him, we ultimately need more than just principles—we need a Person. These principles actually won’t do us any good unless our hearts are captivated by a Person—namely, the Person of Jesus.
And that really comes out in verses 12-15: 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Notice two things in these verses. First, in verse 13, Paul talks about “your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.” So, the source of our “submission” in the form of generous giving is ultimately tied up in the gospel. Through our generous giving, we prove the genuineness of our “confession” and therefore, by implication, that we have, in fact, embraced the gospel for salvation. This means that generosity isn’t supposed to come from us trying to whip something up in our hearts but rather from the supernatural change of heart that we experience at conversion when we embrace the gospel.
“The gospel” here refers to who Jesus is and what he’s done to rescue us from our sins through his death and resurrection. Jesus died on the cross in order to pay the price for our sinful rebellion against God. We deserved to suffer God’s judgment, but instead Jesus suffered it in our place on the cross. And because of that, and because he subsequently rose from the dead, we can be forgiven of our sins and be made into a new person with a new heart when we put our trust in Jesus for rescue. And it’s out of that new heart that we’re called to be generous.
And I love how Paul concludes the chapter in verse 15, where he writes, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” That gift, of course, is the gift of God’s Son. Think about that—his own Son! God hasn’t just given us things that don’t really matter to him but has given us his own Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. And it’s this generosity that God’s exhibited toward us that should lead us to be generous toward others.
other sermons in this series