Today we continue to explore what it means to be forever family. We are looking at our values as a church. We have said that the family of God is loving, generous, and hospitable. Last week we talked about loving one another, and by it everyone else will know we are disciples of Jesus. Today, we will talking about biblical generosity. For this, we will turn our attention to 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.
In this section of the letter, Paul is writing to the church on principles for generosity. In chapter 8, he called the church to action. They had previously committed to collect contributions for the Jerusalem church and they suffered a year’s worth of setbacks. He is calling them to honor the commitment which they already made a year prior. He then talks about how that situation is going to be handled, and how a team is coming to assist in the collection and disbursement of funds. At the beginning of chapter 9, he describes how he has described them to the Macedonian church and basically says, “Look, I’ve been telling these people about how ready you are to contribute. Don’t let us show up and catch you unprepared. That would be embarrassing for us and for you. What you promised to contribute needs to be ready so it doesn’t feel like extortion.”
From there, he goes into these principles of Christian generosity. Let’s read 2 Cor. 9:6-15 together:
The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. 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 distributed freely; he gave to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will also 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. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the proof provided by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. And as they pray on your behalf, they will have deep affection for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
As we walk through these verses today, I want to examine them in terms of reward. We have stated that one of our values as a church is generosity. The first question to ask is why. Why are we generous? We know the Lord commands us to be, but why do we value generosity as much as we do? The answer is in understanding the outcome.
Generosity multiplies generosity.
Generosity multiplies generosity.
In verses 6-10 Paul uses a farming analogy to illustrate his point. Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly. Whoever sows generously will reap generously. But we need to understand this: God supplies the sower with the seed in the first place. The sower then decided with God what he or she is going to give. Whatever is given should be given out of a posture of gratitude. To give reluctantly or out of compulsion from pressure by someone else is not God’s way. Giving begins with understanding who the true owner of our resources is, then deciding what needs to be sown back into kingdom work. The reward that comes from giving this way is multiplication.
Look at what Paul said in verse ten. The one who provides the seed (God) multiplies the seed, increasing the sower’s capacity to sow more seed. What never ceases to amaze me is how much comes from a single seed. I am no gardener. I am terrible at it because I do not invest the time in maintaining it. But it is unbelievable how many seeds are in a single jalapeno. Every time I cut one open I see the seeds and I think about how many new jalapeno plants it would produce, which would produce even more jalapenos. It is fascinating. The same idea applies to our generosity.
This reminds me of the parable of the talents Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30. In the parable, a man goes on a journey, entrusting his possessions to a few servants. These servants were given various amounts of money (a talent is a sum of money) to manage on the master’s behalf. One received five, the other three, and the other one. When the master returned, he asked them to report back. The one who had five gained five. The one who had three gained three. The one who had one gained nothing. He hoarded it out of fear of losing it. The one talent was taken from him and given to the one who had ten because he had proven he was a capable manager of his master’s affairs.
The reward of our generosity is multiplied generosity. When we take what God has given us and put it to work for him, he multiplies our capacity for greater generosity. The church Marci and I grew up in, Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, began with six people meeting in a living room. Today they have a worship center that seats 4,500 people. They have three campuses, and are currently engaged in church planting efforts to train up men who will go out and start new churches all across America. But this work began with one family in a living room back in 1970. What could God do with a church in rural south Texas if we continued to value generosity under his control? Generosity multiplies generosity.
The receiver is endowed with blessing.
The receiver is endowed with blessing.
The purpose of our giving is to pass on the blessings of God we receive to others. As we look again at verses 11-12, notice the giver is enriched, so the giver is blessed through giving, but the receiver gets his needs met. The church in Corinth was partnering with other churches Paul planted to collect funds for the Jerusalem church that was struggling. Because of this collaboration with other churches, the Jerusalem church got their needs met. We do this all the time through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. We do this through Christmas and Easter offerings. We will do this in September with our Reach Texas offering. We did this with the organizations in the Philippines Ellen introduced us to.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity, it is a wonderful feeling. Sometimes I feel bad because people do so much for me that I feel like I can’t do anything. Then I simply remind myself that if someone took care of one of my needs, then I was freed up to take care of someone else’s needs. Over the time I have spent here I have grown in generosity as I have been the recipient of your generosity. As my needs are met, I am placed in a position to pay it forward to someone else. God has already lined up a need that we can supply. The question is whether our resources, be it time, talent or treasure are available for God’s use. God has designed things in such a way that we are conduits for his blessing. As he blesses us, we are expected to model his generosity by allowing his blessings to flow from us to others.
As good as it is to receive, giving is better. Paul speaks to the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:35 reminding them Jesus said it was better to give than receive.
In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
When we are generous with our time, our talent, or our treasure, and we see the effect it has on the recipient, that is a reward in itself. The satisfaction of knowing that I got to play a part in God’s work in someone else’s life is a reward in itself. This can only happen when giving is done from the right posture, that is not grudgingly or under compulsion. The reward for the giver is the satisfaction in doing the Lord’s work. The reward for the receiver is seeing his needs met and experiencing the generosity and love of God.
Generosity gives more glory to God.
Generosity gives more glory to God.
When we are generous with God’s resources, he not only supplies more for us to be generous with, but it all results in more glory to God. When the church in Corinth contributed to the collection for the Jerusalem church, the Jerusalem church was able to glorify God through thanksgiving because their needs were met. But generosity on God’s terms does not end with that. Look at what Paul says in verse 13:
Because of the proof provided by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. And as they pray on your behalf, they will have deep affection for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.
The generous giving of God’s people gives glory to God. We value generosity as a church because we understand that generosity is a result of understanding we are stewards of God’s property, and that we are given that property for the betterment of others. We receive blessings from God so we will in turn bless others. As we do, God increases our capacity to be more generous. We also share in rejoicing that God met needs through us. We grow as givers, but words cannot express the look in someone’s eyes when they receive what they needed. The receiver gets to glorify God that his needs are met and the giver gets to glorify God in what he accomplished through a willing participant.
The key here is that last part of verse 13. It recognizes the contribution made to those who needed it, but the last three words say “and to all,” implying that the gift is further reaching than the givers had thought. Isn’t it funny how that works? We changed our strategy for Operation Christmas Child after I got here and we went from sending a couple dozen shoe boxes to 100 last year. If only we got to watch 100 kids open those boxes last year. We never know the measure of the impact we might have if we let God work through us to be unbelievably generous.
Tonight you will get to hear about how we can have continued impact in the Philippines when Ellen speaks. Today, ask yourself these questions: Is God truly the owner of my resources, or have I been hoarding what he has provided? How is God bringing opportunities for me to be more generous with my time, my talents, or my treasure? Is there something I have been holding on to that I need to let go of so someone else might receive a blessing?