Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sow Bountifully

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11)
Here, Paul is addressing the Corinthian church on the issue of their financial ministry to the saints in Jerusalem (see verses 1-5). He addresses two primary points in the last half of chapter 9: the motivation for giving, and the purpose of giving.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (vs. 7)
First of all, Paul makes it clear that our motivation must come from our love for God, and for His Church. If we don’t truly love the saints, we are unlikely to lend them our financial support, and, if we do support them, it is most likely out of compulsion. Remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira?
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.... (Acts 4:34-35)
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 5:1)
In this story, Peter makes it very clear that Ananias and Sapphira were under no obligation to present the proceeds of the land as a gift (“While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?”). This story confuses some people. On the surface Ananias and Sapphira’s actions seem commendable, but what was their motivation? They could have made it clear that this was simply a portion of the proceeds, but instead they misrepresented their gift to gain approval in the eyes of men. Their motivation was clearly not their love for God and the Church.

Secondly, Paul states the purpose of giving:
For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Cor. 9:12)
When we “sow bountifully” out of thankfulness to God, He will not only “multiply [our] seed for sowing and increase the harvest of [our] righteousness,” but will use our thankful actions to produce thanksgiving in others. Here’s the thing, though: everybody appreciates a gift. Even unbelievers can take great joy in receiving gifts from others. What sets our gifts apart is our motivation for giving.
...they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others. (2 Cor. 9:13)
We have received the greatest gift imaginable in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Moreover, God promises that we will be “enriched in every way to be generous in every way,” when we give from what we have been given. He will continue to supply our needs, just as He is using us to supply the needs of others. May the Gospel motivate us to live generous lives.

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