2 Corinthians 9:6–15

On Sowing and Reaping

Laura Miguélez Quay

Linebrook Church

November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Eve Meditation

 

Recently I met a woman whom I’ll call Alice who shared with me what a difficult year this has been for her. As I listened she shared about trial—after trial—after trial that had taken place over the course of the year. But then she paused, turned to me, and began to share how grateful she was because her church family—no, not Linebrook; I really did just meet her for the first time—had reached out to her by making meals; and inviting her to their homes; and sending cards; and there was even one individual who gave her an unsolicited, and extremely generous, financial gift. In fact Alice had been so touched by the many kindnesses of her church family that, despite some genuinely wrenching situations, she said that she was glad to have gone through them. Otherwise, she concluded, she would never have experienced God’s grace and love for her in such profound ways.

Now did you catch what she said? Alice’s testimony was,

first, that she had had a truly horrendous year, filled with various sources of pain and suffering;

second, that in the midst of these many trials and challenges, she had been overwhelmed not by the trials but by the love and kindness of her church family;

and third, that had it not been for her trials, she genuinely believed that she would never have experienced God’s love so deeply.

So through the love of her church family, Alice’s eyes had been opened to the love of her Lord and God, Jesus Christ. And personally I am convinced that her experience is in fact the way God intended our earthly lives to be; that Alice’s testimony is the practical outworking of Jesus’ declaration that the sum of the Law and the Prophets—in other words, the sum of the Hebrew Scriptures or our Old Testament—is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.[1] Because God has made us for himself, to know and love him, and because he has made us for each other, to know and love one another, oftentimes when we experience love or kindness from another person, we become aware that what has also transpired is that it is God who has used this individual so that we might be better able to see his love for us.

And I think this, in part, is what Paul is also saying in his words to the church in Corinth. The chapter begins with Paul letting these believers know how he had been bragging about them to believers in Macedonia. As we read in verse 2 of this chapter, “For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.” So the initial reason provided for this bragging was the financial generosity the Corinthian church had pledged to give these other brothers and sisters in need. And now, in effect, Paul was making arrangements to collect on this pledge.

So it is within this context that he reminds the Corinthians in verse 6, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” This is a passage about sowing reaping. If we generously share what we have, if we spread it far and wide, then we will reap a benefit in proportion to that sharing. But Paul makes an important qualification to these followers of Christ: they are to give not out of a sense of obligation, but freely, because they want to. As stated in verse 7, “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.” Our giving, the sharing of our resources, should be joyous and generous. Don’t we know this both intuitively and from experience? If someone gives us or does something for us reluctantly, aren’t we somewhat hesitant to receive it? When the giver seems reluctant, it makes us question whether they really want to help us out in the first place. But if someone gives with enthusiasm, receiving becomes so much easier and we feel humbled, in the best sense of the word, by their goodness and kindness towards us.

And it is this spirit of generosity that has ever been a marker or indicator of those who love God. In the Psalm Paul quotes in verse 9—“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever”[2]—the “they” is a reference to the righteous[3] or those who are followers of God. In its opening verse the psalm identifies them as those “who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands.”[4] And then the psalmist goes on to list some of the things that characterize these righteous followers of God:

Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.”

And then comes the verse Paul quotes, “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever….” So in referencing this particular psalm, Paul seeks to encourage these believers to hold this very outlook as followers of Christ as they trust in him and delight in his commands for the reason God provides us with his commands is that we might know what loving God with all our being and loving each other looks like in practice. And an important component of loving is freely giving especially to those most in need, especially to those who are poor.

Paul then goes on to connect these dots in verses ten and eleven. In verse 10 Paul points these believers to God “who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” and notes how this very God “will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” So God is our source and example for sowing and reaping—he is a generous Giver who spreads his goodness far and wide that we might follow suit. Even material provisions, then, become an opportunity for us to be stewards of what God has provided and of expressing our love for him. So, Paul goes on, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion,….” Again, our riches are given us by God not simply for our own benefit but that we might share them with others. And notice how verse 11 ends, “and through us”—that is through Paul and those who are collecting the Corinthians’ financial gift— “your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” So we see here the dynamic at work testified to by Alice whose story I just shared—through our generosity to one another, we become the means of helping others see the love of God. And they are then able to respond to him themselves by giving him thanks.

But Paul isn’t content to simply state this. No, beginning in verse 12 he continues to underscore this very point in explaining:

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

Brothers and sisters, our generosity in giving becomes an opportunity for others to thank and praise God. Think about it: Isn’t one of the prized values of this world that we ought to seek more and more money and possessions that we might have comfort and find happiness? So when someone is genuinely and cheerfully sacrificial in their giving, it catches all of our attention because this kind of lavish generosity is too often the exception rather than the rule. So there is a sense in which our giving to and serving of others can even become a means of evangelism—of sharing Jesus Christ’s love with them. Isn’t this Paul’s point in verse 13 when he states, “Because of [your] service…others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing….” This is such an important principle. Our sharing of the Gospel should go hand in hand with the sharing of our lives, including our material goods. This is so important that other New Testament writers also included it in their letters to early believers in and followers of Jesus Christ. So, for example, James[5] asks,

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

So, too, John similarly exhorts and testifies:[6]

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

This is what sharing our faith entails. Faith is about words and teaching, yes. But if our words are just words and are not accompanied by lives that seek to live out the truth and kindness and power of Christ’s words and teaching, then we are not living genuine biblical faith.

So this Thanksgiving Eve, let us consider ways in which we can share the truth of God’s love with others not only by our words, but also by our deeds, that our generosity might result in thanksgiving to God.

And let us ever give thanks to God for, as Paul puts in in verse 15, the indescribable gift of his Son, Jesus Christ.

And let us be grateful, even as Alice is, not that we are spared trials but that even in the midst of trials we can know the love of God through the kindness of others.

So let us sow generously, holding our earthly goods loosely, that we might reap generously as, through our caring, others might look up to God in Christ and give him thanks.

Let us pray.

We’re now going to turn to a time of sharing those things for which we’re thankful.

 

 

[1] Matthew 7:12: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.; Matthew 22:36–40: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[Deut. 6:5] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Lev. 19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

[2] Psalm 112:9: They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn[Horn here symbolizes dignity.] will be lifted high in honor.

[3] Psalm 112:6.

[4] Psalm 112:1.

[5] James 2:14–16.

[6] I John 3:16–18.

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