Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
6 What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. 7 Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. 8 God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. 9 As it is written, He scattered everywhere; he gave to the needy; his righteousness remains forever. 10 The one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply your seed and will increase your crop, which is righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. 12 Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God. 13 They will give honor to God for your obedience to your confession of Christ’s gospel. They will do this because this service provides evidence of your obedience, and because of your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. 14 They will also pray for you, and they will care deeply for you because of the outstanding grace that God has given to you. 15 Thank God for his gift that words can’t describe!
Theme- Generosity is a normal part of the Christian life
- Paul is talking to the Corinthians about giving to the Church in Jerusalem, how does he anticipate them to reap anything from their gifts? Why use the planting imagery?
- What are the tools we can use to decide how we give (see v7)?
- Paul ties generosity to thanksgiving and obedience to the Gospel, in what ways are these concepts united?
- Does our generosity reflect on our view of God’s provision, how?
- How does Paul’s discussion of generosity relate to the Old Testament passages on tithing?
Related passages: Deuteronomy 14:22-27; Psalm 112; Proverbs 11:24, 19:17, 22:8-9; Hebrews 13:16
In Greek v7 lacks the verb “to give” which puts emphasis on “choosing” and thus the believer’s heartfelt decision. Generosity is truly a reflection of where a person’s heart is not simply an exterior pressure weighing on a person.
Psalm 112, which Paul quotes in verse 9, is an extended poem on what it means to “fear the Lord” and highlights the role of generosity in the lives of the righteous. The righteous are wealthy but their wealth is directed to the good of the community not themselves.
There is some question about the subject of v9, whether this is God’s generosity or applied to the Corinthians, but it seems that Paul wants the readers to understand that God’s commitment is to generosity and therefore the believer’s commitment should also be to generosity as a reflection of God.
Next week Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day and many Christians will ask the question of our society, “To whom do we give thanks?” But I don’t know that this is the right question; I am not saying this question is unimportant, I just do not think it is the best question for us to be asking of ourselves in modern America. I say this because thanksgiving is response to the blessings we have received, and in America our celebration of our blessings will end at sunset on Thursday as we begin to buy more. Perhaps only in America can we set aside a day of gratitude for what we have and interrupt it to acquire more. Our major issue is not with the “who” in Thanksgiving our problem is that we are not truly grateful for what we have. We overlook today’s blessings in a rush to consume more and so we never truly recognize how much we have.
The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, presents us with a radically different picture of thanksgiving. Deuteronomy 14-15 presents a society where the first produce is dedicated to remembering how much a person has been blessed by God. Each family is taught to take one tenth of their harvest as it comes in and dedicate it to God. This portion of the family’s production was to remind them that it is God who blesses them and because God blesses them, there will always be plenty. Thanksgiving is both a response to the goodness of God and a step of faith that God will continue to be good in the future. The response to God’s goodness in ancient Israel included a celebratory feast in the form of a tithe, fellowship, freewill, and thanksgiving offerings, and the cancellation of debts and Sabbath rest. Each of these was a community event where a person would celebrate God’s blessings with friends, family, and most notably the less fortunate. Tithes and offerings were inclusive meals meant to give food to those without food, and laws on debt forgiveness were meant to elevate those who had run into economic difficulties in the previous seven years. The Israelites were supposed to show proper thanks to God through their generosity to those around them. Worship and praise were supposed to include a dynamic of giving to others. This concept is outlined in Psalm 112 where the righteous person, one who fears the Lord, is generous, giving to the poor and needy.
We do not have record of the Church continuing these practices in the New Testament but we do see the continuation and one might argue the expansion of this concept of thanksgiving through generosity. The Church in Acts is described as generously giving to make sure every member had enough; there are no commands about how much a person is to give, rather as in 2 Corinthians we are supposed to care enough about others that we give to meet the needs. This is the moral behind the story in Acts 5, while the early Church was giving gifts from a generous heart, recognizing the blessings God had provided, Ananias and Sapphira held back a portion of their gift, not because they needed it but because they were not giving out of a generous heart but simply to be celebrated. Even the eucharist (derived from the Greek for thanksgiving) is a time to share our food with our brothers and sisters as a response to the grace we have received from God.
Paul extends this principle to the Corinthians in his request for donations to the Jerusalem Church. He does not demand each Corinthian give a certain amount of money, or even percentage of their income, rather he leaves it to a matter of conscious. Such instruction is both freeing for the poor because they have no obligation to give and jarring for the wealthy who might use other systems to their advantage. The wealthy can no longer say “I’ve given my ten percent; I’ve fulfilled my obligation.” Paul wants us to look inward and ask ourselves if our giving to the Church matches the level of commitment we claim. Paul’s words strip the duties from the Old Testament commands but maintain the core—a recognition that God has blessed me with material blessing and that blessing is not for myself and my family only but is meant to be used to help the entire community.