2 Corinthians 9:6-7 ~ 20191020 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
10/20_2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Sowing and Planning; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191020_2cor9_6-7.mp3
Paul takes two chapters in this letter to encourage generosity in the collection for the saints in Jerusalem that he is overseeing. He wants them to know about he grace of God given in Macedonia, where the believers joyfully gave beyond their ability, eager to participate in this act of grace. He encourages them that as they excel in so many areas, they ought to excel in this grace also. He refuses to command them, but rather gives them an opportunity to prove that their love is genuine. He holds up Jesus as the ultimate source of grace and generosity. He exhorts them to do what they wanted to do, to use their own abundance to make up for the lack others are experiencing; this is the very reason why God supplied them with an abundance. He commends the delegates from the other churches, sent to ensure the integrity of the mission, who are eager to serve and have great confidence in them. This is an opportunity for connection and accountability between the churches. Paul had boasted about them to the Macedonians, and the Corinthians' previous zeal stirred them up to generosity. Paul is now sending the brothers ahead to avoid embarrassment, to ensure they are ready as they promised when he arrives.
This last phrase can be literally translated 'your before promised blessing, that this be ready thus as a blessing and not as greed.' Paul is after their hearts. Motives matter. Why are they giving? Are their hearts overflowing with blessing? Or will it be an expression of their greed, their stinginess?
Paul uses an agricultural analogy to encourage generosity. This word 'sparingly' means 'to refrain, to spare, to save from loss of some kind' [BDAG 1051]. The idea is that a farmer goes out to sow seed in his field and he looks in his bag of seed and thinks 'This grain could feed my family. This grain is valuable. I could sell it. If I just throw it on the ground I might not have enough. To throw good seed in the dirt seems such a waste. It's just going to fall into the ground and die.'
Anyone at all familiar with farming understands how ridiculous this kind of thinking is. If a farmer is stingy with his seed, worried about the waste of throwing seed into the ground, he doesn't understand farming.
Jesus and Sowing
Jesus talked a lot about farming. In Matthew 13 he said:
Here we see what the stingy farmer is afraid of. Birds might devour all the seed. The sun will scorch the young plants. Weeds will choke them out. What waste! But in Jesus' parable, the sower sowed anyway. He scattered seed widely, we might say even recklessly, wastefully. But when harvest time came, the seed that fell on good soil produced bountifully. The more seed he scattered, the more landed on good soil, and his harvest would be exponentially greater.
Jesus went on in Matthew 13 to describe another hazard to farming.
The crop is ruined! Weeds are growing with the wheat! What should we do? The Master said:
Jesus is confident in the power of the seed to produce fruit in spite of obstacles. There was still ample harvest, regardless of the enemy's efforts. Peter says:
God sows with imperishable seed. His word will stand. The power of the gospel, the power of his grace will overcome.
Jesus said in Mark 4
Notice what this farmer did. He scattered seed on the ground, and he went to sleep. You can lose a lot of sleep worrying about tomorrow. But this farmer believed. He trusted that something bigger than him was at work. He scattered the seed and he slept soundly.
The Way Of The Cross
Jesus said in John 12:
It seems that throwing seed into the ground is a waste. It is just going to die. It is a loss. But that is the way of fruitfulness. That is the way of growth.
This is the way of the cross. This is the way of death that leads to resurrection and new life. This is the way that seems foolish and yet reveals the power of God.
Giving and Blessing
Proverbs 11 shows this way that seems contrary to wisdom.
Giving does not seem to our wisdom to be the way to security. You may be familiar with the proverbial sounding wisdom of an older generation: 'waste not, want not' and 'a penny saved is a penny earned'. There is of course some truth to that, but we must understand that giving is not wasting. We must be on our guard against greed.
This word 'covetousness' is the same word at the end of 2 Corinthians 9:5 ' your before promised blessing, that this be ready thus as a blessing and not as greed'
God says it is the fool who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.
Not Prosperity Gospel
I want to give a caution here. Many people today use some of these passages to preach a prosperity gospel. 'Give to our ministry so that God will bless you financially. Send us your seed faith offering. Send $10 and it will become $100. Send $100 and it will become $1,000.' This is nothing more than thinly veiled greed in church clothes. It is a get rich quick scheme that gives false hope and preys on the poor. Paul is talking about motives here, and if your motive in giving is to get back from God with compounded interest, then your motive is dead wrong. If you are trying to manipulate God by his promises to amass financial wealth for yourself, then money is the god you are really worshiping. That kind of thinking ignores the context and twists these passages to say something they do not say. The Macedonian Christians gave out of the depth of their poverty beyond what they could afford, not at all expecting anything in return. Paul wants to be sure the Corinthians are not stingy or motivated by greed.
Burden, Grief, Necessity
What Paul said in chapter 8 demonstrates what he perceives as one of the things holding them back from extravagant generosity:
The Corinthians are looking at this as a burden, not a blessing. They are concerned that if they bring relief to the pressure of others, then it will put them in a position of need themselves. Paul re-frames their thinking, showing them that they have a current spiritual lack that will be met by the joy of giving to those who are materially lacking. This ought not to be viewed as a burden, but as a God given grace. It is a gift of God, it is grace to be stirred to give, as the Macedonians teach us, begging earnestly for the grace and communion or fellowship of service to the saints.
Paul here emphasizes the importance of motive. He gives two more descriptions of wrong motives to be avoided. Not reluctantly, not out of grief or sadness, not grudgingly. It is an occasion of sadness for someone who loves his money too much to be parted from it. 'No, no, I do want you to have it, just let me say goodbye one last time.' it ought not to cause us grief to be parted from that which has been freely given to us.
And not under compulsion; not out of distress, constraint, or necessity. Giving is not to be out of guilt or high pressure. Paul makes it clear he is not commanding them. He is urging and encouraging and exhorting them, but it must be of their own accord, what they want to do.
Giving and Planning
So he says “each one as he has in advance decided or chosen in his heart'. It is to be from the heart. Paul gives us a principle here. He says it is to be what was chosen or decided in advance, ahead of time. We tend to value spontaneity. Paul valued clear headed advanced planning and intentionality. This word is a compound with the 'pro' prefix, meaning before or in advance, and the word for to choose, decide, determine or intend. We saw this 'pro' prefix three times in verse 5. Paul encouraged the brothers to go in advance, to arrange in advance your promised in advance blessing. Paul is not now pleading with them to do something new, spontaneous, spur of the moment. He is exhorting them to follow through on what they had desired to do and determined to do and promised to do. He is honoring their advance planning.
He had instructed them in 1 Corinthians concerning the collection for the saints:
Paul doesn't want them to feel the pressure when he is present and in the moment go beyond what they really wanted to do. Get it ready ahead of time. Plan. Pray. Purpose.
We've looked at some unhealthy motives for giving; greed, grief, pressure, burden. Not stingy or sparingly, as if to give will entail great personal loss. Examine your own heart before the Lord. Confess those negative attitudes to God as sin. Ask him to change your heart. We are going to look more closely next week at the right motives for giving; cheerfully, upon blessings.
I have left you some homework. I am not going to tell you specifically how you ought to apply what this passage teaches us. I want you to ask God to show you what he wants you to do with this. Go home, get out your budget, look at where your money goes, remembering that:
And make a plan. Make sure your budget, what you do with your money, reflects your heart, what you love, what you treasure most.
A farmer plans. He looks at how big the fields in front of him are, how much seed he will need to plant those fields. He may see that he has to make some present sacrifices, tighten the belt, so he will have enough seed to fully take advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
Prayerfully, in the presence of God, make those decisions.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org