God Loves a Cheerful Giver
(2nd Corinthians chapter 9)
This week we will have a look at Second Corinthians chapter 9, where the apostle Paul basically continues his train of thought where he left off at the end of chapter 8. The topic is the various forms of service that one can perform on behalf of God, but it is intertwined with an emphasis on the intangible, valuing a good heart, mind and spirit over material wealth and possessions. It is clear from Paul’s writing that God is far more interested in our availability than our physical ability in our desire for service to the King. But He also urges us to have a desire to be generous, knowing that the good we do now will come back to us in the future at a time when it is needed the most. Bearing that in mind, let’s begin at verse 1.
“There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. 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. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we – not to say anything about you – would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ (2 Corinthians chapter 9, verses 1-9, NIV)
The first thing I notice is Paul’s reference to enthusiasm, one of the positive human emotions. You will recall from last week’s study of the second half of chapter 8 that the apostle Paul cited Titus as an example of this same enthusiasm, and he exhorted the Corinthian church to follow Titus’ example. He then goes on to tell them not to disappoint him with a lackluster response, but he does it in a friendly sort of way, not being overbearing or judgmental. We would all do well in this regard to follow Paul’s example, never being pushy or arrogant with regard to our faith. It’s our responsibility as Christians, no matter what church we belong to (or not), to be on fire for Christ in such a way as to inspire others and to draw them in rather than drive them away. Jesus commented about this himself when He taught the apostles, “He who does not gather with me, scatters.”
It is at this point that Paul immediately goes deeper, something he does over and over again in his letters to the churches. He wrote, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” So, anyone who is stingy or selfish should not be surprised if they don’t get much out of life. They certainly won’t get much from God. Generous people, on the other hand, seem to do better in life and be much better adjusted and adaptable people than those who are less inclined. I’m speaking from experience here, and the “high” I get from helping total strangers charges me up Spiritually and energizes me to continue in His Majesty’s service. By the same token, when we give to the church or to those in need as Paul writes, we should give whatever we can because we want to, not because we feel like we have to. This decision should be based on whatever is on our hearts regarding one’s decision to step in and render assistance, and we arrive at this decision by prayer. If we are unsure of whether to give or not, or how much, ask God about it and let Him instruct you.
This portion of one verse in 2nd Corinthians flies in the face of what some churches are currently teaching with regard to giving. There are a good many pastors and teachers of the Word who are erroneously teaching that we must “tithe” ten percent of our income. As I wrote in a recent study of part of chapter 8, the concept of tithing is based on Old Testament teaching contained within the Law of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament, and it is rooted in Judaism. Since Jesus Christ – who was also Jewish by birth – came to fulfill that law by His supreme sacrifice that He made for us all, Jesus has literally replaced the old law with the new, a law that is written “not on tablets of stone but on human hearts” as the Bible says. So there is no need to adhere to the old ways any longer. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”, and He said, “no one comes to the Father except through me”. In this same way our giving should be to emulate Christ and follow His teachings, not because somebody says we “must tithe” 10% of our incomes. Real Christians give and expect nothing in return. And now let us continue starting at verse 10.
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved ourselves, men 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. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace that God has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9, verses 10-15, NIV)
As you can see, Paul continues to go deeper with the concept of generous giving based on a genuine desire to do so rather than as a duty, particularly in light of the “rule” about “tithing 10 percent”. Paul wrote, “ …he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion…”. Clearly the “one who supplies seed to the sower” is a reference to God the supplier and Christ as the sower. They in turn, Paul wrote, increase our “store of seed” so that our “harvest of righteousness” comes into full bloom. This is an unmistakable reference to the righteousness of Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and to His blood which He shed for all our sins. The shedding of His blood on the cross at Golgotha covers over all the bad things we have done, our imperfections, our character defects, and especially all our failures in life. God covers over our past through His son so that we can better focus on our future, even where we will spend eternity – and all because of Christ. Thanks be to God indeed for His indescribable gift, and I try to thank Him every day for it in my prayers. I recommend that you do the same as a sign of your selfless service to the Lord.
Paul closes out his message and finishes making his point by encouraging us with the words, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion”. Remember what Jesus taught his apostles, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. But let me clarify something here, and it has to do with what I view as more incorrect teaching on the part of many churches concerning being “made rich”. This is not purely a reference to man-made wealth or mere material possessions, but instead notice that the text reads that we will be “made rich in every way”. It looks to me like that includes the things you can’t buy in the store, such as having a loving family or a close circle of friends (things not everyone gets to have), a successful professional life (ditto), and a rich spiritual life enriched by the knowledge of the deep things of God. Being truly rich can and does often mean possessing the unknowable things of God that enlighten us only after years of diligent study and humble devotion as a servant of Christ. It also includes the intangible things and essences that go along with being a follower of Christ, such as patience, gentleness, kindness, tolerance, understanding, empathy and compassion. These are the riches we should all be seeking, and those who seek to do so emulate both the apostle Paul and Christ Jesus the Son of the living God. It is these things, the sacred things and that of quality, depth and substance that comprise a successful Christian life. The year, make and model of your vehicle, the technology one owns or accesses, your clothing, the size of your house and its decor, all are utterly meaningless in the life of a real live Christian, one who walks the walk as well as or better than they talk the talk. It is the intangible things that make up the being and the essence of a real Christian. That’s one of the best ways to tell the phony ones from the real ones. Let’s keep this in mind as we go through the rest of this week. If we’re going to be Christians, let’s get real about it and become the genuine article for Jesus. That’s where the true riches are.