Giving that Gets in order to Give (3) (2 Cor. 9:8-11)
But Sam, what will become of me if I sow bountifully? Will there be enough for my needs? Will I be able to provide for my family? What about the next offering? Will there be anything left to contribute to what may prove to be an even greater cause than the former one? Worse still, what’s to prevent my generosity from creating a financial crisis of my own? After all, an unexpected downturn in the market could put me in the position of being the next person who’s dependent on the church for survival.
Ah, the fears that grip the human heart when it comes to giving. But oh, the grace that triumphs over all!
Paul addressed this fear in v. 6, declaring that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Most folk believe the opposite: If you want more, give less. But Paul says, if you want more, give more. But how can this be? The answer is provided in yet more detail in the paragraph that follows. Here’s how Paul put it:
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:8-11).
Clearly, God promises to supply abundantly those who give generously. Paul wants the Corinthians to be free from the fear that generous giving will leave them impoverished. His language is effusive and unmistakable: “God is able to make all grace abound to you” . . . God “will supply and multiply your seed” . . . and “you will be enriched in every way”.
So, does that mean the prosperity people were right after all? Well, not exactly. One must never claim a promise without noting its purpose. In other words, we must ask the question, to what end or for what purpose or with what goal in mind does God cause the generous Christian steward to abound? Simply put, why does God promise financial abundance to those who cheerfully and freely give to others?
Paul leaves no room for argument. He gives no grounds for disagreement. His words are unequivocal and to the point. So that there might be no confusion or discord, he says it three times over. Please note the bold type as I again cite the apostle’s words:
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (v. 8).
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (v. 10).
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (v. 11).
Take special note of v. 8 where Paul strings together a series of universals to make his point pellucidly clear: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (v. 8).
This is breathtaking language, not unlike what he wrote to the Philippians: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19; see also Matt. 6:33; Ps. 84:11). Once again, this is not a guarantee that our circumstances will improve or that we will be insulated against suffering and hardship. Don’t forget his earlier description of the Macedonians who were recipients of this marvelous and effusive grace and yet were not spared from “a severe test of affliction” nor delivered from “extreme poverty” (2 Cor. 8:2).
Rather, God’s promise is that he will never stir your heart to give and then fail to supply you with resources to do so. But the idea that we should give so that God will enrich us personally with a view to increasing our comfort and convenience and purchasing power is foreign to Paul's teaching. Personal wealth is here viewed, not as an end in itself, but as a means to a yet higher goal: continued generosity to those in need.
One thing that will undermine the outworking of this principle is the lie that a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. As Piper has said, "God has made us to be conduits of his grace [not cul-de-sacs]. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn't. Copper will do" (Desiring God, 173).
The principle at work in this divine scenario is that if you give generously now you will discover that God not only sustains your desire to give but will greatly increase your resources for yet more joyful and even more glorious giving in the future. The point is that “the divine beneficence is designed not to facilitate the accumulation of wealth but to make possible all kinds of liberality. We receive in order to give, not in order to hoard” (Harris, 645).
One final comment is in order. In v. 9, Paul cites Psalm 112:9 – “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” One might be tempted to think that this refers to God’s righteousness as expressed in his gracious and generous activity of amply supplying us with adequate resources to continue in faithful support of those in need. But a closer look at the whole of Psalm 112 clearly indicates that the “he” who has distributed freely, the “he” who has given to the poor, the one whose “righteousness endures forever” is in fact the Christian. Paul has us in mind!
This is strong encouragement indeed! When we believe in God’s bountiful provision and trust his promise “to make all grace abound” to us so that we will have an abundance, in turn, to “abound in every good work” (v. 8), our righteous acts of charity will endure forever. When we trust the truth that we “will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way’ (v. 11), our generosity is regarded as a righteousness that will never fade nor lose its value in the sight of God.