Editor’s Note: Read our other articles in Sow Bountifully: Biblical Principles for a Life of Christ-Centered Giving below!
Sow Bountifully – A New Series on Giving
Principle for Giving #1: Live all Your Life in Light of God’s Mercy
Principle for Giving #2: Remember Your Provider
Principle for Giving #3: Give of Your Firstfruits
We are now five articles into our series on giving, but we can’t go any further in our study without talking about our heart attitude when we give. Yes, our first impulse and financial move should be to give when God prospers (see principle #3). But this giving won’t bring much pleasure to God if we don’t give cheerfully. Paul emphasizes the importance of joyfulness in our giving when he writes,
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 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.2 Cor 9:6-7
Just prior to this passage, Paul had encouraged the Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonians who generously gave to the relief of the saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:1ff). Paul is sending Titus to make a collection at Corinth for the suffering Christians in Jerusalem, and he wants to make sure the Corinthians Christians are ready for the collection.
But amid his instruction for the Corinthian church to provide aid to their fellow saints, the apostle tells them that their giving must be voluntary, not coerced. “So, I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction” (2 Cor 9:5). Christian giving, as we will see in more detail in a moment, is free giving. It is not compelled by a strong personality, guilt trip, or arbitrary amount that each Christian is must render to the church.
This last point addresses the question of tithing we broached in the last article. Paul’s language of non-compulsory giving in this passage repudiates the idea that God mandates that we give a certain amount or percentage of our income under the New Covenant. If God did require us to give a specific amount of money, our giving cannot be free and unforced, by definition.
Paul then calls the Corinthians to sow their wealth generously, knowing that their reaping will be in accord with their sowing. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). The eye of the Christian is to be ever on the final harvest so that we might be motivated to give generously, anticipating a return on investment that far surpasses what we could imagine (see also Eph 3:20-21). The principle of sowing and reaping applies to every facet of our lives (Gal 6:7). If we sow our money sparingly in our ministry to the saints, we will reap sparingly now and in the age to come. If we sow our finances generously, we can anticipate a rich harvest in our current ministries and when we see the Lord (Matt 25:14-31).
God Loves a Cheerful Giver
Nevertheless, Paul’s following point is just as vital: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). While Paul is urging the Corinthians to give generously for the sake of the saints in Jerusalem, he also knows that happy giving is not compulsory giving. The kind of giving that pleases God is giving that flows freely from a heart of joy. God loves it when you give freely and cheerfully because cheerful giving is a concreate demonstration of God’s grace in your life. He’s forgiven our sins (Col 2:13), promised to provide us with everything we need in this life (2 Cor 9:8), and pledged us an inheritance of infinite worth (1 Pet 1:4). Now, out of a heart of trust and contentment, we can happily give for the sake of God’s people and God’s glory. This kind of generocity pleases God.
Conversely, God does not love it when you give under compulsion or reluctantly. Guilt-based giving does not please the Lord because it does not delight in God or in ministering to others. A heart that is driven by guilt or external compulsion is a heart that would rather keep the money but gives it out of fear of God’s judgment, the desire for man’s approval, out of attempt to earn God’s favor, or some other unsavory motive.
By developing a series of articles on giving, our aim is not crank out some short-term, reluctant givers who finally start giving but regret how much they’ve given the moment they put the check in their church’s offering. Our goal in this series is your long-term joy in giving; growing ability to happily part with a portion of your wealth because you trust God, love his people, and long to multiply your end-time harvest.
God Will Give You Everything You Need
But notice how Paul undergirds our joy in giving. Similar to what Solomon promised in the book of Proverbs (sees our last article in this series), Paul promises that God will provide you with your every need and supply you with the means you need to be generous:
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 (2 Cor 9:8-9)
I’ve already mentioned the matter of trusting God in our giving, but here Paul makes God’s promise of adequate provision a foundational piece of our motivation. We can give freely and cheerfully because we know that God will give us everything we need for ministry and everything we need to be generous. Paul is not promising a certain size savings account, pension, or retirement fund, but he is promising that he will supply us with everything we need to effectively serve him and serve others.
Conclusion: Give Cheerfully
So, we can give cheerfully because we’ve been forgiven of our sins. We can give cheerfully because God supplies us with everything we need and more. We can give cheerfully because God doesn’t require a certain percentage or amount. We can give cheerfully because we have a massive eternal inheritance coming to us in the near future. And you can give cheerfully because you know that your giving is serving and blessing God’s people. Give cheerfully.