Isaiah 55:6-13, II Corinthians 9:6-15
October 30, 2016
A couple of weeks ago, my sermon was entitled, “Sowing and Reaping.” If you recall, it was about the kinds of “seeds” we sow in others. It’s part of our being “Stewards of God’s Grace.”
I hope you’ve been thinking about that. What kinds of seeds do we sow in others? Are they good seeds? Will they grow into good plants? Will they cause people to see the Church in a “good light?” Or are they bad seeds? Will they create bad feelings about the Church? Unfortunately, there are a lot of those feelings going around these days!
Those are good things to think about! And I hope we do. I hope we “think twice” about what we are about to do or say. Because, as I’ve said lately, what we do and what we say does reflect on the kingdom of God! That’s the way I wanted you to see this.
Well, today we’re looking at sowing and reaping in a different way. Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church and he says, “The point is this. The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” And at least part of what we’re talking about here is about how we give of ourselves in support of the kingdom of God.
Now, I want to be careful here! What I don’t want to say is that we “give” in order to “get.” There are those people out there who say things like that, and perhaps you’ve heard them. “If you give to this ministry, God will give back to you.” “Look what happened to Mrs. So and so.” And then there’s always an interview with someone, or a “testimonial” about how they “gave,” and then an “unexpected check” came in the mail from some insurance payout, or a tax refund, or something.”
I think such ministries miss the point of giving. And I don’t know about you, but they give me a bad feeling. It’s almost like there’s some kind of “scam” going on. We don’t sow bountifully so that we will get something back, in other words, some kind of “monetary return.” It’s not like we’re making some kind of investment. And I wonder how many people over the years have felt like they were misled by that kind of approach!
That’s not the point Paul is making here! For him, this is all about abundance! And I believe Paul knew that abundance! That was a big word for him! And remember, Paul didn’t experience a lot of abundance in terms of “monetary gain.” Paul often wrote his letters from (Where?) prison! But he knew the abundance is about the joy of being part of God’s kingdom and part of a ministry! And it’s about what being part of a those things does to our spirit. That’s what I want you to think about today, your spirit.
You may remember something else I said last week. I was talking about being “people of grace.” And I said, “being ‘people of grace’ makes us feel good!” More than that, “it makes us feel more spiritual.” “It makes us feel closer to God.” “And, I think perhaps that’s because we are being more like God in those moments when we show his Grace. And God is pleased with us!” Do you remember that? “Being people of Grace makes us feel closer to God because we are being more like God in those moments, and God is pleased with us.”
That’s what Paul is saying about the way we give of ourselves. When we do so, when we sow abundantly, we feel good about ourselves! And we know that God is pleased with us! He fills us with his spirit. He fills us with his joy. It’s then that we experience his blessing, and his abundance!
That’s what this passage is about. If you sow bountifully you will reap bountifully! You will know God’s “blessings in abundance.” And that’s not measured in budgets or numbers. But! It often happens that numbers change positively when we participate positively! And that’s what Paul wanted the people to know. He said, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” In other words, when you make up your mind cheerfully about it, you will give cheerfully – and for the same reasons! Because your are being part of the God’s kingdom and his ministry!
So then – in a practical way – I want you to check your “giving attitude.” Is there reluctance in your giving? Do you feel like you’re under “compulsion?” If you feel those things, or if you don’t feel “cheerful” as Paul says, then go back to this scripture! Hear again what it says about God’s blessings. Hear what it says about this word that is very big to Paul, the word “abundance.” Do you have abundance in your life? Sometimes we do and we don’t recognize it!
Think about your own spiritual life. In fact, put those two things together – your giving and your spirit. God loves a cheerful giver.” And why? I believe part of the reason is that God loves people who are cheerful. God wants us to be happy. He wants our lives to be peaceful and blessed – despite whatever circumstances we might face, whatever difficulties we might be going through! And I know those circumstances can be tough! But God knows that a cheerful giver has the tendency to become more cheerful. And a less cheerful giver tends to become less cheerful! (In other words, if you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly!) And God also knows that if we separate those two things, our giving and our spirit, they will begin to strive against each other – sometimes in a chaotic way! But certainly in a way that impedes spiritual growth.
Paul tells us that, in our giving, we need to focus on God, and on his love for us. We need to concentrate on his abundance. And we need to know that God does provide! I don’t want to belittle that! I know that can be hard to see sometimes, too! There are times when we wonder if he does provide, and times that we might even “feel abandoned.” And I emphasize the word “feel” in that statement. Because we are not abandoned. We know that, because God’s promises to us are sure! But there are times we fail to remember them. So, what do we do? We go back to his promises again and again. Don’t we! And in doing so, we can grow in our certainty of his presence, his blessing, and his abundance.
So then, as Paul says here. “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.” And, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God… Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Eternal God, as we consider what it means to be part of your ministry of Grace here on earth, help us to see life through your eyes of love. Help us to know your peace and joy in all circumstances. Help us to be people who give of ourselves, joyfully and generously, for the work of your kingdom here on earth. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.