2 Corinthians 9:1-7 ESV
1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 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.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
A current television commercial shows a man asking a small group of children some questions around theme “What is better….” What is better—big or small, fast or slow? Of course, they are trying to sell you the benefits of their fast communication connections. But suppose you were the kids in that commercial and I asked you, “What is better—generous or stingy?” And the answer is… generous!
Paul’s goal in this part of the section about giving to help the poor emphasizes generous giving. He wants his dear friends to participate in this collection in a generous, joyful manner. The question is not whether they wanted to give; they did. Their need was about how to complete their project. It is easy to want to do something; it is much harder to actually finish the job. A flower garden can look good in May, but all summer you need to keep the weeds away!
Three ideas about giving that the Corinthians needed to apply, in order to give in a way that honored the Lord. We will look at the first two today.
I. The principle of organization (9:1-5)
A. Their desire to give was a good example to other believers. Someone many, many years ago gave me a book titled The Corinthian Catastrophe. It sounds very dramatic, but the title misrepresents the Corinthians and ultimately gives wrong ideas about the Christian life. Every Christian and groups of Christians are going to have struggles as they grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. The followers of Christ in Corinth were just like the rest of us—a strange mixture of godliness and remaining sin. If you don’t think you have this problem, you have a big one called “pride”. But, let’s return to the point.
1. Their enthusiasm stirred many others believers in Macedonia to action. The apostle Paul had told them the previous year how much enthusiasm the Corinthians had for this ministry project and it motivated them to do the same. “It only takes a spark to get a fire going!” Our attitudes about serving the Lord affect others more than we think! A smile, a cheerful greeting, a fervent prayer, a loving phone call, and other acts of kindness can go a long way toward changing a whole group of people.
Example: When we think of our acrostic BLESS, God can use us, use our acts of blessing, to change many people. But negativity is destructive!
2. Notice that Paul carefully and wisely is talking about their “eagerness to help” and that they “were ready to give”. They were enthusiastic about the project, but they needed more than enthusiasm. They needed to give! Happily talking about giving is not the same thing as actually giving.
B. Paul was sending them Titus and the two unnamed brothers to help them complete the collection before he arrived with others from Macedonia. Evidently, these two brothers were smart enough to know that they would need to keep their mouths shut about the situation they were walking into at Corinth. Titus knew that the collection had not been completed, but he was willing to return to see it finished.
1. He is concerned that the collection will not be ready, in spite of their previous enthusiasm. Some people need help about how to finish a job. But as the matter stood at the time of the writing of the letter, Paul was concerned that both the Corinthians and he might be embarrassed. He might be, because he had bragged so much about them. They might be, because they didn’t have the offering ready after they had promised to. (Remember, they had said that they were “all in” about this ministry gift!)
2. So, Titus and the two other brothers would arrive before Paul to help them “finish the arrangements for the generous gift they had promised.” You can well imagine Titus arriving and asking, “So do you have your offering ready? You don’t? I know you all wanted to do this! You are a loving and compassionate people, as you have already proved to me. Okay, let us help you! Now here is what you need to do….”
Comment: We need to treat other believers with respect, because they are in Jesus Christ, and so sons and daughters of the King! Every word must be to build others up according to their need (Eph 4:29). Our goal must be to see them demonstrate the glory of knowing the Lord of glory. You cannot achieve that goal apart from interacting with others in a way that honors the Lord.
3. This administrative help was needed, because Paul foresees an unpleasant consequence, if the offering is not ready when he comes. People need to plan to set aside money and then actually set it aside gradually, so that the full amount is ready when the collection comes. Otherwise, it is like going for a motor vehicle inspection when you think all you need is a bulb replaced and new wiper blades, but you’re told that your car also needs a new exhaust system. You’re not prepared to spend the extra money, and you become worried, cranky, or upset in some way! Then you’re writing the check with a less than pleasant attitude. The same idea holds true about giving to help others. “Oh no, I forgot!
How much should I give? Uh, I can’t give that much! I really need this money for other matters! Oh well, I’ll put five dollars in the plate; they’re always asking for too much money all the time anyway!”
Apply: Organize your finances so that you can give generously rather than grudgingly. The Lord had a plan about how to save his people. We also need to plan to help others. Our do something for the benefit of others in our acrostic BLESS is one such starting point.
II. The principle of the harvest (9:6) – Paul wants them to realize that giving is like sowing seed in your garden.
You only can harvest in proportion to what you planted. Paul is presenting a general principle. We all know that some times in this fallen world things don’t work out as we anticipate. An investment might appear sound, until some crook embezzles your investment. At other times, surprisingly, a contractor might bid out a job thinking he might make a certain profit, but all goes well and he makes twice as much. But that is not the point Paul is making.
A. If you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.
1. This word is spoken to warn them not to dilly-dally in collecting their gifts. If they do, they will only be able to sow sparingly.
2. The idea is that you can only get out of something what you put into it. If you only plant two tomato plants, you are, other things being equal, only going to harvest a few tomatoes. The two tomato plants you plant don’t miraculously become ten or twenty, and so you won’t reap like you planted ten or twenty.
Example: In Christ’s parable (Mt 25:14-30), the man given five talents was able to make five more. The man with two talents gained two more, and he wasn’t expected to make as much as the man with ten. The master only expected the two additional. Sadly, the man with one did nothing, and was punished for his lack of love for his master. Jesus expects us to produce in conformity with want he gives us.
B. If you give generously, you will also reap generously.
1. This word is intended to urge them to finish the collection in a diligent and joyful manner. If they take the advice given, they will enthusiastically give their promised gift.
2. In this scenario, if you plant much, you will also reap much. If you plant twenty-four tomato plants, like I once did, you will harvest a lot of tomatoes! You’ll be looking for someone to give your tomatoes to! In the rest of this chapter, Paul will present the abundant harvest that their generous giving will harvest.
Apply: As in the parable of the talents, God richly rewards those who act like he wants them to act. “Plant” a lot of kindness, compassion, joy, and peace, and the Lord of the harvest will make sure that you receive much more in the last day (Luke 10:29-30)! Our Lord holds out the prospect of reward because he wants us to experience joy on that day. He wants us to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.