Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reaping Bountifully: 2 Corinthians 9:6

A question came up recently about whether or not God promises to bless those who are generous. The answer is a resounding "Yes!", but it may not be in the way expected by the contemporary American church.

I believe the New Covenant perspective is that God promises to provide all of our basic needs on earth while we store up and reap spiritual riches in heaven. I don’t see a direct promise in the Bible that God will bless you with greater material goods if you give more. I’m also not saying he won’t do that, for God is sovereign and equips us each according to his will (Job 1:21), and I believe he often chooses to give wealth to people who will bless others. But no such quid pro quo is promised in Scripture as far as I’m able to discern.

Regarding the first concept that God provides for his children’s needs, you see it when Jesus preaches his Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:19ff). In Matt 6:33, The “these things” that are added to you are daily needs: food, water, clothing. [See how this happens.]

I do not think there is an automatic correlation between personal generosity and material prosperity. If you look at a few cases, you can see where the giving and blessing correlation breaks down. For instance, Paul, who wrote the book on generosity, was sometimes well off and sometimes poor (Phil 4:12). I doubt his heart to be generous ever changed. The church in Smyrna in Revelation (2:8-11) was poor though it was one of only two churches in Revelation who were not rebuked by Jesus. And finally, the most generous giver recorded in the Bible (excepting God) was the widow in Mark 12:41-44. She gave everything she had and was dirt poor. She was far more faithful than the rich who gave out of their abundance.

That church in Smyrna seems to be the key to understanding what the Bible says about this concept. Even though Smyrna was poor, Jesus called them rich (Rev 2:9)! God has a different bank account. You can see it in Matthew 6:20, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” When we are generous, we’re depositing into our heavenly account, and it’s there we will be richly blessed.

This helps us understand the paragraphs of 2 Corinthians 9:6ff, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” On the face of it, it seems that Paul is saying that the more you give, the more you’ll receive—and it’s true. But he did not say what you’ll receive in that verse. I believe the treasures you reap are mentioned in verses 8-10: abounding grace, sufficiency in all things (we’re back to the idea of met needs in Matt 6), abounding good works, and an increase in the harvest of your righteousness. What you reap are spiritual blessings, which are incorruptible wealth.

Would God turn our hearts to covet the things of true worth.

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