2 Corinthians 9:6–7 (ESV) … “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. Lord!”
Paul spells out three basic facts. First, there is a simple fact: “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully” (9:6). One of the greatest preachers I ever heard in my early years was Robert Laidlaw, a very successful and wealthy New Zealand businessman. He and a popular evangelist were holding special services in Cardiff in South Wales. For Robert Laidlaw was not only a very prosperous businessman, he was also a great soul-winner and gospel preacher. His little book The Reason Why, written to present the gospel to his employees, ran through hundreds of editions, has been translated into scores of languages, and has been used to the salvation of countless individuals.
Robert Laidlaw had a personal testimony to his own rule for giving. He gives us extracts from an old notebook:
Feb 1, 1904, age eighteen and a half, wages 1 pound ($5.00) per week. I have decided to start giving one tenth to the Lord.
Feb 12, 1906. Before money gets a grip on my heart, by the grace of God I enter into the following pledge with my Lord.…
Here he set forth a graduated scale of earnings. If the Lord blessed him with “X” amount of money (he wrote down the amount), he would give 15 percent of all he earned; if the Lord were to bless him with “Y” amount of money, he would give 20 percent of all he earned; and if the Lord blessed him with “Z” amount of money, he would give 25 percent of all he earned. A later entry reads:
Sept, 1910, aged twenty-five, I have decided to change the above graduated scale and start now giving half (50%) of all my earnings.
Later on, when he was over seventy years of age, this man, who had become a multi-millionaire testified: “God has graciously entrusted to me a stewardship far beyond my expectations.…” He also testified: “In all my wide experience I have never met a man who was mean in money matters with God who was blessed with spiritual gift.”
In an article, written in Laidlaw’s old age, this revered businessman-evangelist pointed out that giving is not a question of generosity but of honesty. Israel, he said, began with an individual, Achan, robbing God (Josh. 7), for all the spoil of Jericho was claimed by God as His portion. Israel ended with the whole nation robbing God (Mal. 3:8). Similarly the apostolic church began with an individual, Ananais (and his wife), robbing God (Acts 5) and ended up with the whole Laodicean church robbing God (Rev. 3). While this church boasted of its wealth it was actually poor, proof that it was withholding that which belonged to God.
Paul points to the simple but obvious fact that if a farmer or a gardener tries to scrimp and save when sowing his seed, he will be able to look forward to a sparse harvest. No matter how poor a person may be, withholding that which rightfully belongs to God is no place to start saving. The more bountiful and prodigal the sowing, the more abundant the harvest that can be expected.
We must guard, however, against the deception of giving in order to get. This is the “principle” behind the modern televangelist appeals to a gullible public to exercise “seed faith.” It promotes giving from the lowest of motives. The idea is that if a person gives generously and faithfully (to the television evangelist making the appeal, of course) then the donor will be sowing seeds which will return to him in a harvest of material wealth. The idea is that this is a sure way to get rich.
All such schemes—and there are several of them—ignore the basic fact that Calvary and Pentecost have effected a radical change in dispensations and in God’s method of dealing with His people. The Old Testament people of God were an earthly people. The New Testament people of God are a heavenly people. The proof of that is to compare the Old Testament blessing (Prov. 10:22) with the New Testament blessing (Matt. 5:1–12). The Old Testament blessing is described by Solomon who certainly proved it to the hilt, as “the blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” Incidentally, it was by this criteria that Job’s friends judged the suffering patriarch, and it was by this criteria, too, that God blessed His faithful servant when his trials were over (Job 4:8; 8:6; 42:12–17). The New Testament blessings, as set forth by the Lord in the eight beatitudes that open the Sermon on the Mount, are not material but spiritual. They by no means guarantee us wealth and health, long life, and freedom from suffering, adversity, and pain.
Having included this caution, the fact remains that those who are generous in giving to the Lord’s work will find that “God is no man’s debtor.”