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Bountiful Generosity & Cheerful Giving

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 (ESV) … “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.”

Having described his careful orchestration of giving through his envoys, Paul now shows us what willing, generous giving is like.

Bountiful generosity. Paul does this with an easily understood proverb: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (v. 6). There are two ways to sow. One is to carefully place each seed in a furrow as if one were placing the Star of India in a vault. “Let’s see, here’s a seed for this one, and here’s one for this one. One must be careful with one’s seeds.” This harvest will not be much! The other is that of the sower, striding long steps across the earth, reaching into his abundance, and sowing with generous swings of his arm. At springtime the earth will sprout accordingly, so that when fall comes, the harvest will be untold.

But there is even more here because the proverb employs the Greek word sometimes translated “blessing” (it is used in the previous verse). Here our text renders it “bountifully.” Thus, supplying the literal sense of “blessing,” the proverb literally reads “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows with blessings will also reap with blessings.” This goes back to the giver’s heart and God’s grace and the manner of giving. “God gives back ‘blessings’ to those who give as a matter of ‘blessing’ ” (Hafemann). So it is not how much we give but rather that we give as generously as possible with an attitude of the joy of blessing.

Going back to the basic agricultural image of this proverb, O. E. Rölvaag’s Giants in the Earth, a novel about Midwest pioneers, describes an old farmer’s joyous energy at the potential of what he is about to sow.

With what zest he broke the tough-fibered prairie sod, which had never been broken before since the beginning of time.… And with what reverence he held up the beautiful seed which he was to sow on his own ground. The plump kernels appeared to glow with some inner golden light as the warm rays of the sun struck full across them, and they seemed to be squirming in the hand that grasped them as if they were charged with a life, suddenly roused from slumber, that was seeking release there.

The old farmer would sow generously in glad anticipation of reaping a great harvest. But it is even more so with respect to the spiritual realities that Paul intends here, because whoever sows with blessing will also reap blessing. Such sowing is charged with life. Great generosity births exponential blessing. Here is the bottom line: We are to be a generous people. What we give, though material, glows with the golden light of eternity. Generosity unleashes that light. To be generous is divine.

Cheerful willingness. The logical conclusion of this proverb is Paul’s advice that immediately follows: “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (v. 7). The force of the call to cheerful giving has its origin in Deuteronomy 15:10, 11, which admonishes God’s people under the old covenant, saying:

“You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ ”

This call to cheerful, ungrudging giving had special reference to the Sabbatical year of remission in which every seven years Israel was to forgive all debts (cf. vv. 1, 2). But now, under the new covenant, those in Christ are to make such cheerful generosity their daily practice.

Today’s culture is more like that pictured in a Victorian cartoon of two men sitting in a London club. One is holding a book in his hand and explains, “It’s a new story by that Dickens fellow—about a worthy banker named Scrooge, who finally degenerates into a sentimental weakling.”

Know any Christian Scrooges? Think twice. The terms are mutually exclusive. It is impossible to be a Christian and a Scrooge. Paul taught that the religion of the Corinthian Scrooges was vain, empty (cf. 8:8, 24; 9:3). New-covenant believers, Christians, are to be generous people who find giving a merry venture.[1]

[1] Hughes, R. K. (2006). 2 Corinthians: power in weakness (pp. 172–174). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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