The apostle Paul is writing to these Corinthians about generosity. Paul does not want to command generosity from the Corinthians because if one is commanded to be generous then you are actually not generous. Generosity comes from the heart, not from command. So rather than command the necessity to be generous as Christians, Paul has first described the example of generosity from the Macedonian Christians. In spite of the severe test of affliction they were experiencing as well as their extreme poverty, the Christians in Macedonia begged for the joy and grace of giving to the needy Christians in Jerusalem. The apostle Paul further drew their attention to the example of Christ, who for our sakes became poor so that we could be rich in him. In 2 Corinthians 9 he continues to call for these Christians to encourage generosity in these Christians by teaching them important principles about giving.
Ready To Give (9:1-5)
Paul continues to encourage these Christians, noting that he does not need to write to them about this ministry of helping the needy Christians in Jerusalem because he knows their readiness and their desire to help. Paul has been telling the Christians in Macedonia about how the Corinthians were ready to give to the Christians in Jerusalem. But Paul wants to make sure that they are ready when he comes so that they are not embarrassed by not being prepared. Notice again in verse 5 that Paul is not compelling these Corinthians but helping them. What Paul declares is an important point for us to remember. Preparation helps ensure giving comes from a willing and generous heart. This is why the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 16 told them to set aside and save up until he comes so that there would be no collection when he came. Preparation reveals a willing heart and a desire to give. Paul wants this to be a blessing to the Corinthians, not extortion or under compulsion (9:5). Therefore, we come back to the same issue. How is Paul going to encourage their giving so that the giving is not begrudging or under compulsion? Notice the following principles Paul teaches to encourage their giving.
Sow Sparingly, Reap Sparingly (9:6-7)
The principle Paul puts forward is in verse 6. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Paul using a farming concept to illustrate a spiritual truth. If you put only a few seeds in the ground you will not have much crop. Sowing sparingly is to withhold giving and to lack generosity. Sowing bountifully is to be generous and giving. Verse 7 proves that Paul is talking about giving and generosity when he uses this farming principle. We see this point expressed in verse 7. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion…” This is also the same principle that is taught by God in the Proverbs.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:24–25 ESV)
It is a counter-intuitive principle. We think that the more generosity we show the less we will have. We think that the more we hold tightly to money and are stingy, then the more money we will retain. But Paul teaches that it does not work like that.
Now we need to talk about what this principle does not mean. So many people take this verse out of its context so that it means that if you will give, then God is going to give you more. This is not an appeal to self-interest. Paul is not saying to give so that God will give you more to spend on your selfish, worldly pursuits. The purpose for this principle will be more fully expressed as we read through this paragraph. The point is not to give some now so that you can have more later.
Quelling Our Fears For Generosity (9:7-11)
What God is doing is quelling our fears for being generous. If we are generous, then are we not going to suffer ourselves? So we think we need to hold closely to money and not be willing to give. The reason that we should not fear giving and being generous is because God says our lack of generosity will mean we will reap sparingly. In fact, God loves a cheerful giver (9:7). We should stop and consider when God says there is a certain characteristic that he loves. God loves a person who gives cheerfully. God loves the person who wants to give and does so. We do not need to be commanded to be generous. We want to be generous because that is the kind of heart God loves. Paul is saying that we are on the wrong side of the scale with God if we sow sparingly and lack generosity. Further, giving reluctantly or under compulsion is sowing sparingly. God wants generosity. God loves generosity. We must consider this principle and let it weigh on our hearts.
The second reason we can be free to give and be generous is found in verse 8. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV) God is the one who makes us abound. God gives to us, not so we can have a selfish pursuit of wealth, but that we will have all we need and have abundance for good deeds. Think about what this is saying to us. God gives to you so that you can abound in doing good works. I have seen this principle in practice in the lives of so many people, in the positive and the negative.
I have seen many Christians who are so generous with their money and possessions. They give to others when they have need. They help others and do good for others. Do you know what I have always seen in their lives? Somehow God continues to give them sufficiency in all things. They are not on the streets without food and clothing. They continue to be sustained by God and, not only this, but are able to continue to give to others as they have need. By contrast, I know Christians who are stingy, clutching on to their wealth and possessions as tightly as they can. They lack generosity and believe they cannot give at all. Do you know what I have seen in their lives? They never have anything. They are always strapped. I cannot help but consider that this is exactly the principle God is teaching in this paragraph. If you will use what God gives you to be generous and give, he will give you more so that you will be sufficient and so you can continue to give to others. You will have what you need. But if you are not generous, then God has no reason to give you more because you are not going to use it to do every good work.
Paul uses two scriptures to prove this idea even further. It is almost as if we need convincing concerning this principle of God. The first quotation is from Psalm 112:9 and is quoted in 2 Corinthians 9:9. Now there is a temptation to misread this quotation. The quotation from Psalm 112 is not a description of God but of the righteous. Listen to the context to see this:
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. (Psalm 112:5–9 ESV)
Notice that the psalmist notes how God sustains the righteous person who is just, deals generously, distributes freely, and gives to the poor. God’s constant resupply allows them to continually give to be a helper to others.
Verse 10 is a reference from Isaiah 55:10 where God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing. Now notice why. Why is God going to supply these things to us? Is it so that we can have nice cars and expensive houses? No, God supplies these things to us so we can “increase the harvest of your righteousness.” God gives these things so we will be generous and do good works.
Producing Thanksgiving (9:11-15)
Look at verse 11 where God states this truth again.
You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11 ESV)
God is enriching us so that we can be generous in every way and through the generosity will cause thanksgiving to God. Our generosity can cause others to thank God. In 2 Corinthians 9:12 Paul says that thanksgiving is going to happen from generosity. You are not only supplying the needs of the saints, but this generosity “is also overflowing in many thanksgiving to God.” This is another motivation for our generosity. Doing good for others and being generosity will cause people to give thanks to God and glorify God. Our purpose is to cause people to give thanks to God and glorify God. This is one of the ways we can accomplish this. Paul states this in verse 13. “They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others….”
We see this kind of generosity in the scriptures in Acts 4:34-37. There was not a Christian in need in Jerusalem for people who had land and houses sold what they had so that those who were in need would be cared for. Do you think that generated thanksgiving to God when these Christians who had possessions sold those possessions to help these other Christians who were in need? Of course it did. Paul says that this thanksgiving will happen in Jerusalem in the Corinthians show their generosity for toward them.
We understand this truth. A few years ago we were blindsided by a bill for Grace’s surgery. We were going to need to pay over $5000 as our portion for a necessary surgery. We asked for your prayers regarding that situation. Many of you took it upon yourselves to be the answer to that prayer to help us. For this, we were moved to thanksgiving to God by seeing your generosity. Then we were able to give the money back to you because God sustained us by erasing the debt all together, generating even more praise and thanksgiving to God.
Christians will see the gospel at work because of your generous contribution for their need. In doing so these Corinthian Christians will also reap a spiritual benefit. The Christians in Jerusalem “will long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God” (9:14). The picture is that Christians will give to other Christians in financial need and those who receive that grace will give thanks to God, glorify God, and long and pray for those who showed such generosity.
What makes the difference between the sparing giver and the generous giver is the relationship with God. If you think God is stingy, then you will be stingy. If you think God is generous, then you will be generous. This has been the essence of this message. We are encouraged to be generous and desire to be givers because (1) God loves a cheerful giver, (2) God will give us all sufficiency and will reap bountifully so we can continue to be generous and do good works, (3) God is thanked and glorified when we are generous, and (4) we are displaying the heart of the gospel when we are generous. Let us be generous toward one another because we see our generous God who gave himself for us.