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. 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. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, 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, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 ESV
There is a certain segment of Christendom today that operates by the “give-to-get” philosophy that says God is somehow obligated to “pour out a blessing” on all those who give. And they use this very passage to teach that the more you give, the more God is obligated to give in return. But is that what Paul is teaching. Is he portraying giving as some kind of divine financial investment strategy that guarantees a low-risk, high-yield return on your giving? There is little doubt that Paul is teaching that those who sow or give sparingly will reap in the same way. And those who sow or give bountifully will experience a bountiful return on their investment. But what is the nature of that return? Is it more money? Is Paul guaranteeing a high financial return on your giving? If he is, then the motivation behind the giving becomes based on greed and avarice.
Paul’s emphasis is on giving and doing so freely and liberally. But the motivation is to be based on submission to the will of God and a recognition of His grace and generosity to us. Anything we have to give has been given to us by Him. Our giving is to be out of gratitude, not greed. It is to be out of love for the saints, not a lust for more wealth. Paul emphasizes that our giving should be done cheerfully, not because we expect a financial return on our giving, but because we are doing the will of God and participating in the care of the saints and the cause of His Kingdom. The point behind our giving is to be a dependence upon God, not money. Paul says, “God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT). When we give, we are releasing our hold and dependence upon the very resources the world says are our hope and means of self-reliance. But Paul says that when we give, we are showing our dependence upon God. We are submitting our care to His divine will and ability to meet our daily needs. When we give generously and cheerfully, God will not let us go hungry. It is His grace that He will pour out on us, and not necessarily in the form of money. God has a far greater concern for us than our financial stability. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10 ESV). Notice what is being harvested: Your righteousness. The real benefit behind our giving is righteousness, not financial reward.
The other fruit produced from sowing generously is thanksgiving. And Paul extends the concept of giving beyond just the financial arena. “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). When we willingly obey God’s prompting to give, whether it be of our money, our time, or our talents, we will find that God enriches us with even more of those same resources so that we might give more. The point is not that we are giving to get more of whatever it is we just gave away. It is that we might see the grace of God poured out on us and through us. That is what produces thanksgiving to Him. When we see God at work in our lives, using us and blessing us, we can’t help but be grateful to Him for His grace and goodness to us. And Paul goes on to say, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12 ESV). In other words, our generous giving produces a crop of thanksgiving from those who are the beneficiaries of our giving. They will be grateful to us, but more importantly, they will show gratitude to God. Not only that, “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” (2 Corinthians 9:13 ESV). Our giving results in their gratitude and God’s glory. And it all starts with our submission to God that comes as a result of our salvation by God. Our generosity, in whatever form it takes, is a byproduct of our salvation. We love because He first loved us. We give because He has so graciously given to us.
Paul would have us remember that our giving is an expression of God’s “surpassing grace” upon us. And like Paul, we should be able to say, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV). We are the recipients of God’s grace, His unmerited favor. We are the beneficiaries of His benevolent, sacrificial gift of His own Son’s death as payment for our sins. Our debt was paid by His sacrifice. God gave the greatest thing He had to give so that we might have life. It is because of that inexpressible gift that we are to give to others. And the return on investment? Our righteousness, increased thankfulness, and the glory of God.