Living Larger by Sowing Generously
Topic: Generosity Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:1–9:15
Grace Community Church
March 28, 2021
Living Larger by Sowing Generously
Happy Palm Sunday!!
Last week we saw how the Jerusalem church is suffering severely and Paul starts a collection from churches in Greece to help bring relief to the Jerusalem believers.The Corinthians had pledged to give generously, which helped to inspire the poorer churches in Macedonia to give generously, and now the time has come to collect the offering and take it to Jerusalem.
To do that, Paul and his trusted colleague Titus along with a couple brothers from Macedonia will be coming soon. But Paul has a nagging concern that we read about in chapter 9.
Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. 2 Cor. 9:1-5
Paul says to the Corinthians, “your zeal (your enthusiastic generosity) stirred up the Macedonians, but it would be incredibly embarrassing if when we come, with Macedonian believers, you aren’t ready to fulfill the pledges you made. So I’m sending some brothers ahead of us.
To us it may sound a little heavy handed to send an advance team to make sure the offering is ready to go, but Paul is clear, what they pledged wasn’t an exaction, it wasn’t an obligation, they pledged it willingly and joyfully. He just wants to make sure that they aren’t unprepared due to negligence and thereby embarrassed and ashamed. So that’s what’s going on, but Paul then brings home the point and the principle of generosity:
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Cor. 9:6
For my birthday a few years ago Janice set up a golfing tee time for me and my two sons. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time together. But a funny thing happened when we got to the sixth hole. As we stood on the tee-off, looking at our golf course map, the fairway just didn’t look right. There were trees just 20 yards off the tee. So we thought maybe we’re supposed to hit to the right. But we couldn’t even see the flag for the 6th hole. The three of us hit our balls to the right as best we could, and as we started walking to our balls, still feeling like something wasn’t right, Jared suddenly said, “hey guys, we’re looking at the map backwards. The fairway is in the opposite direction.” Sure enough we got turned around 180 degrees. So we retrieved our balls and started again, this time hitting in the right direction. And there was the flag indicating the putting green.
When we talk about generosity, I think a lot of times we feel things like pressure, guilt, maybe even fear that God will ask us to give too much. We hear generosity and we think in terms of “I ought to” and “I need to”. But when we look at the map in the Bible, we see that generosity has us do a 180. Generosity isn’t the thing that makes our lives smaller and poorer, generosity is the thing that makes our lives bigger and richer.
Paul uses the agricultural analogy of farming. The farmer who sows a little, reaps a little. The farmer who sows a lot, reaps a lot. In other words, the one who generously gives out gets a lot (not necessarily in terms of money – we’ll talk about that in a minute), and the one who keeps a lot for themselves gets a little. This goes against our instinct but it’s because sin has turned our inner map 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul gives us a map for a bigger, richer, better life. And it’s marked by sowing generously.
The first thing we see on this map is that generosity isn’t just sowing a lot. It’s sowing a lot cheerfully.
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7
Has it ever happened to you that someone offered you something, but you knew they really didn’t want you to take it? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do without than accept something from someone who’s offering out of obligation. Or with strings attached. When someone gives generously, they give cheerfully, no strings attached. And God loves that! It’s not the giving, it’s the cheerful giving!
Last week I said that if we want to live large, we need to live generously. Paul maps that out in more detail in these verses. Title: Living Larger by Sowing Generously. I think this is a timely message after a year of COVID lockdown and the restrictions it has brought to our lives. It shrank our lives and our church opportunities in many ways. As things begin to get back to normal, let’s believe God to enlarge and expand our lives and our opportunities for generosity in the year that lies ahead of us.
Let’s consider three ways that sowing generously leads us to a larger life.
- A larger faith
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. 9 As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”2 Cor. 9:8-9
Generosity is a grace of God in our lives. Chapter 8 says We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 2 Cor. 8:1-2
The generosity isn’t their doing, it’s God’s doing. God is able to make all grace abound to you…But God makes all grace abound to us when we give the grace we have received away! Sow sparingly, reap sparingly. Sow generously, reap generously! And when we do, God – who has been and is exceedingly more generous than we could ever be, will make all grace abound to us.
Fear has a way of making us clutch what we have, afraid of losing it. Faith opens our hands so that we give away freely – not afraid of losing what we have because we know the more generous we sow, the more generous God will be in making all grace abound to us.
This isn’t just about money. We can sow our time generously. We can sow our abilities generously. We can sow our love generously. We can sow our friendship generously.
Do you mind if I brag on you a little? It’s easy for churches to get ingrown, where there are friendships, but they are tight little cliques. New people can feel on the outside looking in because friendship exists, but it’s not given away generously. I’ve watched you time and again, freely and generously offer welcome to new people. Don’t ever stop! We don’t lose friendships by being generous with our friendships, we enlarge our friendships.
Just as the farmer isn’t looking at the seed when he sows it, he’s looking at the future, yet unseen crops with faith that if he sows, he will reap; in that way sowing generously is an act of faith, believing God will do and multiply and bless what we sow and more than we sow.
Faith to believe God for bigger and better than anything we can do. I don’t want what I can do, I want what God can do. Sowing generously is one of the ways we can get out of the safe boat of practical and planning and careful! and step out on the water of trusting God. And I know I’m mixing biblical metaphors.
- A larger harvest
10 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 Cor. 9:10
We know from Galatians 6 that what we sow we will reap. Everyone reaps a harvest. What this verse tells us is that our harvest is bigger and better when we live a life sowing generously rather than sowing selfishly. There are two things we can do with seed: we can eat it, or we can sow it.
God says, you sow seed, I’ll give you more. And I’ll provide the bread you need. But more than that, God says, I’ll increase the harvest of your righteousness. Everyone reaps a harvest, but sadly some reap a harvest of regret, of sorrow, of lost opportunity, of love never risked, of friendships never formed.
I think a big part of that regret for many will be that they had the seed all the time. The potential for kingdom harvest was massive, but they (we, I) didn’t sow that seed. Or didn’t sow that seed generously.
Let me pause here for a truth in advertising moment: I am as selfish as the next person. This message is challenging my heart as much as I hope it’s challenging yours. Let’s take this journey into a greater sowing together.
Here’s the thing about this principle (and it goes back to faith): we sow now, we reap later. Sometimes we
sow and sow and sow and we don’t see anything for all our sowing. Sometimes where we sow doesn’t produce a harvest – we experience crop failure. What parent hasn’t sown love and patience and Bible into their children only to see them go off the rails for a time? Trust God! He who supplies seed for the sower…will increase the harvest of your righteousness. He will! Not we will, He will!
Maybe you think, “I really don’t have much to sow.” I’m telling you, when God measures generosity, He doesn’t measure it by those who have a lot, He measures it by those who don’t have a lot but are generous with it. Sow the seed you have. Irish statesman Edmund Burke once pointed out, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” ~ Edmund Burke
Sow what you have, and God will supply you with more.
- A larger glory
11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 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, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 2 Cor. 9:11-15
Here’s a theological truth: we can’t add to God’s glory. We can’t. God is perfectly and infinitely glorious and there’s nothing we can do to add to His glory. When Jesus prayed in John 17, that God glorify him with the glory he had before creation, he doesn’t pray that the disciples add to his glory, he prays that the disciples see his glory.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. John 17:24
But we can have a harvest of helping people see the glory of God as we sow into people’s lives, resulting in their thanking and glorifying God. By way of analogy, we can’t make the sun any hotter or brighter. But we can help people who are trapped in dark basements come out and see the brightness and glory of the sun. In that way we can glorify God. How awesome is that!
The saddest harvest is a life that’s all about us. That’s where the sinful map in our hearts wants to take us. Pride can make that feel pretty fulfilling for a time, but in the end, it’s empty. It’s vain glory, empty glory. The harvest of righteousness is seeing that it’s all about God. Our joy, our hope, our meaning, our life is God. This is eternal life: to know God the Father and Jesus. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why Jesus the King road into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday 2000 years ago. It wasn’t to take up his throne and rule as king, it was to take up his cross and die for us, that we might be saved, forgiven, restored to God in loving relationship. Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!
Our glory, the larger glory we can live for, is to glorify God. What a joy that we can be used in some small way to help people see him and glorify him. That’s the biggest life we can possibly live, as the grace of God enables us to live larger by sowing generously.
Let’s provoke one another to love and good works and sowing generously.
More in Messy Grace: Second Corinthians
March 21, 2021Grace to Live Generously
March 14, 2021Conflict, Confusion, and Correction: Is it worth the risk?(Part Two)
March 7, 2021Conflict, Confusion, and Correction: Is it worth the risk?(Part One)