2 Corinthians 9:1-15 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. 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. 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.” 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. 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!
Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth addresses a collection for the church in Jerusalem that He had evidently spoken to them about during his third missionary journey. It appears the Corinthian church had written to Paul inquiring more information about the collection. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 Paul encourages the church to have a plan to be generous so it would not turn into a burden all at once when they came to receive the collection.
16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
The church in Jerusalem was suffering greatly, and Paul was counting on the generosity of not just the Corinthian church but many churches to help bear the burden. In chapter 8 of 2 Corinthians Paul tells the church of the great generosity of the Macedonian believers.
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. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints
Paul then commits to sending Timothy and two others to receive the offering from the Corinthian church and encourages them to be ready. He then writes about what it looks like to be focused on generosity. He was not saying a generosity that causes one to neglect their family or not pay their bills but a heart that looks for an opportunity and cheerfully takes it. When God sees a motivation like that, He enriches a person bent toward opportunities to be generous toward others.
1. Generosity is not a feeling, it’s a plan.
Money management should never be ruled by feelings. Good management should produce good feelings. Planning reduces the pressure.
2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper,
The plan has to be consistent (“first day of every week.”) The plan works for everyone (“each of you.”). The plan works for all incomes (“as he may prosper.”)
If you are not planning on being generous, you will never feel like it. Planning is an indicator of the heart.
3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints
2. Sowing and reaping
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.
Paul is illustrating the principle that the sower has the ability to plant as much or little as they decide, but the law of sowing and reaping will apply. The heart bent towards generosity will always reap more. A person planning to sow will always sow more than someone being impulsive or casual. The act of planning shows that we understand God’s heart and His economy.
When your plan matches God’s plan, multiplication happens. Harvest is never one to one. Understanding purposeful generosity in the context of planting, a crop is never accidentally planted. It requires planning and preparation. When we do these things, we are turning our hearts and attention to the heart of God, and God blesses and multiplies it.
3. Planning to give will result in more to give.
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. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
Paul is telling the Corinthian church that God will continue to supply them an abundance in order to be generous. God is rewarding the heart of generosity by making more generosity possible.
God loves to give, and when we give, it produces joy in us. The key to being cheerful may not be to acquire more, but plan to give more away. It produces joy beyond us.
In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 people they’d be receiving about $100 over a few weeks. Half of the people were asked to commit to spending that money on themselves, and half were asked to spend it on someone they knew. The researchers wanted to see whether simply pledging to being generous was enough to make people happier. So before doling out any money, they brought everyone into the lab and asked them to think about a friend they’d like to give a gift to and how much they would hypothetically spend. They then performed functional MRI scans to measure activity in three regions of the brain associated with social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making. Their choices—and their brain activity—seemed to depend on how they had pledged to spend the money earlier. Those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions throughout the experiment, compared to those who had agreed to spend on themselves. They also had more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness, and they reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.
When we have a generous heart, God multiplies what we have, and we see more opportunities to use it.
Why is it important to plan to be generous instead of waiting until we feel like it?
When is a time you felt like you didn’t have enough to give but decided to give as much as you could anyway? How did it work out?
How can we make generosity a regular habit (the way we make other financial transactions) instead of waiting until something appeals to us and makes us want to give toward it?
When is a time you made a decision to do something you didn’t feel excited about, but once you committed , you began looking forward to it?
How do we avoid falling into the trap of either giving out of compulsion and guilt or giving with selfish motives?
How does trusting God’s heart and understanding his economy give us confidence that if we are generous,, he will always make sure we have all we need for our own needs?
How can we remember that God’s plan for our generosity includes his characteristics of joy and abundance? How will this influence our whole outlook toward generosity?