What Paul Didn't Say About Money.
April 8, 2021 | Timothy Peace
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,
“He scatters abroad, he gives 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 for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! - 2 CORINTHIANS 9:6–15 NRSV
The text of 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 contains a couple of preachers’ favorite verses. The concept of sowing and reaping is mentioned by Paul here (and elsewhere). Additionally, the call to be a “cheerful giver” finds its home in this passage.
As much as I like these sayings, I don’t care much for taking them from their context and isolating them to make a point. In fact, read within their scriptural context, the meaning of these sayings is more powerful than the way they are, too often, used and abused.
The passage is situated within Paul’s petition to the Corinthian Christians to have a collection prepared for the church in Jerusalem. The Corinthian Christians had already begun giving to the Jerusalem church’s cause, and Paul exhorts them to finish what they gladly started. Within that context, verses six through fifteen serve to instill confidence and motivation to carry out the planned giving. To sow abundantly leads to abundant reaping. God desires Christians to give as they’ve carefully considered doing, not out of compulsion, reluctance, or in a way that will leave them in poverty themselves.
Paul also uses a line of thought that, sadly and mistakenly, is modernly associated with health and wealth televangelists. He claims that those who give will have their possessions (specifically food and seed) multiplied. The significant difference between Paul and modern heretics that prey on viewers’ desperation is that in 2 Corinthians 9:11, Paul says that God will multiply the giver’s possessions so that the giver can continue to give. He does not say that God will richly bless the giver so they can buy a private jet.
Ultimately, this passage with its well-known sayings exists to encourage the church members to give so that God’s work can continue to thrive.
For the next three weeks, we’re going to consider “what Jesus didn’t say about money.” In fact, that’s the name of the series. We’ll be looking at the actual sayings of Jesus and debunking common myths people have that lead them to be less concerned about following Jesus and more apt to treat God like a vending machine.
That said, I wanted to reflect on this passage from Paul because it’s another one that many misunderstand or outright misrepresent. The well-intentioned preacher somehow uses the “cheerful giver” phrase not to encourage joyful giving but to guilt people into giving. This, of course, is sad, considering that the line right before implores Christians not to give out of compulsion.
And, as I already mentioned, health and wealth preachers like to use the sowing and reaping concept to bamboozle those wishing for a miracle to fund the preacher’s lavish lifestyle.
The truth is, though, that giving is not about getting more from God, it’s not about checking off a religious-obligation checklist, and it’s never to be about making a figurehead into a wealthy “celebrity.”
Giving is, simply put, about supporting the mission of the church. Giving ensures ministers, who devote their lives to disciple-making, can have a roof over their head and food on the table, that the needs of those in need can be met within the community, and that fellow churches and ministries can be supported in their efforts (which is the direct cause in the passage above).
Sorry if this de-spiritualizes what scripture says about money, but it’s the truth. Every time Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John, or whoever wrote Hebrews talks about money, it is always about being kingdom-minded and others-centric. Basically, according to the New Testament, our use of money can be one of many ways we exhibit our love of God and love for people. The promise of scripture is that if you give to help ministry happen, the ministry will happen. If we get hung up about money or get nervous when it’s discussed, the question really becomes this: Is the work of God a reward that is satisfying enough for me, or was I hoping to get a more significant ROI than that?
This month, let’s move beyond what Jesus didn’t say about money, learn what he actually did say, and then commit to living it out…