2 Corinthians 9:6-15
6The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And 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. 9As it is written,
‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.’
10He 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. 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13Through 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, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Perhaps some of you have heard I like to start my messages with a little something funny and I’ve been asked to talk with you on the theme of generosity. So I can’t help but recall the one about a rich man who was driving in his big ole Cadillac one day when he saw a poor man crouched down beside the road eating some grass. The rich man slowed his vehicle and cried out the window, “What are you doing?” The poor man replied, “I’ve gone three days without any food for me and my family, so the grass on this hill is our last resource.” “Oh my, say no more, hop in!” said the rich man. “Ohhh, thank you very much! Do you mind if I tell my wife and 2 kids about your generosity and invite them along?” asked the poor man. “No, no problem at all, go ahead and tell them. I’ll be waiting here in the car.” Shortly thereafter, the family got in and the wife looked around at the empty seats. “Hey mister,” she said, “both my parents haven’t eaten anything in a day either. Can I tell them about your generosity and bring them along too?” “Oh sure, the more the merrier,” remarked the rich man. The wife’s parents got into the Cadillac and saw a couple empty seats left and asked the rich man, “Another one of our daughters started eating grass yesterday too. You wouldn’t mind if we invited her too?” “Oh no, go right ahead,” bellowed the rich man. The daughter got in and she dared to ask the rich man, “My boyfriend is so poor, he can’t afford food…” “He was eating grass too?” interrupted the rich man. “Yes, his only choice right now…” “Ok, hurry up, tell him to get in,” finished the rich man. So a couple of hours down the road, the poor father decided to break the silence. “I thank the Lord that there are men as good as you, for your great generosity in giving to so many people and feeding them in their times of struggle.” The rich man looked at the poor man and all the people in his big ole Cadillac and responded, “Don’t worry, my man, it’s been almost eleven months since I cut the grass at my house!”
Probably not the generosity that poor man and his family were expecting! Oh, how easy it is to think we’re being generous when the reality suggests otherwise. We want to give but what we’re giving isn’t what people want. Is it our problem that people don’t want what we have to give? Well, of course it is! A generous deed isn’t generous unless someone actually wants what we have to offer. The burden of the giver is to determine what is wanted and/or needed by someone. There’s no sense in giving something no one wants or needs in the first place. No, a giver must first figure out what is wanted or needed and then give accordingly. That poor man and his family clearly wanted something besides grass to eat and the rich man had a duty to discern this and give more appropriate food. A gift isn’t a gift unless it actually means something to someone. Generosity is meaningless without applicability.
So if the burden of the giver is to give applicably, how is one ever to know what is applicable…what is needed and/or wanted? Well, the easiest and quickest way is to simply ask the person what it is they need or want. But what if that person doesn’t know what he/she needs or wants? Or what if what that person needs or wants isn’t what they really need or want? How are we to be generous then? To answer these questions, we look to the wisdom of Scripture and discover how God is generous. In our reading for today, we heard Paul explain to his congregation at Corinth how God is generous. “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance.” God provides abundantly. This is more of a shotgun approach to giving. Don’t know what to give or how to be generous? Give all that you have to give and it will likely be enough. God blesses each of us so abundantly that any one of the blessings will prove to be a blessing to someone else. God’s blessings are so rich and varied that they meet the needs and wants of all people. Simply channel his blessings and they will be blessings to others. We also hear from Paul that “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.” God not only provides abundantly all that you need to give generously to others, what He gives has this amazing ability to grow within the receiver. God’s gifts grow with time. God’s gifts don’t simply meet immediate needs and wants. They continue to meet needs and wants over time. You see, our gifts aren’t nearly as generous as his gifts! So we ought not be so concerned with deciding what to give but rather with discerning if what we give is of God. And what is of God? Love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, justice, grace…these are the basic gifts of God. These meet the needs and wants of ALL people and they grow within people in giving. Jesus says, “give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38) When we give of which God so abundantly gives to us, we are assured to receive equalfold, if not more, in return. This is because God’s gifts grow within the receiver. Give what God so abundantly gives and you will invariably meet the responsibility to give applicably.
Each of us is called to give generously. After all, ”God loves a cheerful giver.” But God also calls each of us to give wisely. Discern what is needed or wanted and give accordingly. And if you can’t do that, give as God gives: abundantly and of God. His gifts of love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, justice, and grace meet the needs and wants of all people. Our God is a good and gracious God and for that we give thanks–thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.