22/8/04 BCP Evensong Trinity 11 - 2 Corinthians 9
91 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we--not to say anything about you--would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. 6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, 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 in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
The American industrialist, Henry Ford, was once asked to donate money for the construction of a new medical facility. The billionaire pledged to donate $5,000. The next day in the newspaper, the headline read, "Henry Ford contributes $50,000 to the local hospital." The irate Ford was on the phone immediately to complain to the fund-raiser that he had been misunderstood. The fund-raiser replied that they would print a retraction in the paper the following day to read, "Henry Ford reduces his donation by $45,000." Realizing the poor publicity that would result, the industrialist agreed to the $50,000 contribution in return for the following: That above the entrance to the hospital was to be carved the biblical inscription: "I came among you and you took me in."
Jerusalem had been the birthplace of the church which had grown to embrace Gentiles. The church in Jerusalem was experiencing financial difficulty. Perhaps because the believers had been cut off from Jewish relatives, society, employment and the Temple and also due to a famine ( Acts 11:28 ) .
Paul had shared the need with the Gentile churches and had been encouraged by their response. However, not much progress had been made with the collection from the Corinthian church and this was one of the reasons Paul sent this letter and Titus and his companions, the "brothers" verse 5.
This passage reveals important truths about Christian giving.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
This appears to be a well known proverb rather than a quotation from Scripture. The point is obvious but needs thinking about. No farmer would be miserly in distributing seed. Common sense tells you that if only a small piece of land is sown then only a small harvest can be expected. If inadequate seed is spread than a sub-standard crop can be anticipated.
"In Other Words," a publication of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, told a story about Sadie Sieker, who served for many years as a house-parent for missionaries' children in the Philippines. Sadie loved books. Though she gladly loaned out some, others she treasured in a footlocker under her bed. Once, in the quiet of the night, Sadie heard a faint gnawing sound. After searching all around her room, she discovered that the noise was coming from her footlocker. When she opened it, she found nothing but an enormous pile of dust. All the books she had kept to herself had been lost to termites. What we give away, we keep. What we hoard, we lose.
In Scripture giving to God is associated with sowing, Hosea 10:12. The underlying theme behind giving is that God is powerful and generous enough to provide for His people. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Captain Levy, a believer from Philadelphia, was once asked how he could give so much to the Lord's work and still possess great wealth. The Captain replied, "Oh, as I shovel it out, He shovels it in, and the Lord has a bigger shovel."
I would not want to encourage a believer to give just because they expect to receive something back in return. This ignores the foundation of our faith which is about the self-sacrifice of Jesus. In the previous Chapter Paul wrote, 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
However, we need to ask the question, "What type of return, or 'reaping' might the believer expect for his/her 'investment'.
1) The knowledge that the money given is helping others who are less fortunate than ourselves. The principal in Scripture is one of equality, and giving in proportion to what one has. 8:13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.
An obvious application of this is giving to organisations such as Christian Aid, or supporting the Three C's Committee who have a Barbeque on the green on 11th September in aid of Evas. Some would argue that the share that we give towards the running of the Church of England is based on this in trying, however imperfectly, to allocate the budget according to the ability to pay.
2) Giving to Godly causes is a from of worship, a practical expression of praise. In turn this can result in people praising God for the generosity of the giver(s). Those who praise God will also be moved to pray for the givers. This is what verses 12-14 is saying;
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.
3) Giving to God in its widest sense, not just financially, will have eternal benefits. Jesus said, Matthew 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Jesus told a parable about sheep and goats, Matthew 25:34ff, to show that true faith results in practical action which will be rewarded in heaven.
We might ask how we should give. Verse 7 answers this, 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Perhaps the reason that 'the heart' is mentioned is that it is more likely to give generously and sacrificially than 'the head'
The Jews had in the temple two chests for alms; the one for what was deemed "necessary", i.e. what the law required. The other was for free-will offerings. To escape judgement some would grudgingly give what they felt they had to; others would give cheerfully, for the love of God, and through pity to the poor. The benefit of giving is lost to the giver when he/she does it with a grumbling heart, even if it is in accordance with 'the law'.
The principal behind this is that the giving should be cheerfully and freely given, not out of a feeling of compulsion. The word translated 'cheerful' is 'hilaros', from which we get the word 'hilarious'. Imagine, a collection being passed around a congregation and them being so happy with what they are giving that they smile and laugh!
On a more serious side we are facing up to a budget deficit of around £3,000 this year, or £250 per month. Next year our parish share is due to increase nearly £3,000. The P.C.C. is reviewing this. One of the measures we are considering is making every church member aware of our situation and asking them to respond. Cheerfully, willingly, and generously, as outlined in today's reading.
Mother Teresa said, "If you give what you do not need, it isn't giving."