Today’s reading: 2 Cor 9
Most of us will recognize the verse from today’s reading, “God loves a cheerful giver”. Here is the verse:
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 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.
There are two points that are often overlooked in this passage. First, you must “decide in your heart” what to give. This is a subtle but key point. You should be deciding ahead of time what you are going to give. You should be planning ahead on giving. By doing so the reluctance of compulsion is removed and helps you to remain a cheerful giver. If you can plan ahead then you don’t have to “sow sparingly”. Rather, you can sow bountifully and reap bountifully.
Second, and incredibly more profoundly, the passage says that by giving, “God IS ABLE to make all grace abound to you.” Now, of course, God is inherently able to do all things, so this verse does not suggest that God was limited in his power. However, it does suggest that God has established a condition to some of his grace, that condition being your choice to share your blessings. It suggests that God, having established that condition waits (out of divine justice) for you to fulfill it and once you do is able to release that part of his grace to you. Thus this is another passage that suggests free will.
Notice that the verse actually takes it a step further. What is the purpose of this “system” that God has set up? The verse says, “so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Notice this last verse ties back into the first. If you sow bountifully you will reap bountifully and if you give cheerfully you will have, “all sufficiency in all things at all times”.
However, we must be careful not to stop there (as to many people often do) and end up proclaiming a “health and wealth” gospel wherein God becomes the guarantor of earthly treasure for those deserving because of their kindness and generosity. Rather, the verse says that purpose of the system is that “you may abound in every good work”. So by giving cheerfully, you will receive that grace you will need to do more good works. Here again, we see the God extolling the value of good works. Good works are not things that we do to merit heaven; rather they are the product of grace we receive because of our choice to do them. From this we now better understand the expression, “giving is its own reward”.
Tomorrow: 2 Cor 10