When it comes to giving to the church, we all wonder, “How much should we give?” In his instructions about giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul never mentions specific amounts or percentages, but he does give us several principles to follow.
One of them is in 2 Corinthians 9:6-10. In these verses, Paul uses the metaphor of reaping and sowing to explain what happens when we give. The Corinthians may have thought that they would lose whatever they give, so Paul reminds them that, just as farmers reap a harvest according to what they sow, so also those who give will reap according to what they sow.
When farmers sow their seed in the ground, they do so with the expectation that there will be a harvest. The seed will produce something. It doesn’t just disappear. Their hope is that the harvest will provide for their needs and provide enough seed for the next year’s harvest.
When farmers sow their seed in the ground, they do so with the expectation that there will be a harvest
In the same way, when we give, when we “sow our seed”, we should understand that God will provide for our needs through the harvest and provide us with some more seed to sow for the next harvest. In other words, we should give expectantly in light of the promise of God’s provision in the harvest.
The point in 2 Corinthians 9:6 (cf. Galatians 6:7) is that God will take care of those who give generously. They won’t lack anything they need and will have more means of giving. The God who supplies the farmer with his seed for sowing and his bread for eating “will supply” seed to his people to give and “will multiply” that seed for more sowing (v. 10).
Paul also says that God will “increase the harvest of your righteousness” when we give generously. This means that one of the ways that those who’ve been made righteous in Christ prove their righteousness is through generous giving toward those in need.
One commentator says it like this, “The righteousness that we become through Christ’s sacrificial death (5:21) works itself out in our sacrificial generosity to others. A lack of generosity calls into question whether or not we have truly received the righteousness of God.” In other words, generous giving doesn’t make us right with God, but it can show that we are right with God.
This understanding of these verses should not be confused with the prosperity gospel.
Prosperity teachers like Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer and many others take passages like this and make them say something like, “If we give to God, God will give back to us.” What they usually mean is, “God will give back to us in this life in the form of financial prosperity, promotions, good health, and an overall blessed life.”
But that’s not what Paul is saying. In verse 10, he says that it’s our “harvest of righteousness” that is increased, not our physical health or financial prosperity. I love how theologian Christopher Green summarises this. He says, “This is no blank cheque from God, then, that all you have to do to become financially rich is to give money away, but a promise that someone who seeks honestly to be generous to a generous God will find that God loves that trust.”
One of the ways those who’ve been made righteous in Christ prove their righteousness is through generous giving to those in need
In other words, God loves those whose trust in Him results in joyful generosity. These kinds of people are often the ones He chooses to “enrich in every way” because they will “be generous in every way” (v. 11).
It is often said that the problem with closing our hands around our money is that a closed hand prevents us from being able to receive anything else from God. But when we live with open hands toward God and others, our hands are also open to receive more from God. And as we receive more from God, we should give more to God, all the while knowing that we’re not actually losing anything but gaining treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
We should not assume that whatever passes out of our hands is a total loss. As Martin Luther said, “I have had many things in my hands that I lost; the things that I placed in the hands of God I still possess.”
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-10, Paul is saying that, just as a sower’s seed doesn’t disappear but rather creates a harvest, so also, when we give generously to God, we are not losing, we are gaining. This is why Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.