Article 2019-08 Sowing & Reaping
Chapter 58: Sowing & Reaping
Preaching the Word is half a ministry; relief aid is another half. From the Macedonians we learn that poverty is no reason not to give; giving is a spiritual choice. We cannot make Jesus Lord, without making Him Lord of our wallet too. Money matters should be handled in accountability to God and man. Finally, there is the ‘reverse-principle’: giving materially yields a spiritual harvest and sowing spiritually yields a material harvest.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously … God loves the cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:6,7)
All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do (Gal. 2:10)
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trials, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability (2 Cor. 8:1-3)
Right from the beginning of Paul’s ministry he had received the request from the apostles to ‘remember the poor’, in other words, to not care for people’s spiritual needs only but pay attention to their physical needs as well. Paul wrote to the Corinthians how generous the Macedonian churches were, and pleads with them for the principle of equality among believers. They should be open and honest in their material dealings. Then he explained the principle of sowing and reaping: the spiritual/material exchange between missionaries and the congregations they planted.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality (2 Cor. 8:13,14)
In Second Corinthians Paul deals with different aspects of the offering he is collecting for the saints in Jerusalem. A number of aspects deserve our attention. First, he mentions to the church in Corinth the example of generosity of the Macedonian churches. They were very poor, yet chose to be generous and joyful in their giving. They gave beyond their ability (which was more than what Paul asked of the rich Corinthians), and did so on their own initiative. They considered giving to Paul’s collection a privilege in which they eagerly participated and not as something compulsory to which they grudgingly agreed. They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to His workers. They made Him their Lord in every way. After that it was not so hard anymore to also give themselves and their resources to God’s workers. The Corinthians are encouraged to display the same attitude in giving generously.
Paul wanted to see equality among believers: the shortage of one group should be supplied with the abundance of the other. Paul’s collection was a large ‘once-off’ gift, not a structure that would create dependency because of a constant money-flow from rich to poor, which we often see in Developing World missions programs that are sponsored by western countries.
Paul also raises the issue of accountability. He had representatives of the donor-churches to be witnesses, that the offering was being handled correctly. He wanted transparency and therefore submitted his financial dealings in accountability towards God and man. This is an example for us in all dealings where God’s workers handle donations given for specific purposes.
Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account (Phil. 4:17)
If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? (1 Cor. 9:11)
Paul ends his discourse with the sowing and reaping metaphor, followed by thanksgiving for an abundant harvest. The principle is, that whoever sows spiritually reaps materially. This applies to God’s workers. The reverse applies to the donors: whoever sows materially will reap spiritually. Generosity in sowing guarantees abundant harvest.
In the African churches I have often taught the principle that the giving hand is always (physically and spiritually) placed above the hand of the receiver. Jesus formulated that by saying that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’. We may also say, that, although a beggar never gives, a giver never begs.
Discussion & dialogue
Discuss with your study group how to handle the following financial situations:
- If gifts are given for special projects, can the money be spent on something else?
- If gifts are given for a special project, how should the money be transferred in a way that guarantees transparency and accountability?