A Surprising Gift
My mobile phone was on its last legs. It had already been through an expensive repair on the touch screen, and now, it was clear that its days were numbered. A vital part of my ministry, I realized that I needed a new phone as quickly as possible, before imminent crash. The cost, however, was too much at the moment, which left us searching for possible options.
A few mornings later, I received a call from one of my friends. “Pastor, I’m parked outside your home. Can you come down for a few minutes?” Wondering what had brought him to my home that early, I hurried down the stairwell. As I reached his car, he stepped out and handed me a box. “Pastor, I came to give you this.” It was a new phone! The Lord had burdened his heart, he had humbly followed the Lord’s prompting. I had my needed new phone! My need had been met through the generosity of a fellow-believer and friend.
Generosity is common throughout the pages of the Bible. It is a great grace of God to His people that He moves us from a heart of selfishness to one of selflessness. He helps us provide for His work and for His people.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, the Apostle Paul brought up the topic of generosity with the believers at Corinth, encouraging them to help their struggling fellow-believers in Jerusalem. In doing so, he highlighted specific benefits they would accrue from being generous. In this article, I would like to highlight four such benefits as follows.
Grace will overflow as we learn to be generous
” And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you” (2 Corinthians 9:14).
In 2 Corinthians 8:1 Paul highlights the “grace that God had given the Macedonian churches” which enabled them to be generous beyond what was expected. He says, “they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:3). It was amazing that this grace had overflowed joyfully through them in spite of the severe trials and the extreme poverty they faced (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Referring to the Macedonian churches in a study on 2 Corinthians, Geoffrey B. Wilson says, “Their help was on a scale quite beyond their slender resources” and follows up with this quote – “Despite their deep poverty they insisted on giving far more than anyone could even think they could give.”
Paul then uses the example shown by the Macedonian churches to challenge the believers at Corinth to “also excel in this grace of giving”. He encourages them to complete “this act of grace” – of generosity – that would provide for the needs of those in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:6-7).
Paul further shows in chapter 9 that as we learn to overflow in generosity, the Lord will enable this grace to increase within us. In 2 Corinthians 9:14, he draws attention to “the surpassing grace God has given” – The New Living Translation terms it as “the overflowing grace God has given” – which will enable us to give cheerfully, and not reluctantly, as highlighted in 2 Corinthians 9:7.
As we learn to “excel in the grace of giving”, the Lord will enlarge the desire for generosity within us so that we could “abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8), and “be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11). We are assured that the desire and the faith required to continue in generosity will grow within us as God’s grace begins to overflow in this area of our lives.
Blessings and provision will abound to the generous
Paul states that generosity will lead to abundant blessings. He says, “And God is able to bless you abundantly,” (2 Corinthians 9:8), so that, “You will be enriched in every way” (2 Corinthians 9:11).
Don’t misunderstand. The blessings the Lord gives will not be simply material things—give money, get money. God’s blessings will include spiritual benefits. The New International Bible Commentary, in its comments on 2 Corinthians 9:11 says, “The reward of their benevolence will be that they will be made rich in every way, spiritually as well as materially, …” (pg. 1406). This truth is further emphasized by Proverbs 19:17, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.”
Paul doubles down on God’s generosity by referring to God’s unfailing provision. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” But notice that the provision isn’t for our own leisure and enjoyment. We will have all that we need so that we can abound in good works . . . presumable toward other people.
The above verse, gives us confidence in the ability of our Lord to provide for us “In all things, at all times, for all our needs.” The New Living Translation says, “God will generously provide all you need.”
The seed of generosity will increase together with the harvest
A third benefit that we will receive through our generosity is that God will not only be our provider, He will also give us more seed to sow into the kingdom. “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” (2 Corinthians 9:10). This thought is further emphasized by Proverbs 11:24 which says, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more.”
This multiplication of seed will be manifested through new avenues and opportunities to invest our money, our talents, our produce, our time, and our love, into God’s work. God will help us find more opportunities for giving so that we “can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11).
The IVP Bible Background Commentary on 2 Corinthians 9:10 explains the verse as follows: “Because the Corinthians are supposed to be righteous “sowers,” … Paul cites Isaiah 55:10: “He who provides seed for the sower and bread for food,” which proves that God will continue to supply them so they can continue to give and hence have a greater reward of righteousness” (pg. 508).
As our sowing increases, so will an increase be seen in the harvest the Lord Jesus gives us. 2 Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now He …. will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” Yes, the harvest is assured.
In 1943, an established gospel radio program was once offered to a little-known preacher. Since the cost of the program was beyond the reach of the budget of his church at that time, the preacher made a proposition to the board. He would forgo one week’s salary if they would agree to back the project. After much debate, the board eventually agreed. The preacher then garnered the help of a well-known soloist who agreed to sing on the program.
The seed that Billy Graham began to sow thereafter through his preaching, would grow into a ministry that would bring the power of God’s word to millions around the world. As soloist George Beverly Shea mentioned in his book titled ‘Then Sings my Soul’, “It was the beginning – the humble beginning – of an unbelievable journey.”
God will surely increase our seed and increase the harvest!
Kingdom blessings will abound in response to generosity
Paul describes some of the Kingdom blessings as follows.
a) The needs of the Lord’s people, specially the poor, will be supplied.
“This service that you perform is … supplying the needs of the Lord’s people …” (2 Corinthians 9:12). Graceful giving has therefore been described as “an act of willing worship, done cheerfully, to meet the needs of God’s work and His people.”
b) The Lord will be glorified.
His name will be praised wherever generosity is practiced as an act of obedience to the gospel. 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 says, “This service that you perform … is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others 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”.
Someone described the different types of giving as follows.
Worldly giving – relieves distress
Religious giving – seeks merit
Graceful giving – brings thanks to God
c) Heartfelt prayer will be offered on behalf of the generous.
We find that those who receive the blessing of someone’s generosity will willingly pray for them as shown in 2 Corinthians 9:14. “And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”
That’s a beautiful legacy for anyone to leave behind!
d) Unity will be enhanced among God’s children.
Paul expected that as the Corinthian believers reached out to help the needy in Jerusalem, a bond would be formed that would break down barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles. The New International Bible Commentary says, “Although he (Paul) does not say so specifically, it is more than likely that he also looked upon the gift as a bond that would draw Jewish and Gentile Christians closer together, …” (pg. 1403).
How badly does unity and love need to be nutured in the church today? The generosity of God’s people will be a strong catalyst to help strengthen that bond, as it did in Paul’s time.
Not Loving, and Not Hating, Money
The Bible warns us that “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), but let us not forget that ”The love of the right use of money can be a root of much good.” Let’s continue therefore in generosity!
Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). How true those words are even today!