Will God Reward You for Giving?
A sermon on 2 Corinthians 9:9-15 by Coty Pinckney, Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte, NC, 2/22/04
Is there a reward for giving? When we give, do we always get more in return?
The biblical answer is: Yes!
So now do you expect me to speak like some TV preachers, and tell you that if you give $1000 to Desiring God Church you are guaranteed to get $100,000 in return?
No, I’m not going to say that. But I am going to tell you what the Bible tells you, what Paul tells you: When you give, you receive far, far more than you give. What does Paul mean by that?
This is the fifth and last sermon on 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, these two great chapters on giving. Remember, we have already seen that money is not Paul’s focusin these chapters. Instead, Paul commends the Macedonians for giving themselves to God (8:5). We also saw that the word translated “generosity” in most English versions – which in our language always connotes the giving of money - in Greek has no such connotation. Indeed, the word is better translated “sincere concern.” Furthermore, we saw that 2 Corinthians 8:9, the great verse about Jesus’ being rich and becoming poor so that we might become rich, has nothing to do with material riches or poverty. Finally, we saw that Paul uses the Greek word for “blessing” in 9:5 to talk about the Corinthians’ gift, and then in verse 6 uses the same word again, so that we should translate that verse “whoever sows blessings will also reap blessings.”
We have emphasized again and again that in understanding these chapters we must be careful to discern what currency Paul is talking about. And again and again he chooses to use words that emphasize what is going on in our hearts, the giving of ourselves, the blessings we are giving. In turn, he also emphasizes rewards to giving which are not monetary – the rewards that come in other currencies.
In today’s passage Paul draws this section of 2 Corinthians to a marvelous close. We’ll divide the sermon under two headings:
We’ll close with some final thoughts on how we live out these truths in our lives.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows blessings will also reap blessings. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, 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 contentment in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, "He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for every expression of sincere concern, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof of this service, they glorify God because of the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and they glorify God for the sincere concern of your partnership with them and with all. 14 They long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, own translation
When are givers enriched by God? Other passages in the New Testament emphasize the rewards that come in eternity:
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven – saying that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
In Mark 10:21, Jesus tells the rich young ruler, “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
As Randy Alcorn says, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” Or as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
The treasure we will have in heaven is a central biblical truth. It should be a huge motivation for us.
But today’s passage does notemphasize eternity. Paul here tells us there are rewards in this life. At the same time, he is careful to make clear that there is no promise of a monetary reward for a monetary gift. His strong emphasis is on giving and receiving in other currencies:
We already reviewed 9:5: “He who sows blessings will also reap blessings.” We also saw two weeks ago that one of God’s greatest gifts to us is the gift of contentment:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all contentment in all things and all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
Even if, like Paul, we are beaten and thrown into a dungeon, we can be content.
Do you see the result of contentment? Paul says because we have contentment, we may abound in every good work! Having all contentment, we are free to give! We don’t have to worry about giving up something we need – God gives us grace, and supplies our every need.
Verse 9 then supports this freedom to give by quoting from Psalm 112. Let’s look at several verses from this passage and see what promises Paul’s listeners would call to mind as he quotes this verse:
5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. 6 For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. 7 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. 8 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. 9 He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor.Psalm 112:5-9
What is the reward for the righteous giver? He is secure in this life, and secure in the next. In this life, “he will never be moved” ( verse 6); “he is not afraid of bad news, his heart is firm” (verse 7), “he will not be afraid” (verse 8). Do you see the strength of this man’s security?
And this security extends to eternity: “He will be remembered forever” (verse 6); “his righteousness endures forever” (verse 9). And he will look “in triumph on his adversaries” (verse 8).
That triumph could be in this life. But given Paul’s present suffering which has been such a major theme in 2 Corinthians, he himself knew that the fulfillment of that verse for him would be in the next life.
So by quoting this Psalm, Paul is countering the argument that by giving we are losing our security. Security is thus two-edged in this context: Knowing the riches we have in Him, knowing the security we have in Him, we give – and as we give, as we show that we belong to Him and that we are resting in Him and not in our wealth, our sense of security in Him grows ever stronger. Therefore, one of the blessings God’s gives us as we give blessings to others is security.
For the next blessing, jump ahead a bit now to verse 14:
while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 2 Corinthians 9:14
What does this verse tell us about the rewards of giving? How do these people respond to the Corinthians’ giving? Paul says, “They long for you, they pray for you.” Because you give to them, they love you. They thank God for you.
Remember verse 6: whoever sows blessings will also reap blessings. Think about this now: What are they sowing, fundamentally? And what are they reaping?
They are sowing love! They are reaping love! And this currency is much more valuable than money!
When Tom Steller from Bethlehem Baptist met with us last week to talk about missionary support teams, he described how these teams help equip, pray for, and advise missionaries prior to their departure and while they are in the field. In sum, they are loving these missionaries. Consider the difference between one supporter who writes a check, but never communicates love or concern, and another supporter who gives considerably less money but who serves on the support team? How does the missionary respond to each? Surely he will be grateful to both, but he will respond with love to the one who shows love to him.
Thus, the rewards to giving include contentment, security, and love.
For another reward, consider verses 10 and 11:
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for every expression of sincere concern
What does he mean by saying that God is the one who supplies “seed to the sower and bread for food”? First, note that this is a quotation from Isaiah 55:10-11:
10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Emphasis added)
The main form of economic production in ancient Israel was agriculture. So what do seed and bread represent? The inputs and the outputs of the nation’s most important economic production process. Thus, God is the provider of both the inputs and the outputs of production. We could say today, God is the one who provides steel to General Motors and the cars for us to drive.
But note that in Isaiah, this expression refers to God’s Word going out and being productive. It is not referring to the provision of material blessings, but to the provision of spiritual blessings.
So, in 2 Corinthians 9, Paul’s argues in this way: If God provides both the inputs and the outputs even in secular production, surely He will give you the inputs and the outputs of spiritual production, he will give the inputs and outputs of your righteousness. So he says in verse 11, “You will be enriched in every way for every expression of sincere concern.” That is: He will give you all you need to show sincere concern to others – that is, to fulfill the second commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself.
So clearly, “you will be enriched in every way” refers in this context to much more than money. Indeed, “the harvest of your righteousness,” the output of your having the righteousness of Christ, refers primarily to spiritual riches – becoming like Christ.
Now, don’t get me wrong. God can and does provide us with material blessings. Why does He do this? So that we can exhibit sincere concern to others materially. Thus, Randy Alcorn says, “When God provides more money, we often think, This is a blessing. Well, yes, but it would be just as scriptural to think, This is a test.” God has enriched you so that you might show sincere concern to others. Is that how you will use your riches?
So in verses 10 and 11, Paul in effect is saying, “Remember, God is the one who provides both the means to create wealth and all wealth itself. So when you are acting out of obedience to Him, when you are giving yourself first to God, when you are resting on His righteousness, He will provide all you need to become what He intends you to be. He will give you an abundance of Himself – the harvest of your righteousness – so that you might show what He is like to others.”
So will God reward you for giving? By all means. He will reward you with contentment, with security, with love, and then all you need to show God’s love to others. That’s the promise. Givers are enriched by God.
Our discussion of verses 10 and 11 leads right into this second heading. We are enriched by God, we are given an abundance of Himself so that we might show what He is like to others.
How is this related to the purpose of our creation? Why were you made? Look at Isaiah 43:6-7. God is speaking:
I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
We are created for the glory of God. We are created to show what He is like. We are created so that others will praise God because of what they see in and hear from us.
And when we are faithful in giving of ourselves, when we are faithful in showing God’s love to others – we have the satisfaction of fulfilling the purpose for which God made us.
Let’s see how Paul brings that out in this passage. Look at verse 11 again, this time considering the entire verse along with verse 12:
You will be enriched in every way for every expression of sincere concern, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (emphasis added)
Simply supplying the needs of our fellow believers should be a great motivation. But Paul emphasizes an even greater motivation: Because of you people are praising God. You are God’s agent! You are acting on His behalf! And others recognize that! So God gets all the praise, and you get their love.
Paul expands on this further in verse 13. This verse, however, is awkward in Greek, and thus difficult to translate into good English. This is the translation I gave above, which tries to make the point without expanding the length too much:
13 Because of the proof of this service, they glorify God because of the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and they glorify God for the sincere concern of your partnership with them and with all.
Let me try to clarify the points Paul is making by a longer paraphrase:
This ministry of giving proves the reality of your confession of the gospel of Christ – for you are living out what it means to obey Christ. You are showing that Christ is your treasure, and that you are partners in the body of Christ with them and with all believers around the world. So your sincere concern for them and your obedience to the gospel lead them to glorify God.
God created you for His glory. And as you love, as you become God’s agents in the world, as you display what He is like, you bring glory to His Name. You thus fulfill the purpose of your creation – the glory of God.
Paul concludes this chapter: ‘Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” Do you see what he is saying? God is the true giver! Whatever we have comes from Him. And whatever we give, we really only pass along – all that we have comes from God. Furthermore, God’s greatest gift to us, His inexpressible gift, the gift beyond measure, is Christ Himself. He is the treasure. Through Him we are invited into His body by faith.
So we have seen that givers are enriched by God with contentment, security, and love – indeed, God gives us all we need to show what He is like. And when we do that – when we display His glory by truly giving of ourselves and of our resources – then we fulfill the purpose of our creation: we display God’s glory.
How then do we live this out?
First, by rejecting our culture’s prominent myths about money.
1) Money does not lead to happiness.
Last Tuesday night, in Mel Gibson’s interview with Barbara Walters, he said:
Let's face it, I have been to the pinnacle of what secular utopia has to offer. I got money, fame, this, that and the other. And when I was younger, I got my proboscis out and I dipped it into the font and sucked it up. It didn't matter. There wasn't enough. It wasn't enough. It's not good enough. It leaves you empty. The more you eat, the emptier you get.
If you need more evidence than the Bible, if you won’t listen to me, then at least listen to this very rich man: Money and its accoutrements do not lead to happiness.
2) Money does not lead to security. Even in this life, money frequently does not lead to security, but most importantly, money never leads to security in the life to come.
3) You do not deserve what you own. All that you have is a gift from God – even what you “earned”, for God gave you the ability to earn wealth.
Thus, all that you have belongs to God. He has given it to you for a purpose: To use it to bring glory to His name.
But you know what? When you actually do use it to bring glory to His Name,
You get all the benefits that money itself can never buy. You get ell this in the present life – and then a million times more in the life to come.
So will you give? I know many of you are fearful. You don’t know where to begin. You may have made bad financial decisions in the past, and now have debt hanging over you. You may have large house payments, or car payments, or school loans that leave you with what looks like only barely enough to make ends meet.
But listen to Randy Alcorn again. When people tell him that it is impossible for them to tithe, he asks, “If your income went down by ten percent - would you die?”
Friends, You can give. You can give substantially. Will you?
How important is giving to you?
· Is it important enough to give up your cable service?
· To give up your daily newspaper?
· To cut down seriously on eating in restaurants?
· To drive a car with 100,000 miles instead of one with 40,000 miles?
· Do you really believe that Christ is the inexpressible gift? That if you have Jesus, you have riches beyond measure?
· Do you really believe that God will supply all that you need to fulfill His purposes in the world?
· Do you really believe that your greatest joy is found in knowing God, in walking in obedience to Him?
· Do you really believe that by giving you receive much more than you give, that you fulfill the purpose of your creation?
Maybe you do believe these things – but your faith is the size of a mustard seed. And that tiny bit of faith is accompanied by seemingly huge fears and doubts.
If that’s the case for you, know that Jesus said wonderful things about faith the size of a mustard seed. So step out in that faith, and pray: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
Maybe you don’t believe that Jesus is your treasure – you don’t even have faith the size of a mustard seed. Deep in your heart, you really desire money, marriage, and career success more than you desire God.
My friend, acknowledge that before God! Confess it before Him! Say to Him, “Lord God, I thought I was yours. But I admit right here that I want money more than I want You. I want a good marriage more than I want You. I want to succeed in my careermore than I want You. Change my heart, Lord Jesus! Make me yours completely! Enable me to see You for who You are, to love You with all of my heart! Make me yours completely!”
Do this, my friends, and enter into the joy of your Master.
Loved one! Which are you? The one who believes, but needs more faith? Or the one who needs to believe, to treasure Christ for the first time?
In either case: Fall on your knees! Believe God! Trust Him! Delight in Him! Give, and watch His blessings come over you.
This sermon was preached at Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC on 2/22/04. Scott Hafemann’s The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Corinthians (Zondervan, 2000) was helpful. The Randy Alcorn quotes are from The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving (Multnomah, 2001).
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