Consecrated to Sow Generously

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

October 11th & 12th, 2008

I really have on goal for this message, and it is an attitudinal goal.  That is to move from (sigh) to (silently look up and mouth the word “wow”).   I have here before you my quarterly Thrivent report (show report and sigh).   When it comes to financial stability, these last few weeks have shown us anything but.  References are made to the 1929 Market crash, and whether founded our not when it comes to financial things we (sigh).  I’ll be honest with you, when I heard that consecrated stewards lasted four weeks and that I was to come up with three sermons on the topic of stewardship, I thought (sigh).  After all isn’t it more spiritual speaking about things a bit more abstract (love, joy, peace), rather than something so material, something so daily to our lives.   It seemed hard to get excited about this topic; however the movement from (sigh) to (wow) doesn’t happen on our own, it happen through his Word.  Today’s text does just that.  It was originally written to the Corinthians in order to encourage them to ‘not fall “short with offerings they had promised and been making to the Jerusalem church”.  Paul had even used “their stewardship of giving” as and example to other churches in the area.  While this is very specific, in terms of offering, what God is showing us through these verses is a “whole life” that is bent toward giving.  Now this may seem like a strange message, when supposedly the resources we once had or “should have had” in our economy are getting scarce.  This text calls into question this scarcity idea, and through the Holy Spirit, it will move us from a (sigh) to a (wow).

            The text starts out with a known general principle “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”.  A farmer sows seed, with the expectation that those seeds will in fact reproduce many times over after it is cared for and planted in the ground.   Proverbs 22 says “A generous man will be blessed”.  Who will benefit?  Obviously those who will receive the blessings, but the blessings will also come back on you.  Now does this mean, as some TV evangelist claim, the more money one gives the more money one gets back.  Not at all, for the bountiful harvest could come in numerous ways, whether that is a changed and fulfilled heart, physical blessings, or simply and order to one’s life.  We have not moved from (sigh) to (wow) just yet, but we’re getting there.

            Next he says “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.    In the OT there was a specific command of 10%, very clear.  When I was in college I worked at a synagogue as a janitor, and one thing I noticed is that they simply sent out bills to the congregation.  Somehow they knew how much a person made, and as I understand it, they simply then figured out a percentage and billed him.   This is in some ways, a simple approach and some might say the “key” to getting more funds.  Yet, Paul was not going to demand in this way.  Each person decides in their heart what they are to give, if the decision comes from the person it is not coerced or forced.  Under compulsion here literally means, “under  grief”.   This is why this whole process is attitudinal; because if it is reluctant that is something to be repented of, not matter how much is reluctant given.  Even as we have placed guides in the bulletin which talk about “step up giving”, these are only suggestions, helps if you will.  However, there is also responsibility, notice that he says “whatever you have decided”.  There is a plan, a thinking ahead, a caring enough about God’s church and his people that a plan is in place.  There is nothing unspiritual about planning, prayerfully thinking through a gift. 

            The real challenging aspect is doing this cheerfully.  Our natural bent, since the fall into sin, is not to give, but to hold on, to keep for oneself.  We naturally are (sigh) when this whole topic comes up.  How does this movement from (sigh) to (wow) happen?  Paul writes ‘An 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.    As I look again at my Thrivent form, there is a point, where the resources run out.  What if we had a bank, a retirement account from which we can withdraw gifts for the sake of others that doesn’t run out?   That, my friends, is exactly what Paul turns us to.  He doesn’t say, merely look at your heart, and see what kind of compassion you have (for often this is found wanting).  Rather God is able to make all grace abound in you.  Grace is undeserved kindness.   In our Old Testament reading it talks about God swallowing up death forever, and wiping tears away from all faces.  In Jesus Christ, death has met its match.  How through his death for you and all the world.   In our epistle reading it talks about the peace of God which passes all understanding.  This peace, is peace that God has obtained for sinners and himself through Jesus Christ our great “go between”.  There is not a sin this Savior doesn’t cover, there is no death or sickness that can outdo him, and the most amazing thing of all is that he has transferred that to you and me.   “He has made all grace, about in you”.   “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions”.    Notice, the sighs are a little less, and we are moving toward wow, but not quite yet.

            One more thing, all of this sowing, whether it is giving of ourselves, or even finances, results in thanksgiving to God “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgiving to God.   Have you ever received something that was so humbling, you simply had to pray and thank God for his goodness and his care.  You see this is what happens when we give, its like planting, and the harvest happens in ways one can hardly measure.    Over the years this school, has been for some children, their only shot at hearing the gospel.    Through the District, four or five people at Big Muddy alone are going through adult instruction classes.  We could be here all day, listing the ways God uses these gifts, so that others can give thanks to God.  I always remember growing up, my parents talking about a little church named “St. John’s in Upham”.  St. John’s was a small church, but a giving church.  As a child, that made me admire them, and for Paul he wanted the Corinthians to do just that. 

            Now comes to the final point.  He doesn’t say at the end, thank you for being so generous, your hearts.  Rather all of this discussion on giving, sowing seeds from the inexhaustible resource of God’s grace, and the thanksgiving it has caused, brings Paul to not so much thank the Corinthians.  Rather he says “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift”.  Notice what has happened here, the focus, has turned away from us, and toward our loving God who simply gives and gives and gives, and he allows us to be part of the process.  All we can say is (look up and mouth wow).  Amen.