The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6–7, esv).
When the apostle Paul set out to develop a case for generosity, he turned to a farming analogy as a good way to show that giving is never done in a vacuum. How we give matters, just as how we plant matters.
The farmer who sows an acre can’t hope for a million bushels. If we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly. Terms like bountifully and sparingly describe how a farmer demonstrates wisdom in the quantity of seed he plants. He sows neither sparingly nor wastefully, knowing just the quantity of seed that experience tells him will yield a bountiful harvest.
The obvious parallel? Practicing generosity is a lot like planting a seed in the ground. In both cases, something must be completely released in order to accomplish its purpose. Loss of the seed/gift precedes the harvest/blessing. Paul is saying that stingy giving hinders blessing. If you sow a gift meagerly and grudgingly, with an attitude of “this much and no more,” you limit the results and blessings. That’s his bad news.
Here is his good news: “And whoever sows bountifully (generously) will also reap bountifully.” The farming analogy also allows Paul to predict a generous response from the Lord, as a result of generosity. What happens between the bountiful planting and the abundant harvest is in God’s hands, in nature as well as in giving. As Paul told the Corinthians, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). God determines the blessings that come from generosity.
And He sees the differences between sparing and bountiful generosity. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This difference is played out inside you every time an offering is collected at church. When giving is an uncomfortable task or a resented duty, it isn’t really generosity—and limited generosity prevents us from experiencing God’s love. Apart from the question of what kinds of blessing the Lord may choose to pour into our lives, is the deeper matter of what we miss when we clutter the channels of His love with tightfisted hoarding.
Conversely, our Father delights in our giving with cheerfulness—with a carefree attitude of trust in Him and His provision. Generosity with our time, talents, and treasure are ways we can exercise our faith. These are seeds we sow. The Lord will notice and respond.
Open hands and open hearts can expect to discover in unexpected ways the love of God—the greatest blessing. It’s also true that authentic generosity can always be traced back to our awareness of what He has done for us. Generosity is simply love in action, sowing bountifully what God first has lovingly provided for us. And He will always use it to bring about a harvest for His glory.
Lord, every fresh glimpse I have of Your generosity leaves me in awe. I find myself echoing Paul’s exclamation about You, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Your generosity is beyond measure, and any opportunity You give me to be more generous is an opportunity to experience even more of Your blessings. Thank You for teaching me and enabling me to learn generosity. And thank You for Your boundless love. In Jesus’ name, amen.