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 to show that 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 whether a farmer demonstrates wisdom in the quantity of seed he plants. The wise farmer 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 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 the bad news.
But here is the good news: “Whoever sows bountifully [generously] will also reap bountifully.” The farming analogy also allows Paul to anticipate 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 directly into the giver’s heart, discerning the differences between sparing giving 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. When giving is an uncomfortable task or a resented duty, it isn’t true generosity—and lack of generosity obstructs a full experience of God’s love. Aside from the unanswerable question of exactly how the Lord may choose to pour blessing into our lives is the deeper matter of what we forfeit when we clutter the channels of His love with tightfisted hoarding.
Conversely, our Father delights in cheerful giving—reflecting a worry-free attitude of trust in Him and His provision. Generosity with our time, talents, and treasure is a way we can exercise our faith. These are seeds we sow. The Lord will notice and respond.
Open hands and hearts can expect to discover in unexpected ways the love of God—the greatest blessing. At the same time, authentic generosity can always be traced back to our awareness of what He has done for us. Generosity is simply love and faith in action, sowing bountifully what God first 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 also an opportunity to experience even more of You. Please grant me increasing love, faith, and generosity, by Your strength and for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.