Summary: Paul, Pt. 11


Billy Graham told the story of a strong man who was traveling with a circus. One of his most impressive stunts was to take an orange and squeeze every last drop of juice out of it. Then he would offer one thousand dollars to anyone who could manage to squeeze as much as one additional drop from it. He went from town to town making his offer, but no one was able to win the one thousand dollars from him. Then one day he came to a small town in California and made his demonstration of juice-squeezing prowess and his challenge.

A small, wizened, 98-pound weakling type man came forward and said he’d like to take a try at the challenge. He took the crushed orange and proceeded to squeeze six more drops of juice from it. The strong man was amazed. He could hardly believe his eyes. He asked how he was possibly able to do this. The man shrugged and said, “Oh, I’m the treasurer at the Baptist church and we do this all the time.”

I confess I seldom preach a sermon exclusively on giving. This is the only passage I have attempted the last ten years at my church. By God’s grace, after the hundreds of dollars monthly deficit in my first years, the next nine years at my present church were barely okay, so I did not have to give an emergency sermon. This passage’s inclusion in the “Classics of Paul” series was a tossup, but my wife was convinced it belongs.

Why are believers resistant in returning a rightful portion of their money to God? What is a tithe? How should we give?

Give Charitably, not Conservatively, to the Lord

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Cor 9:6)

Every spring I plant some seeds on the ground by the sprinkler to reap plentiful harvest. The wannabe farmer in me loves fruit from the ground. Negatively speaking, he does not want to waste the idle land on his sloping backyard. Not only is it free, it is organic. One year (2006) I transferred to the ground a budding “hairy gourd (mo-gua)” from its small pot a friend gave me. We were so excited when harvest came. After the summer ended and midway through the fall, the harvest stopped and the fruit disappeared. By that time my wife was so sick of eating her favorite gourd that we did not buy one from the supermarket for a whole year, and sparingly since.

The next year we thought we have learned our lesson to be less grandiose, but it did not prevent my non-farmer wife from buying a pack of four small cherry tomato plants. At its height of produce, I had to pluck it every Saturday for Sunday church potluck, so as not to waste it.

One seed can do so much damage. Sowing is not an easily understood analogy in an industrial age, but it is a fitting comparison in an agricultural age. “Sow” (v 6) in Greek is more than merely planting seed; it is scattering seed. The Greek word for “sparingly” (v 6), contrasted with “generously,” occurs only in this verse and none other in the Bible. It means stingily or reservedly, to be tightfisted, money-pinching and cost-conscious. Its opposite is openhanded and bighearted giving. “Reap” is Greek for “harvesting” time (Matt 25:24) or when harvest is “reached” (James 5:4).

Unfortunately, many believers are generous with friends but not to God. A minister was asked by a politician, “Name something the government can do to help the church,” the minister replied, “Quit making one dollar bills.”

Giving is a blessing, never a burden; an offering and not an obstacle; charitable and not conservative. The word most deserving our attention is “generously” (eu-logia). “Eu-logia” (eulogy) is from the words “good” (eu) and “words” (logia). It is more than mere generosity; it literally means the art of “good words” or “fine speaking” and is widely used for “commendation” or “consecration,” “eulogy” or “benediction,” a fitting tribute and expression for the departed. It is not acceptable to speak bad about the dead when giving the eulogy. This word occurs 18 times in the Bible, translated as eight times for “blessing” (Rom 15:29, Gal 3:14, Eph 1:3, Heb 6:7, 6:14, 12:17, 1 Peter 3:9, 3:9), four times both for “generously” (vv 5, 5, 6, 6) and “praise” (James 3:10, Rev 5:12, 5:13, 7:12), and once for “flattery” (Rom 16:18) and “thanksgiving” (1 Cor 10:16).

So “generously” is more than merely giving; a spiritual blessing or benediction is attached. As you can see, Paul talks little to nothing about the material benefit, but its spiritual benediction. It is the generosity of our lips as much as the heart.

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