God gives to those who give. He is generous to the generous. And He gives to those who give so we can give more.
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Our God is a giver. He “gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). He gives us abundant life: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He gives us wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). He gives us gifts: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). The greatest gift God gave us is His Son: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with him freely give us all things?”
Ephesians 5:1 commands us to “be imitators of God,” which means we should give too. Proverbs 21:26 says, “The righteous gives and does not spare.” Why is giving righteous? God’s actions define righteousness. Because God gives, giving is righteous and makes us imitators of Him.
God Gives to Us So We Can Give to Others
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the master rebuked the man: “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33). The wicked servant was condemned because he wouldn’t forgive as God had forgiven him. This reveals an important principle in Scripture: We should do for others what God has done for us. For example, we should love others because God loved us: “As I have loved you…you also love one another” (John 13:34). We should forgive others because God forgave us: “Forgive one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Regarding giving, because God is a giver who has given so much to us, we should give to others.
Some spiritual gifts, such as teaching and leadership, seem like gifts because there’s a benefit to the person receiving the gift. But other gifts, such as mercy and serving, don’t seem like gifts because they seem to benefit others more than they benefit the people who received the gifts. This gives us insight into why God gives us gifts, which we must consider because God’s reason for giving gifts can be different than our reason.
We typically give gifts to bless the recipient, but God gives gifts to bless the recipient and so the recipient can bless others: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10 ESV). We can enjoy the gifts God has given us—for example, God has given me the gift of teaching, which I enjoy—but being good stewards of our gifts means using them for others’ benefit. This applies to all God has given us, including our wealth.
Let’s return to two of the parables we looked at earlier. First, in the parable of the talents, the third servant buried his talent (gift) in the ground and was severely punished in response (Matthew 25:18, 30). The financial application is that when we keep our wealth to ourselves, we’re acting like the third servant—we’re taking what God has given us and, in a sense, burying it in the ground. Second, the parable of the rich fool reveals we aren’t given wealth to keep it for our ourselves. When we hoard our wealth, we’re acting like the rich fool.
In both parables, the men failed to use God’s generosity the way it is intended: for others. God is generous with us so we can be generous with others.
Reaping and Sowing
Many people, even those who have never opened the Bible, are familiar with the phrase “You reap what you sow.” These words are taken from two passages in the New Testament. The first, and most well-known, is Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” The second is in Paul’s words about the Macedonian believers’ sacrificial giving, which served as an example to the Corinthians (and to us): “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). The amount of the harvest is directly proportionate to the amount sown. The farmer who sows much seed will have a bigger harvest than the farmer who sows sparingly.
Paul leaned on this agricultural principle to encourage generosity. Although this can be applied to other areas of life—for example, we typically get out of relationships what we put into them—the context is giving. The blessing received for giving is directly proportionate to the amount given. The Christian who gives generously will have a bigger harvest than the Christian who gives sparingly.
When a farmer sows seed, he might feel like he’s losing something as the seed he purchased falls from his hand to the ground. Similarly, we might feel like we’re losing something when the money we earned leaves our hand and goes toward the offering. But just as the farmer gives in anticipation of receiving more in the future, we can give with the same expectation. On the other hand, if a farmer planted only a few seeds because he wanted to retain as much as possible, he would have more seed in his sacks, but at harvest time, he would have less grain in his barn.
We know this principle is important—it’s one God doesn’t want us to miss because it’s repeated throughout Scripture:
- “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake” (Deuteronomy 15:10 ESV).
- “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10; see also Proverbs 19:17; 22:9; 28:27 ESV).
- “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it” (Proverbs 11:24-26 ESV).
- “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10 ESV).
In King Hezekiah’s day, the people gave generously to support the priests and Levites (2 Chronicles 31:5-7). When the chief priest described the situation, he said, “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the LORD has blessed his people; and what is left is this great abundance” (2 Chronicles 31:10). The people sowed generously, and God ensured they reaped bountifully.
Jesus loosely communicated the same principle: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). This imagery is uncommon to us, but it comes from the marketplace and would be familiar to Jesus’ hearers. When people purchase grain in those days, it was given to them in a container. Consider these descriptive terms for a full picture of God’s generosity:
- “good measure” means God gives generously versus meagerly
- “pressed down, shaken together” means God fills the empty spaces so the container holds as much as possible
- “running over” means God fills the container beyond its capacity
Although the imagery is from the marketplace, Jesus isn’t giving us shopping advice. Instead, the word parable is related to our word parallel because parables put physical stories alongside spiritual truths. Luke 6:38 illustrates God’s generosity to the generous, and God’s repeated use of the words “you” and “your” make it personal. Jesus wants us thinking about this happening to us:
A man there was, though some did count him mad. The more he cast away the more he had.John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (Abbotsford, WI; Aneko Press, 2015), 289.
If We Give Enough Will God Make Us Rich?
God provides a return on the amount invested with Him: invest a little, receive a little; invest a lot, and receive a lot. Does this mean if we give a certain amount, God will give us more in return? For example, if we give the church $1,000 per month, will God then ensure our boss gives us a raise of $1,200 per month? That’s not how it works.
Consider the situation with the Philippian believers, who resided in Macedonia and were among those who gave sacrificially to Paul. The apostle mentioned their generosity in Philippians 4:15-18, and then wrote in verse 19, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” They were generous, and God would be generous to them. They would have, every need met versus every want supplied. What are our needs? In 1 Timothy 6:8, Paul wrote, “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (ESV). Our needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Fancy clothes, exotic food, and expensive mansions are wants. We don’t give to receive, but God wants us to know that He doesn’t ask that we give ourselves into poverty.
Do We Reap in This Life or the Next?
What do we reap from what we sow: is it physical, or spiritual, or both? Does the reaping occur in this life, the next, or both? John Calvin said we reap in this life and the next:
This harvest should be understood both in terms of the spiritual reward of eternal life and also referring to the earthly blessings with which God honors the [generous]. Not only in heaven does God reward the well-doing of the godly, but in this world as well.John Calvin, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 10: 2 Corinthians and Timothy, Titus, & Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI; Wm. B. Eerdmans-Lightning Source, 1996), 121.
Consider this interaction between Peter and Jesus. Peter knew he and the disciples had “sown much” to follow Jesus, so he wondered what he would “reap” in the future:
Peter said, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.Matthew 19:27-29 ESV
Receiving eternal life would be enough, but Jesus said we’ll receive eternal life and “a hundredfold.” I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I do know God is going to reward us with far more than what we have done for Him. He will ensure we don’t outgive Him. With God, we will not be on the losing end. Because He tells us to avoid debt (Proverbs 22:7; Romans 13:8), we can be confident He won’t be in debt to anyone.
There are short- and long-term benefits to giving. We give now and experience God’s blessings in this life and we receive rewards in heaven that we get to enjoy for eternity.
God Gives Us Grace So We Can Give More
Paul said, “In a great trial of affliction, the [Macedonians’] abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2). For them, the formula was affliction and poverty equals joy and generosity—the opposite of what we would expect. It’s reminiscent of the paradox two chapters earlier: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich” (2 Corinthians 6:10). When we’re sorrowful, we don’t rejoice, and when we’re poor, we don’t make others rich. But this was the case for the Macedonians.
How could the Macedonians give so much when they were in extreme poverty? There’s no natural answer, but the supernatural answer is in the previous verse: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 8:1 ESV). In context, the word “grace” does not refer to spiritual graces, but to money and material needs. God supernaturally provided the Macedonians with what they needed. Their generosity is a good example, but God still receives the credit because His grace did it through them. Paul said something similar in the following chapter:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And 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.2 Corinthians 9:7-8
The universals, or “alls,” are truly staggering: “…all grace…all sufficiency in all things at all times…in every [or all] good work.” Our resources are restricted. We have limited amounts of time, money, and energy, but God is unlimited. His infinite amount of grace allows Him to dispense it lavishly. He can “make all grace abound to [us], so that having all sufficiency [we] may abound in every good work.”
The Greek word translated “sufficiency” means, “a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed.” Because the context is giving, the idea is God supplies everything we need (no other support is needed) if we’re generous. We can be confident that if we give, God gives us more so we can continue to give.
Think back to the principle of sowing and reaping. When it comes to sowing, we know it takes time to reap. We throw the seed into the ground and wait for it to grow. But Paul says that God replenishes while we give so we can give even more. We reap even while we’re sowing. Farmers must wait for their harvests, but generous believers begin to reap immediately. One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is that we gain as we give. If we honor God with what He has given us, He will bless us with more so that we can give even more. We are blessed by God so we can be more of a blessing to others.