Paul continues his conversation on giving out of the gifts that God gives us. The question is: have we been missing the point?
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.
If you get anything out of this passage, may it be this: God gives to us what He wants us to give to others. The prosperity gospel will teach that God gives to us so we can enjoy life and “live abundantly.” Yet, that teaching misses the spiritual side of things that is explained in this very passage. Don’t forget: it’s always spiritual! We always take this passage and relate it to money, don’t we? What a worldly way of looking at it! Yes, it applies to money and physical things as well, but how about reaping what we sow in bible study, prayer, and meditation on God’s Word?
In verse 8 Paul points out, “yes, God will give you whatever you need to carry out His will. You will be able to do ‘works’.” In the words of my pastor when we were preparing to raise money to come to the mission field, “if it’s God’s Will, it’s God’s bill!” In verse12 Paul makes sure to note that not only will God provide all the physical things, but also in the spiritual realm. How shortsighted are we? Don’t let the world convince you that it’s all about the money; it’s not about the money! In David Platt’s book Radical, he talks about a short term mission trip he took that cost $3,000. He mentions how people criticized him and said it would be more beneficial to send the $3,000 instead of spending some of it on a plane ticket, food, housing, etc. than actually going. Turns out that same trip, one of the folks he was serving called him a brother because, “people send money all the time, but you actually took the time to come down and work alongside us. Now you are family.”
In When Helping Hurts, they discuss three types of poverty: material, emotional, and spiritual. Why do we think that physical poverty is the only level? This, in fact, is the basic level of impoverished people. Others might not have physical poverty but inside they are empty and broken. You see in verse 9 Paul mentions Jesus giving to the poor. If you read through Jesus’ exploits as detailed in the first 4 books of the New Testament, you will find that he rarely gave physical things. There’s the water into wine and multiplication of bread and fish, but yet it wasn’t even something He had, they were miracles from above that He got from God the father. He gave to the poor refers to spiritual and emotional healing and attention. You could argue that He healed the sick and raised people from the dead, however this was just part of what He did. Notice in these instances where He also gives them spiritual life and emotional healing. THIS is what we are called to give.
In James 1, we find an often quoted yet seldom carried out message, “27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Does he say anything about “giving people stuff”? No, because that isn’t the point, it’s about spending your time and energy to care for the emotional and spiritual poverty of others. It is about sharing the abundance of grace and love your heavenly Father has given you with others.