Open Hands - Living a Blessed Life

Dave Jones April 12, 2008 2 Corinthians 9:6-15


Introduction

Last week we looked at living a generous life.  Today we are going to take a different look at the concept of open hands.  It has been said that just as you cannot give with your hands closed, you cannot receive with them closed either.  Giving and Receiving.  Reaping and Sowing.  That is what we are talking about today.  God’s Harvest Law.  Reaping what you sow

Galatians 6:7 states the Law of the Harvest most simply, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” 

INPUT: Why do people tend not to believe this passage?

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 best explains God’s Harvest Law.  From this passage we will discuss four principles, six results and one great example of the harvest Law at work.

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  8And 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;
 9as it is written,
         "HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR,
         HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER."
 10Now 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;  11you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.  13Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, 14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.  15Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

  1. The Principles of God’s Harvest Law
  2. Investment – We Only Reap if We Sow

Paul is assuming that sowing is taking place.  It seems so obvious, doesn’t it?  If we want to reap something, we need to do some sowing. 

Let’s look at verse 6 in light of verses 1-5. 

1For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints;  2for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we--not to speak of you--will be put to shame by this confidence.  5So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.

The NIV states the passage this way:

There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

The Corinthian Church had yet to follow through on their commitment to give. 

Warren Wiersbe has the following commentary on this passage:

The interesting thing is this: Paul had used the zeal of the Corinthians to challenge the Macedonians; but now he was using the Macedonians to challenge the Corinthians! A year before, the Corinthians had enthusiastically boasted that they would share in the offering, but then they had done nothing. The Macedonians had followed through on their promise, and Paul was afraid that his boasting would be in vain.

Paul sent Titus and the other brothers to Corinth to stir them up to share in the offering. Far more important than the money itself was the spiritual benefit that would come to the church as they shared in response to God’s grace in their lives. Paul had written to the church before to tell them how to take up the contributions (1 Cor. 16:1–4), so there was no excuse for their delay. Paul wanted the entire contribution to be ready when he and his “finance committee” arrived, so that there might not be any last-minute collections that might appear to be forced on the church…

…Notice the words that Paul used as he wrote about the collection. It was “ministering to the saints,” a service to fellow believers. It was also a “bounty” (2 Cor. 9:5), which means “a generous gift.” Was Paul perhaps hinting that the Corinthians give more than they had planned?

However, Paul was careful not to put on any pressure. He wanted their gift to be “a matter of bounty [generosity], and not as of covetousness [something squeezed out of them].” High-pressure offering appeals do not belong to grace giving.

Our greatest encouragement for giving is that it pleases the Lord, but there is nothing wrong with practicing the kind of giving that provokes others to give. This does not mean that we should advertise what we do as individuals, because that kind of practice would violate one of the basic principles of giving: give secretly to the Lord (Matt. 6:1–4). However, Paul was writing to churches; and it is not wrong for congregations to announce what they have given collectively. If our motive is to boast, then we are not practicing grace giving. But if our desire is to provoke others to share, then God’s grace can work through us to help others. 
Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. 2 Co 9:1

Therefore the lead in to verse 6, about sowing is helping the Corinthains understand about the heart of giving.   As we see in the following verses, he wants them to give the right amount for the right reasons.  He wants them to be prepared to give, not to give out of compulsion.  He wants them to be sowing. Generousl

David Jeremiah says it this way, “Many people wonder why they haven’t been reaping a harvest in their life, and it may be because they have not been sowing that which they want to reap.”

  1. Identity – We Reap Only What We Sow

Again it seems obvious.  If we want to harvest corn, we need to plant corn in the spring.  A farmer doesn’t go out to the field in late September to discover what he will reap that fall.  He plans what he wants to harvest and plants accordingly.

The same is to be true of our lives.  Paul expressed this in Galatians 6:8: “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

Teachers – If you have time, you could expand on this point.  John MacArthur has an excellent study on this passage.  I have included it as an attachment. 

The point is that we cannot expect to sow one thing and reap something different.  We cannot sow criticism and expect to get understanding, anger and expect to get peace.

  1. Increase – We Reap More Than We Sow

Paul says in verse 10 that God will “…supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;”  

It is not a one-to-one ratio.  Think about what it would be like if each fruit or vegetable contained only one seed that had to be replanted each year to get one more piece of produce.  The miraculous nature of God’s Harvest Law is that we reap many times more than what we so.

Look at Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."

If we sow generously, we are going to reap generously.  It is impossible to out give God!

This is not a negotiation with God.  It is a done deal.   Look back at verses 8 and 9.  Paul uses the words “abound,’ ‘abundance,” “bountifully,” and others to show how generously God does His part in the Harvest Law.

We are talking about more than just money.  The blessing of God comes in many ways.  Whatever we invest – kindness, love, money, ministry – there will be n increase.

Examples?

  1. Interval – We Reap later Than We Sow

Galatians 6:9 says, “…in due season we shall reap.”  There is a season for sowing and reaping.  A farmer does not go back to the field in the afternoon after planting in the morning and expect a harvest.

We do not set the time table.  It is up to God to decide.

Some time ago Dorie VanStone spoke at the church.  I recall her telling of the many years she and her husband spent as missionaries to the Dani tribe in New Guinea without any converts.  I do not remember why they left when they did, but I do remember her saying that she had the opportunity to go back to New Guinea and many members of the tribe ran up to her telling her that they had trusted Christ as their Savior.  God’s Harvest Law was at work!

Example of David Jeremiah’s dad at Cedarville University. (pp. 98-99)

Now let’s look at …

  1. The Products of God’s Harvest Law
  2. We Prosper Spiritually and Financially (v. 10)

Again in verse 10 we see that God supplies and multiplies the seed you have sown

According to Wiersbe:

We reap as we sow, and we share God’s miracle multiplication of what we give and do (2 Cor. 9:10). The farmer has to decide how much seed he will keep for food, and how much he will plant. If the harvest has been lean, there is less seed available both for eating and planting. But the Christian who believes in grace giving never has to worry about this decision: God supplies all that he needs. There is always spiritual and material “bread” for the eating and spiritual and material “seed” for the sowing.

Paul referred here to Isaiah 55:10–11, a passage that uses “seed” and “bread” to refer to both the Word of God and to the literal harvest in the field. There is no such thing as “secular” and “sacred” in the Christian life. The giving of money is just as spiritual an act as the singing of a hymn or the handing out of a Gospel tract. Money is seed. If we give it according to the principles of grace, it will multiply to the glory of God and meet many needs. If we use it in ways other than God desires, the harvest will be poor.

[1]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. 2 Co 9:6

Be careful, this is not saying that if we give then we will get.  Verse 7 addresses the heart of the giver.  Wiersbe says, “Certainly God can bless a gift that is given out of a sense of duty, but God cannot bless the giver unless his heart is right. Grace giving means that God blesses the giver as well as the gift, and that the giver is a blessing to others.”

Another product is…

  1. We Prove Our Love for God (v. 13)

2 Cor. 9:13: “Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all”

It is one thing to say we love Christ; it is another thing to demonstrate that love in real and tangible ways.  When we show love in this way, others give glory to God.

  1. We Provide for Those in Need (v. 12)

Verse 12 says their giving was supplying the needs of the saints.  The same is happening in our church today.  Think about everyone that is benefitting from the giving of our church family.  Not just the financial gifts, but also the giving of time, prayer, and service.

  1. We Provoke Many Thanksgivings to God (vv. 11, 12, 15)

When we give we cause a chain reaction of thanksgiving.  God has graciously allowed Faith Baptist Church to minster to people all over the world.  They all give thanks to God for the faithfulness of His people.

  1. We Promote Prayer in Our Behalf (v. 14)

Not only are they giving thanks to God, they are praying for those that give.  Think about the prayer chain around the world of men, women, and children praying for the people of Faith Baptist Church. 

  1. We Purchase Greater Opportunity to Give Again (v. 8)

God blesses, not just for us to have more.  He blesses to help us be ready to give again.  As long as we continue to sow, the cycle of blessing will continue.   The cycle will stop if we try to clasp our hands too tightly around what we claim to be ours.

  1. The Perfect Example of God’s Harvest Law

Verse 15 gives us the ultimate example of God’s Harvest Law. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Hebrews 2:10 says that God is going to bring “many sons to glory.”

God gave his one and only Son for the ransom of many.  Christ became the “firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

Are your hands open, sharing what God has given you, sowing into the work of Christ?  If so you are, or will be, reaping the harvest, living a blessed life. 

Dave Jones

Dave works for human resources at Purdue University.  Dave and his wife, Becky, joined Faith in 1986.  He co-teaches the Ambassadors ABF as well as several FCI classes.