“The Zinnia Principle of Giving” (2 Corinthians 9:1-15)

As Paul continues to prod the Corinthians toward making good on their intentions for generously giving toward the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, he elaborates on the benefits of giving toward the Lord’s work. Paul really did believe that the Corinthians were going to be generous and not give merely in a reluctant fashion. And this enthusiasm for giving is the theme of most of chapter nine.

Giving generously is fun!  Really?  Yes!  And Paul says that God loves a cheerful giver.

We need to see the joy in what we give, not thinking about what we’ve lost. Our anticipation should look toward all that will come of the gifts for the advance of the kingdom.

The word for cheerful is hilaros – a Greek root of the word hilarious. It is simply hilarious fun to be a part of something so big as what God is doing in the world.

Giving really is fun. At the Good News Club we do weekly at the Jonathan Hagar Elementary School, I will sometimes stick a mini candy bar in a note or card to one of the kids by slipping it in their school bag or handing it to them on their way out the door. And I look forward to hearing what they’ll say later.

What we get in life is consistent with what we give. Paul teaches that reaping is consistent with sowing.

I was planning all winter to double the size of my garden this year. In the fall I even moved the fence panels in place to be able to do it. But, now it looks like too much work for the time available, so I’ve decided not to do it; and therefore, I’m not going to have a double harvest. It is a principle … sowing sparingly = reaping sparingly.

The idea here from Paul is to state a principle and insure confidence in generosity, not initiate a self-serving motive so that you can get more. This passage is saying that you can trust God to take care of you and meet your needs (not your excessive desires, necessarily).  You simply have no need to worry or hold back from faithful giving.

Over my four decades of pastoral ministry, I have heard thousands of complaints and disappointments from Christian people trying to find their way through a sinful world. Even with the peace of eternal confidence in ultimate salvation, there is sadness in this mortal world. But I have never-ever even once had a person tell me that they regretted giving to God. No person I’ve ever met has said that being generous toward the Lord’s work was the dumbest thing they’ve ever done … though I’ve heard the opposite stated as a life regret!

And then Paul also teaches that sowing and reaping seeds leads to generations of harvests, both to meet one’s own needs and to be able to give away even more.

When growing up in New Jersey (the Garden State!), my father planted zinnia flowers around the edges of our large garden. They’re the most amazing plants. In the fall, after they die off, the flower portions can be taken and stored away for seeds for the next year. Once they dry out, you rub them together and they provide for you literally thousands of seeds to plant. Every year, you just keep getting more and more of them.

And there’s a spiritual principle in this. The picture is of seed >> plant >> more seed >> more plants >> much seed >> many plants, etc., etc.

This is the way the kingdom of God grows. And you can be a part of this, or you can just be a dead-end plant. There won’t be any fruit or praise to God from it. But who knows what can become of your service and seed-planting generosity, as a little bit can go a long way.

2 Corinthians 9:1 – There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. 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.

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” [from Psalm 112:9]

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Advertisements