The next big post will take some time, it’s a lot of research. In the mean time let’s learn something about Greek and trust.
2 Corinthians 9:6 says “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
Beautiful, huh? Brief calibration: chapter 9 opens with one of the funniest soliloquies we get from Paul, but it’s rough language depending on the translation, so let me give it a once over. He is telling the church leaders at Corinth that he’s sending some brothers down to collect the offering that they said they were so eager to give. He begins by saying he knows they have it because he’s been bragging to the Macedonians about it and, boy, would it be embarrassing all around if these guys showed up and there’s no money. Isn’t that just about the most used-car-salesman offering collection ever? “Phew, I’m so glad you guys are giving because I was just telling Bob how generous you are and you don’t want to make a liar out of me! Bill and Tim will be down to get it shortly…”
So verse 6 finds him explaining how deep they need to rummage in their pocketbooks (no, they didn’t have pocketbooks, but go with me here), and we get this oft-misinterpreted verse. I’ve heard a number of pastors use this as a “you reap what you sow” confirmation, but it isn’t, or at least not exactly. This is solely about offerings. The context makes it clear the man is asking them to slap an extra zero on the checks because this needs to be a big haul.
However, that doesn’t, to me, lessen the impact, because examine the Greek for the word “bountifully.” You’ll get two words: epi- and eulogiais, έπ’ and εύλογίαις. The first is a common prefix, epi-, meaning on, over, above — it is a ranking term used in words like epidermis, epilogue, and epicenter to denote the position of a thing as being outer, beyond, above, etc. The second word, eulogiais, is where we get our word eulogy, the blessings of praise we speak over the recently deceased. If you’re at all familiar with the Greek Orthodox church this is also where they get the word for the bread given at the end of the liturgy, eulogia, or holy bread. The word eulogiais itself is a noun and refers to blessings or praises. So if you sow on/over/above/beyond blessings you will reap on/over/above/beyond blessings. That’s doesn’t make much sense. Hold that thought.
Let’s now look at sparingly: pheidomenos, φειδομένως, which means mildly, sparingly, grudgingly, miserly, or in a stingy manner. In other words doing something you very clearly don’t want to do. The picture here is out of any given sitcom where a guy goes to hand $10 to a friend in need, but he can’t let go of the bill despite the friend tugging on the tightly-held bill. We all know this, it’s the gift given through gritted teeth, the apology spat out in as few words as possible, or the exasperated “okaaaay, fine” your kid gives you when asked to clean their room. Sparingly we’re good with.
So in context, then, what does on/over/above/beyond blessings mean? Well the first thing is to take conscious effort to realize what reaping and sowing are in relation to each other. Sowing, planting, is always the lesser act. It is easier to sow than to reap, and you also have less volume to deal with because seeds and seedlings are small. Reaping, harvesting, is the greater work not only because it is more grueling (consider harvesting cotton), but because the plant is much larger than the seed sown.
So a way to rephrase Paul’s words is to say that if you sow nothing you will reap a greater nothing and if you sow abundance you will harvest greater abundance. This is kind of like you reap what you sow. But if you pull in Luke 6:38, Deuteronomy 8:18, Proverbs 3:10, Galatians 6, Hosea 10:12, etc into it you come to understand a new thing, so let me rephrase it as Paul might’ve said it today:
“Remember always that if you are miserly the kingdom of earth will reward you with greater stinginess by ensuring you have less, but if you focus your efforts on offering abundant blessings to others you will find yourself rewarded by the Kingdom of God with blessings far greater than what you give.”
He may have started out poking these people to pay up, but he leaves them, and us, here with a very salient message: keep your eyes fixed on the storm as a good citizen of earth and your forced offerings will leave you bankrupt, but if your eyes are affixed on God and you are a citizen of the Kingdom you will offer much but gain rewards beyond what you could ever have dreamt of having the capacity to give.
I’m not telling you to tithe or to take up a vow of poverty, or even to go give until it hurts. I’m just saying, as a dedicated, if faulty, citizen of the Kingdom I can tell you that Christ was not lying in Luke 6:38. If you give the trust in your finances over to God, and I mean really trust Him with every penny, you will not regret it. Money is not the root of evil, Love of it is. Break your relationship with it and it can become what it was meant to be: just a tool. It frees you to have a cheritable heart, which both Paul and I will tell you pays immense dividends.
Lord, thank You for every blessing You have entrusted to me, and thank You so much more for showing me the path away from the greed I held so long. It seems a crazy thing to pray that all Your children experience such abundance, but I know that is possible, that it is Your will, so pray it I shall. I know there are hearts out there breaking over money, either too little or too much. I know that this world tells us that money is the single most necessary prerequisite to life, and that all else starts and stops based on it, but I know that is so wrong. Help us all, I pray, to truly bring into our hearts Paul’s words, to open our hearts and our homes and our wallets to whatever You might give us opportunity for. You are such an amazing God, such a good Father, such a wonderful Provider. Thank You, and I Love You forever. In the name of Your Word, and my Brother, Jesus, I pray. Amen.