FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
TO GIVE IS TO RECEIVE
June 15, 2011
Today’s reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
We are supposed to support our Christian community and our Catholic parish with our finances. And while God speaks about the necessity of giving a tithe and calling those who do not do so as thieves, we should not find financial giving as a burden. Rather, it is a great privilege that we can support God’s mission with our money. Thus Paul tells the Corinthians that their financial support should be looked on “as a bountiful gift and not as an exaction.” (2 Cor 9:5b).
Paul then proceeds to explain what our proper attitude should be.
First, Paul speaks about a basic principle of financial giving: “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor 9:6).
Look at it this way: God pours out blessings upon His people. But He also wants many others to know Him and to become part of His family. This happens as they are evangelized and formed. But that can only happen if there are evangelizers and pastors and many other workers, which in turn can only happen in a significant way if there is money to spend for the work. Consider stipends of catechists, salaries of full-time workers, expenses of an office, travel allowances, rental of venues, etc. (Note: Paul himself did not charge for his work, and in fact was scrupulous in funding his own way.).
So the great and wonderful work of God in bringing His people to salvation and eternal life has, by His own decision, been made dependent on the money His people give. So while God will not withhold needed blessings on all His people, He will bless more those who provide for the financial needs of His body on earth, the Church. The extent of our giving in a way determines the extent of our receiving.
This spiritual principle had been experienced by people through the ages, and even found itself in the scriptures. “One man is lavish yet grows still richer; another is too sparing, yet is the poorer. He who confers benefits will be amply enriched, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (Prv 11:24-25).
Now God Himself is even clearer about the giving-receiving principle. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?” (Mal 3:10). When one gives not just some amount, but the full 10% of his income, God will not just give some blessing, but pull out all the stops and open the floodgates!
Jesus in turn says it this way: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” (Lk 6:38a). There you have it again: overflowing, like floodgates opened, with blessings poured down without measure. Then Jesus reiterated the spiritual principle: “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:38b).
Could it be that many Christians today face financial difficulties simply because they have not recognized or lived out this principle? They claim not to have enough for their own needs, and so do not give what they ought to give back to God. But in doing so, they help perpetuate their lack of money and continuing need. This is why God issues a challenge: “try me in this.”
Second, when we do decide to give, it should not be looked on as an exaction, something we are forced to do, but a great privilege, as our contribution to the very divine work of God. Think about it. God, who owns the whole universe, who needs nothing from anyone, has made Himself dependent for His divine work upon us and our financial giving. Wow! That is some responsibility. That is an awesome privilege.
So Paul instructs: “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7). Some Christians give, but grudgingly, or at the very least without joy. But why should that be? Why should we be sad if God gives us such a great privilege? God loves a cheerful giver precisely because He can see that the giver appreciates the privilege. Because now His work on earth can be done. Because now He has the excuse to open the floodgates of blessings, which is what He greatly desires to do.
Thirdly, God gives an assurance of another spiritual principle, that of sufficiency and abundance. When we think we do not have enough money (which is what most people think, no matter what their economic status in life is), giving to the Church often becomes the last priority. We justify this by saying we need to eat, to care for our family, to have a comfortable home, and so on. So that is what we prioritize. However, even as our income rises, we also improve our standard of living, and so what we earn is always still not enough to cover our expenses.
How do we get out of that vicious cycle? Well, a simple way is simply a decision to make our giving (tithe or otherwise) the first priority, and then live on what is left. When we do that, here is what God promises, as Paul assured: “Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8). Do you believe God is all-powerful? Well, He is able to make every grace abundant for you! Wow! What an assurance!
And what is the practical result? You will always have all that you need! All that you need! Always! God says so! That is sufficiency. But there is more. You will have an abundance for every good work. You will have an abundance because God will pour out His bountiful blessings. And God wants you to continue your good work and your support of good works. “You are being enriched in every way for all generosity” (2 Cor 9:11a). Given what God wants to happen in the world, and what He desires to be accomplished through us and our financial support, God then will Himself provide for what is needed for that to happen. This is who our God is: “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Cor 9:10).
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35b). Rightly so. And we should not give simply because we expect to receive even more in return. But know what? God is never outdone in generosity. We give, because we need to, out of our gratitude to God and our commitment to His work. But whether we expect it or not, God will indeed pour out His bountiful blessings upon us. You can count on that.
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