2 Corinthians 9:6-15
“I’ve never made a fortune, and I’ll never make one now but it really doesn’t matter ’cause I’m happy anyhow. As I go along my journey I’m reaping better than I’ve sowed I’m drinking from the saucer ’cause my cup has overflowed. I thank God for the blessings that His mercy has bestowed I’m drinking from the saucer ’cause my cup has overflowed.” – John Paul Moore
These are words from the well-known poem by John Paul Moore, Drinking From the Saucer. The first time I heard this poem, a friend of mine was reading it out loud to a group. He read it with tears streaming down his cheeks and a simple sincerity that left no doubt that he meant every word. He was truly thankful for all that God had blessed him with. The remarkable part for me was that, at the time he read it, he knew he was dying. But that didn’t matter – for his sense of being blessed was overwhelming – he knew that Christ reigned in his heart, his life, and in his forever life.
On this Christ the King Sunday, we proclaim the reign of Christ the King. Jesus is Lord of all! Proclaim this truth clearly, plainly, unmistakably because for far too long we Christians have lived as if Jesus’ reign is partial. Jill Duffield, editor and publisher of Presbyterian Outlook magazine says, “We yield small amounts of territory in our hearts, churches and lives to Jesus’ rule – but only those spaces and places of our choosing. We hand over our pocket change on periodic Sundays and think God ought to be darn thankful we showed up at all. Think of all the other places we could be! We are busy. We have … multiple responsibilities and options…for how to spend our time and resources. You are welcome, Jesus, we are here! Oh, and let me see what’s left in the bottom of my purse to put in the plate.”
Let’s adapt a different attitude. Let’s be grateful, let’s see our cup as overflowing, let’s realize that the reign of Christ is no four years or just for a few hours on Sunday morning. Christ rules all, forever and ever and is deserving of all we have to give.
Our scripture passage this morning (2 Cor. 9:6-15) is a rich mine of material on Christian giving. Paul is gathering resources for the church in Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, chapter 8, Paul uses the church in Macedonia as a model of healthy, gracious generosity. Paul sees among the Corinthians a certain eagerness to also be generous, yet their good intentions do not always translate into action. In this passage, Paul is bluntly telling the Corinthians – the Macedonians have given generously; now it is time for the Corinthians to do likewise.
In his appeal, Paul brings forward several things of importance: 1) an attitude toward giving that is genuine; 2) the effect of giving that blesses others and the giver; and 3) the divine action that works through giving to glorify God.
So, what is our attitude toward giving? Paul suggests that grudging generosity is a contradiction. He doesn’t want giving to feel like extortion, he wants the Corinthians to give cheerfully of their own free will. His instructions are that: 1) Each should give as you have made up your mind; 2) not reluctantly or under compulsion; because, why? God loves a cheerful giver! (v. 7)
G.K. Chesterton once said, “The best kind of giving is Thanksgiving.” The giving that happens when we recognize and acknowledge our blessings. Often, though, we think about how hard we worked to arrive where we are, and we become a little stingy. It seems that there is something programmed into us that makes us either think that by our hard work we deserve what we have or that we have been shortchanged and don’t have enough. It’s easy to forget that we are under the reign of Christ the King and that everything is his.
Have you ever watched the cartoon show, the Simpsons? You know, Bart Simpson, the smart alecky, obnoxious 10-year old cartoon character whose catch phrase was, “don’t have a cow, man.” Well, early in the second season, the Simpsons have guests and they are gathered at the dinner table and Homer asks Bart to say grace. He responds with hands folded, and head bowed saying: “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves. So, thanks for nothing.” Worst prayer ever, but could it be a prayer that many are living?
We must work to cultivate an attitude toward generosity that is genuine.
Second, Paul wants the Corinthians (and us) to understand the effect that giving creates of blessing. The Greek expression for “generous gift” (eulogia) commonly refers to an act of blessing (v. 5). Paul uses a sowing and reaping metaphor that would have held great meaning in this agrarian society. This concept of sowing and reaping is used in a number of other places in scripture for the reason that it was something people of the day understood. (Prov. 11:24-25, 19:17; Luke 6:38; Gal 6:7). We sometimes use this as a judgment when something goes wrong. “Well, you reap what you sow.” Paul says, “one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.”
This principle of sowing and reaping applies to every area of life, not just giving. Farmers know – what you sow is what you reap. If you plant apple seeds, you don’t get tomatoes, you get apples. If you sow kindness and generosity, that’s what you will reap. This is the principle of the harvest: Whenever you have a need, plant a seed. When a farmer looks at his barren fields, he doesn’t gripe about it. He just goes out and starts planting some seed. If he only has a little bit of seed, he has a choice. He can either hoard it, or he can give it away. If he holds onto it, that’s all he’s got. If he gives it away, God will multiply it. Your actions now (what you sow) can have a whopping impact on the future (what is reaped). The Community Thanksgiving dinner that we will be serving later today is one example of sowing generously. The seeds of faith that you plant in your children and grandchildren’s lives are another example – are you sowing sparingly or are you sowing bountifully? God provides the seed, so what is holding us from sowing it bountifully?
Third, Paul wants us to understand the divine action that works through this giving to glorify God. Martin Luther said, “I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God’s hands I still possess.” Friends, it is what we do that contributes to God’s kingdom, that matters most. We are not meant to hold on to what has been given. Verse 11 says, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” AND “Your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” AND (verse 13) “because of your generosity, others will praise God.”
Legend has it that before knights went on the Crusades, they were baptized. As they were baptized, they held their sword arms and swords out of the water. In essence, they were saying, “My sword will not be joining the Kingdom of God. It will remain a part of the kingdoms of this world.” It conjures a mental image of us being baptized holding our wallets and purses out of the water. “Lord, please not this as well!” Paul said that deciding to give, to be involved in the collection, was a test of the faith of the Corinthians. I can give my time and my talents to the ministry of the church but my material goods are needed, as well. In truth, those who give most generously will give of all three together, sowing richly of their time, talent, and money in proportion to what God has given to them, and reaping abundantly from the Lord of the harvest.
In all of our giving, thanksgiving, praise of God we must remember this truth: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;” (Psalm 24) When we ponder our giving , it is not how much we will give but how much we shall withhold for God owns it all. In humble gratitude, let us give our thanks. On this day, Christ the King Sunday, and on everyday, let us proclaim the reign of Christ our King. May his reign, his grace, his generosity and love so fill our hearts that our cup overflows in our lives. Let our own attitude be one of genuine generosity, blessing our lives and the lives of others and in so doing bringing Glory to God.