Sowing and Reaping
by Matt Smith
Well it’s that time of the year again in Central PA- planting season. I would imagine most of us in the church at least make an attempt at a garden, while others of us will be planting hundreds of acres of crops. On Saturday we made our yearly trip to a local Amish greenhouse to pick up plants for our soon- coming garden. This year we decided to purchase 36 tomato plants, much less than the usual 50-60 we usually purchase, because at the end of the season we usually have so many leftover tomatoes that Noah ends up having a fun game of hitting practice with the rotten ones.
We purchased less tomatoes because, it goes without saying, that the less we plant the less we will reap. Paul mentions this principle in 2 Corinthians 9:7 by saying, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” The context of this verse is in regards to a collection that Paul was taking up from various churches for the poor suffering believers in Jerusalem. He encouraged them to give as each had purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity. Why? Because God loves a cheerful giver. (vs 7). It is interesting to note that the Greek word for “cheerful” is the word “hilaros”, the word from which we get our English word “hilarious”. I don’t think Paul is referring to someone laughing hysterically when he puts his money in the offering plate but it certainly does put an interesting twist on the word cheerful!
But getting back to our sowing and reaping principle, Paul is teaching that God will reward the Corinthian believers in proportion to how much they give, no different than I can expect the amount of tomatoes we will have in August to be in proportion to how many we plant. That said, this principle can certainly be misconstrued. Is Paul saying if you give a big gift that God would reward them with a lot of money themselves? No! There is no New Testament principle for that type of thinking. In the Old Testament God often did bless in material ways for the Israelite’s obedience but we frequently see hardship, pain, suffering and financial need in the New Testament. Even the fact that the Jerusalem believers needed this offering proves the idea that godly people can often have severe problems, including financial need.
So clearly here, the reaping that Paul is talking about is not a guarantee of a sudden windfall of money that the givers were not expecting. Instead oftentimes the rewards that God promises in the NT will not be realized until we get to heaven. Could God bless a giver with material things in this life? Absolutely! But instead I think often times those rewards won’t be realized until that person gets to heaven and hears the words, “Enter thou into the joy of thy lord” as He rewards their faithfulness (Matt 25:23).