Action, Attitude, and Abundance – 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

By: Northern Seminary

Studying the word of God together is a great privilege. Listening to God, learning from God, and living for God all flow from studying the Scriptures.

Today I have three verses and three key words to launch us into our studies. The three verses are 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

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. 

Is Paul writing about giving money? He is, but certainly not only about financial giving. What he’s describing is how our lives should be given. I have three words to sum up what he is saying.

The first is action. In verse 6 Paul uses an ancient proverb: you reap according to how you sow – sow sparingly you reap sparingly; sow generously you reap generously.

What you do affects outcomes. Not what you mean to do; what you do.

That’s like the old saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

In other words it’s not enough to mean to do something, you must actually do it! For example:

  • When you are stranded on the shoulder of an interstate, it’s no good then saying: “I meant to get the car serviced,” or
  • When the love of your life is marrying your best friend, it’s no good then saying: “I meant to get round to proposing,” or
  • When fire has destroyed your house and everything you own, it’s no good then saying: “I meant to buy insurance.”

It is actions that matter.

And a farmer needs more than good intentions to get a great harvest. He has to sow well. The generosity of his sowing will determine the abundance of his harvest.

Paul takes that principle and applies it to life. Don’t get stuck at the stage of wishful thinking. And, in whatever you do, don’t be a minimalist. Be generous! Put your heart into it! Give your best.

I watched little children learning to dive into a pool. Some were fine; they did well. But others – a bit frightened – didn’t get their heads down and feet up, and the result was a dreadful belly-flop into the water. They didn’t commit to the dive, and the result was bad.

Action – whole-hearted action – that’s what Paul urges. Full commitment. With everything you have – your life, time, gifting, education, health, energy – give it all. Pour yourself into it. Be generous.

Action matters.

But, Paul goes on. It’s not the only thing that matters.

The second important word is attitude. In verse 7 Paul urges giving what is in your heart with no compulsion – for God loves cheerful giving.

That’s because actions without the right attitude can be empty.

Imagine this scenario, that it’s the night John has planned to propose to Diana. All is set: the flowers are on the table, candles burn quietly, music plays softly. It is the perfect moment, and John says, “Well Diana, we’ve been together for years, and I don’t really think we’re good for each other, and I am not in love with you, but after all this time I suppose I should propose to you.” What will Diana say to John after a proposal like that? You can be sure it will not be an enthusiastic ‘yes.’

The action was unacceptable because of the attitude.

If we give to God grudgingly, only out of duty, God is not impressed. We might be giving our time, talents or our treasure but God defines that as sowing sparingly if they’re given with the wrong attitude.

God says, “Don’t give reluctantly. Don’t give under compulsion. Give cheerfully. Give yourself joyfully, willingly, to me.”

When my children were young and I took them to the swimming pool, I’d stand in the water, get them to stand on the edge of the pool and tell them to jump to me. At that age they had not yet learned to swim, and the water was too deep for them. But they knew I loved them and knew that I’d catch them, so with complete abandon they would fling themselves into my arms. They trusted, and so they jumped.

That’s what God seeks – complete trust, complete abandonment to him. Action and attitude coming together.

Lastly the third word, and that is abundance. It sums up verse 8.

Paul says that where someone does the right action with the right attitude, then God will bless that person abundantly. Therefore he writes: “…in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Amazing words, full of encouragement.

In the original Greek of Paul’s letter he actually says all this comes from God’s grace, in other words from God’s goodness to even the least deserving. That includes us. And the result? Paul says that in everything, at every moment, you will have all you need for everything he would have you do.

I think of it as circles of abundance:

  • His grace gives out
  • We joyfully give back
  • He pours even more goodness into our lives.

That’s not a formula – not something rigid or mechanical – it’s a relationship of loving, sharing, giving, providing.

When I was about twenty years old, beginning to study for God’s calling on my life, I had almost no money at all – often hardly enough to buy something to eat. In church one Sunday the pastor gave a special challenge for all of us to give cheerfully. I had so little – just enough to buy food for half way through the next week – but the pastor’s words touched my heart. “Okay, here goes,” I said, and took the money from my pocket and gave it to God. I had no idea after that how I would eat that week.

Later the same day, someone who hardly knew me quietly handed me an envelope, saying, “I think I’m meant to give this to you.” Inside was money, more than twice what I had given that Sunday morning. That man had never given me money before and I don’t remember him ever giving it to me again. But that day, when I had given everything I could to God, he was God’s channel to give me everything I needed… and more.

I think God was teaching me something. He was saying “Trust me.” We can. We can trust him with everything.

When can children really swim? It begins when they know the water will hold them up, but it really happens when they are so sure the water will hold them up that they launch out into the deep water, out of their depth but completely safe.

Serving God will often take us out of our depth, but with him we are utterly and always completely safe, loved and provided for, guided and used in his service.

Sow generously – it’s the most important action you will take every day.

Give your life, your service, your money cheerfully – because your attitude really matters too.

Find that he holds you, provides for you, cares for you completely, abundantly, down to the last detail.

Action. Attitude. Abundance. God invites you to experience his overwhelming, generous love in a new way.

-Alistair Brown 

February 25, 2013

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