2 Corinthians 8, 9.
Have you noticed it? Money -- prosperity, a comfortable and good life -- has become a major motivation for becoming a Christian amongst many in our days. Wealth, abundance, guaranteed protection from danger is promised on many pulpits--great and small-- week after week, day after day in the name of faith, sowing seeds and positive confessions.
Many throng into churches, not because they are regenerated souls seeking God. They come at the back of "what's in it for me?" and they hear what they want to hear: "Give your life to Christ and all your problems will be solved". "Are you struggling in life?Try Jesus, He will change your life". "Do you want to marry, be successful in business? Try Jesus". Of course, Jesus changes lives. But there is a more glorious agenda of God in our state of redemption: "conforming us to the image of Christ" (Romans 8:29). Personally, I believe if we keep insisting or are made to believe faith in Christ positions us for a good life and immunizes us from danger, we are spiting those brethren enduring persecution in other parts of the world. Has their faith been rendered ineffective? Or they not being faithful in sowing seeds? Also, believers of earlier centuries in church history died martyrs deaths, refusing to denounce their faith to save their lives. Hebrews 11, which can be described as the hallmark of faith in Scriptures, doesn't only narrate stories of victory. Unfortunately, we stop too soon on the accounts of victory, ignoring the other gory accounts. Talk about Hebrews and probably vs 1 and vs 6 are the most quoted: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."..."And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." True, God rewards those who seek Him. But who said reward in anyway means material prosperity, health and wealth? God does reward with material blessings, I don't doubt that. But it is not a guaranteed promise to every believer. While on God rewarding those who seek Him, can we also appeal to the suffering that comes to those who will enter the kingdom of God? "...through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
In Hebrews 11, while some "through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight."(vs 33-34), others were also "tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised"(vs 35-39). Did you read the last verse? "And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised". Faith, in no way guarantees us a smooth passage here on earth and no amount of "seed sowing" can change situations that God won't change.
How pathetic! The gospel--God's good news of reconciling sinners unto Himself through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ at calvary-- has become what Scriptures explicitly warns against: If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.(2Timothy 3:3-5).
"...imagining that godliness is a means of gain". This is a perfect description of the Christianity many are professing today--equating faith in God with material prosperity. But we need a stern reminder that "...godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."(2 Timothy 6:6-10).
"Sow a seed of faith into the anointing" "The environment is charged, God is here to bless you. Take your wallet, your purse, wherever your money is, sow a seed of faith into this atmosphere" "Sow a seed for open doors" Sow a seed of faith for your breakthrough....These are words common on charismatic pulpits. And recently, another new act has emerged. Walking to the pulpit and dropping money while a preacher is preaching? Are we now buying God's blessings?...And if you are observant, you must not miss this current craze of fund raising in Church. How predictable this has become. Every guest preacher must raise funds after his message: Ghc1000, Ghc500, Ghc200, Ghc100, Ghc50, Ghc20, Ghc10....whatever you have in your wallet/purse, don't go without sowing a seed. What's going on? Don't misunderstand me. I believe in the principle of sowing and reaping: giving. It is a biblical principle. The point of this post however is to address the abuse of a biblical principle thereby promoting greed and preying on of innocent and gullible souls.
In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul has been collecting money for the Jerusalem church which was in need. The church in Macedonia, which was far less materially prosperous, compared to the Corinthian church has been very generous in this gift of giving: "We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. "For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints"(2 Corinthians 8:1). Note the phrase "of their own accord". Paul didn't coerce them, he didn't manipulate them. They gave willingly. Unlike today, when much of our giving to the work of God is precipitated by manipulation and in extreme cases pronouncing of curses on people who don't have to give. In writing to the Corinthian church about this exercise of collecting money for the Jerusalem Church, Paul used the example of the Macedonian church to appeal for a show of generosity and genuine christian love in parting with their money: "But as you excel in everything— in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine." (2 Corinthians 8:7-8). "I say this not as a command..." Note that also. Clearly, Paul was appealing to their generosity rather than manipulating and exacting from them.
Let's look at Chapter 9 now. "...I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. ". (vs 5). Paul sent people ahead to collect what has already been promised by the Corinthian church, "willing[ly], not as an exaction(excessive or unjust demand for money, extortion). "The point is this:" Paul continues, "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."(vs6-7). I believe Paul in vs 6 is making a contrast between being generous and stingy when he used the words bountifully and sparingly.
The whole idea of giving, is to engender generosity, not greed as we see it today. We are not engaged in a business transaction with God. Our blessing is not grounded in how much we give and don't give. Generosity is never about how much a person gives, it is always about the heart behind the act of giving: "God loves a cheerful giver". Remember the widow's mite? Remember Simon The Sorcerer? "Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!" (Acts 8:18-20). We can't bribe God, we can't court His blessings and gifts with money. No matter how much seed-faith we sow, our relationship with God is not driven by what we give. It is driven by what He has already given: “ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16).