I have heard this scripture used many times in an effort to convince the hearer to give money to a “ministry” with the promise of a huge “payback” from God. I don’t think that this is what Paul was talking about. Nowhere in scripture does God tell us that we will get lots of money, or things like houses and cars and fancy clothes if we give lots of money to the church. What God does tell us is that we will get what we NEED to fulfill God’s plan for us.
God will give us all the seeds that we need to do God’s work in our world. Paul is telling us that if we only take a little bit of that seed and plant it, we shouldn’t expect to get a very big “crop” back.
Many church leaders are afraid that if they put all their resources to work spreading the Good News, that there won’t be anything “in case there is a problem.” I think that a lot of us remember Pharaoh’s dream of 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine, and want to make sure that we’ve got enough put aside for those lean years. That is all well and good, but we fail to remember that God caused all of this so that Joseph would be placed in a position of authority and leadership in Egypt, and that this was not an everlasting commandment to all of God’s people for all time.
In this second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul emphasizes what Jesus says in Luke 6:38, that ” …With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Paul is telling the church that we don’t need to store up our seeds for some future day, because as long as we are doing God’s work and trusting in God’s provision, then we will always have everything that we need to carry out God’s will.
Some years ago, our congregation was facing some pretty tough financial decisions. We had a great physical plant situated on five acres, with a five year old sanctuary, a fellowship hall, an administration building and an education building. All in all, this represented over $2 million dollars of seed that we had been given to sow. But for six days a week, these buildings were mostly unused space, and like any seed that is stored for a long period of time, our seeds were beginning to rot.
Finally, after we did everything that we could do without God’s help, we began to pray — not very regularly, and certainly not trusting that God would actually come through, but we did pray. What did God do? Come through is exactly what God did. A preschool that was housed at another church came to us looking for a new home, and a wonderful partnership based on a shared vision of ministry to the community was begun. Even though God had answered our prayers, some of us didn’t like that answer. Some people even left. But our budget crisis was over, and we started to turn the corner. Over time, it has become pretty obvious that God sent us that school to help us understand that the seeds that we had been given were not to be stored, but to be planted. Now our buildings provide a home for two AA groups, an Al-Anon group, a Pills Anonymous group, a community choir, a local mom’s club, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and of course, the preschool. We also are a polling place, host medical screenings and have a labyrinth that is available to anyone at any time. Yes, our campus is showing signs of wear and tear, but God has provided for that also. It has taken us a long, long time to realize that what Paul was telling the church in Corinth applies to us today, that God is more powerful than anyone can ever know, and God will provide all that we need if we will only trust God.
Or as it says in Proverbs 3: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and don’t rely on your own understanding.