Sunday, November 15, 2020

Giving Is the Greatest Wealth

Giving Is the Greatest Wealth

If you want to become wealthy, there are certain things you must understand and certain things you must do. First, you must understand what kind of wealth you’re pursuing and how the economy functions that generates this wealth. Second, you must wisely invest the required resources in order to realize an increase of the wealth the economy produces. These principles hold true whether you’re pursuing wealth in God’s economy or in the world’s economies.

Now, the kind of wealth God’s economy produces and the kind of wealth the world’s economies produce are very different. The former makes us “enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Corinthians 9:11), while the latter threatens to pierce us with “many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10) and even to steal our soul (Matthew 16:26).

But in either case, we must value (desire) what each economy offers (Matthew 6:19–21), we must understand how each economy works (Luke 16:1–8), and we must invest in ways that take advantage of that economy’s production (Matthew 25:14–30). Obtaining the riches we desire depends on whether or not we meet these conditions.

To those who wish to become truly rich, the Bible offers this astounding promise:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Just think about this for a moment. The Source of all that exists, the Fountain of “all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), is willing to put his infinite resources to work on our behalf to meet our needs and bless our labors. All grace, all sufficiency, at all times. Who would not want this?

So, how do we become the beneficiaries of such an incredible promise? The answer is found in the context in which the promise is made.

God’s Gracious Economy of Joy

In 2 Corinthians 8–9, Paul encourages and exhorts the Corinthian Christians to contribute generously to the relief of the suffering believers in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1–4). As he does, he describes how God’s beautiful economy of grace works to produce a wealth of joy.

He starts by pointing to the grace of God clearly evident in the Macedonian Christians. These believers were living in “extreme poverty,” and yet they experienced an “abundance of joy” in being redeemed by Christ, which “overflowed in a wealth of generosity” in their contribution to the poor in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:2). Then Paul points the Corinthians directly to the grace that Jesus showed them when, “though he was rich, yet for [their] sake he became poor, so that [they] by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Then Paul describes how the contribution the Corinthians give will “not only [supply] the needs of the saints but . . . also [overflow] in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12).

In other words, this is how God’s economy of grace works to produce a wealth of joy for everyone involved:

  • The grace of Jesus overflows in his incredible generosity to redeem and give eternal joy to the Corinthian believers (Hebrews 12:2).
  • This grace experienced by the Corinthians (and Macedonians) produces in them an abundance of joy that overflows in their generous giving to meet the needs of the Jerusalem saints, which also produces joy for them since “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
  • This grace of provision produces in the Jerusalem saints an abundance of joy that overflows in thanksgivings to God, not only for his provision, but also for “the surpassing grace of God” evident in the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 9:14).
  • And this whole gracious economic cycle glorifies God (2 Corinthians 9:13), the Source of all grace.

Over and over again, God’s grace produces joy, which then produces generosity, which then produces joyful thanksgiving and praise back to God. This is God’s wonderful kingdom economy, where the true riches of grace and joy are the returns on the investment of generous giving to meet the needs of others. This is why we at Desiring God love to think of money as “the currency of Christian Hedonism.”

Amazing Promise for the Joyfully Generous

Now, in God’s economy of grace, like any economy, an investment is required in order to see wealth increase. What is this investment? Joyful generosity that meets the needs of others, overflowing from a heart transformed by God’s overwhelming grace. And as with any economy, the size of our return depends on the size of our investment.

Paul makes this clear when he reminds the Corinthians, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). This agricultural principle is also an economic principle: the size of one’s investment determines the size of one’s return.

Paul isn’t trying to manipulate the Corinthians into giving more. Nor is he promoting an equation that says if one gives more money, one will get more money. No, this is an economy that produces grace-fueled joy. Joy in God — joy in the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation we’ve received from God, and joy in the grace of God we see in others — is the return on the investment of gracious giving. And this economy works only when each person is free to “give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Paul wants the Corinthians (and us) to have as much joy in God as possible, so he’s exhorting them to invest in order to see that return. And that’s when he holds out the amazing promise:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

In God’s gracious economy of joy, we don’t need to fear running out of grace and joy. Paul wants us to know that if we trust God and invest well in generous giving to meet the needs of others, “God will supply every need of [ours] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

True Prosperity Theology

The Corinthians knew Paul didn’t mean that giving generously would ensure they would become wealthy. Reading all of 2 Corinthians (as well as 1 Corinthians) makes that clear. Rather, as he wrote in a letter to Timothy, he wanted the Corinthian Christians not

to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy . . . to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17–19)

Paul knew that the gospel of Christ was true prosperity theology. Unlike the terrible version of our day that cloaks a ruinous worldly desire to be rich (1 Timothy 6:9) in a pious appearance of serving God, Paul called his readers to invest in the economy of God by giving to meet the needs of others in order to have “that which is truly life” — that which truly gives joy. And that is true prosperity.

The point is this: in God’s economy of grace, generous giving to meet the needs of others is a means of investing in joy — our own and others’. And to those willing to make this investment, God promises his all-abounding grace so we will have all sufficiency at all times for every good work he calls us to. For “he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10–11).

from Desiring God
via DG