Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 122; 149, Deuteronomy 29:2-15, 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, Luke 18:15-30
“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth to encourage them to give generously to the church in Judea, which needed much assistance. He told the Corinthians that God, who was the ultimate source of all they had to give, would reward them for their faithful generosity. What the audience of Paul’s letter may have missed was Paul’s generosity toward them. The generosity Paul exhibited toward the Corinthian church was not one of pocket, but of spirit. We can see this in his words:
Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints, for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that [you have] been ready since last year; […] But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you may not prove to have been empty in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be.
Paul simultaneously praised them for their generosity and gently nudged them to fulfill their promise. He could just have easily written “I’m not sure you’re keeping up your end of the bargain, so I’m sending some heavies to follow up.” This blunt approach has a certain appeal, and it may even get results, but it is not relationship-oriented. In the long run it leads to giving that is more fearful than cheerful.
Do we sow our seeds of faith in others as bountifully as we sow material seeds? Would you rather hear “I’m counting on you; I believe you can do it!” or “I’m counting on you; don’t let me down!” One may ask what the difference is, but the first implies an expectation of success and the second an expectation of failure. People’s behavior is influenced by the expectations we set for them. Intentionally and bountifully sowing seeds of high expectation, even when we doubt, is a sign of a generous spirit.
Comfort: Generosity is its own reward.
Challenge: Treat people as if you believe in their willingness to do well, even when you doubt.
Prayer: Create in me a generous heart, O God! Amen.
Discussion: What’s the difference between being optimistic and being gullible?
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