- THERE MUST BE FAIRNESS?
2 Corinthians 8:1-2 – “We want you to know brothers about the grace of God that have been given among the Churches of Macedonia. For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part…”
Paul is talking about the churches in Macedonia. He talks about a combination of events in their lives: they had a severe test of afflictions, as well as extreme poverty. But they also had an abundance of joy in all of that. These things may seem incompatible [a combination of poverty, afflictions and joy], but it is real when we walk with the Lord. This extreme poverty of theirs combined with an abundance of joy and a severe test of affliction “overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” This is extreme poverty overflowing in a wealth of generosity. We know of course, that one cannot give too much if they are extremely poor, but remember how the Lord judges this — that’s found in Mark 12:42-44 and Luke 21:1-4, where the Lord Jesus points out the widow who gave all she had (2 mites) and had nothing left and He said that she had given the most.
2 Corinthians 8:3-4 – “For they gave according to their means as I can testify and beyond their means of their own freewill, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…”
They had heard that the saints in Jerusalem were being relieved and they insisted that they wanted to be part of it. From their deep poverty, they made a choice. They thought, “This is a chance to bless, this is an open door to support, we will be part of it.” They begged earnestly to do so, because likely, the apostles said, “No, no. Things are too hard with you here.” And they would respond, “No, this is an open door, this is a chance to give, to support needy saints.”
We’ve noted that saint gave according to their means, which is the standard God gave, but they also gave beyond their means, which is not a standard God demands. They went beyond the call of duty. Duty is to give according to your means, according to your ability which you see further down 2 Corinthians 8 (verses 12-14). They gave beyond their duty, towards the relief of the saints. How were they able to do this? Paul calls it ‘the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints’ (2 Corinthians 8:4). You are doing yourself a favor when you relieve the saints of God.
Verse 5 – “And not as expected, they gave themselves first to the Lord, and then by the will of God to us:
How do you give best to the Lord? Give yourself. We’re to give ourselves to the Lord. It is you, given to the Lord that will result in your being able to give [to people] properly. Give yourself to the Lord first, give completely to the Kingdom; then you will be able to give according to your means and beyond it.
In verse 7, we are told to excel in this grace also and it’s not a command (as verse 8 says). The Lord Jesus is an example — He was rich, but He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). And what should you do when you are rich?
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…, he said in verse 9 [And everyone prays “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you…”, not knowing the implications of that ‘grace’]. Verse 9 says that Jesus has the grace of being rich and becoming poor for the sake of others. Therefore you become rich, and what should you do immediately with that? Become poor! How? By enriching others! This is the way of God.
In verse 12, it says, “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” Verse 13 says, “I don’t want others to be eased and you burdened. Let it be a matter of fairness. Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.”
- ‘SOWING SEED’ IS A MATTER OF ‘SUFFICIENCY’
In 2 Corinthians 9, verse 6 says, “The point is this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
This immediately conveys the knowledge that what has been discussed so far and what will be discussed is a matter of sowing. So, the concept of seed sowing is under discussion; it is not to be separated from giving, it’s the same. It began in Chapter 8, and continues in Chapter 9.
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 – “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And 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.”
Seed sown is shown in your ability to abound in every good work. When God’s grace abounds to you, it results in your having sufficiency.
Did the Macedonians have sufficiency? What they had was sufficient, according to their ability, according to their means, and they gave according to that. In all things, and at all times, God is able to make you have all sufficiency. That means, child of God, that typically, if you are working hard and faithful in what you do, whatever you do have to give, is enough. It will be sufficient.
I am going to clarify this. When this ministry began in its second phase in 2016, I had no job. But I would strive to share what little food I have with all those who came around for Church meetings [University students especially]. Sometimes, people just came around or were there after the Church meetings, or were there earlier before the Church meetings. And since the meetings held in my house, I would strive to share what I had. I would share the soup we had, the rice; I would share actual food or snacks, whatever was available. Things were very tough, very. The soup would be very watery many times. The piece of meat inside the soup would be very tiny. All those things happened, but look at what the Scriptures says — it says that you will have all sufficiency in all things at all times. God is able to make all grace abound to you. The point is that, sharing what I had, that was me having all sufficiency. *For something to be sufficient does not mean it’s excessive, it means that you have enough!* And I have shared in times past, that we were never hungry. Our tummies were never empty. *We were not hungry. We had enough. I didn’t say we had luxuries. We didn’t have extravagance, but we had what was sufficient. Hunger pangs were not gripping us. God provides what is sufficient*. So, no matter how much we shared what we had, no matter how crazy and irresponsible my behaviour and that of my household seemed in sharing what we had, God’s grace is what abounds to keep us, so we may abound in every good work. Every good work!
- GIVING THAT MAKES THANKSGIVINGS OVERFLOW
In Matthew 5, the Lord Jesus said that you should be perfect by doing good works as your father in Heaven is. He said that when men behold your good works, they would glorify God who is your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16). So good works are actions expressed in giving of what you have. Remember, it is not you who is doing this. It is God making His grace abound to you. And the purpose of His grace abounding to you is for sufficiency, so you may abound in every good work. This is the purpose of all grace abounding to you, this is always the purpose — so you can abound in good works. He made all grace available and you are to abound in every good work.
Paul expounds on this by sending us to Psalm 112:9 which he quotes in 2 Corinthians 9:9 – “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor, his righteousness endures forever.”
He has distributed freely… And who did he give to? He gave to the poor! His righteousness endures forever. The book of Proverbs 22:16 says that if you oppress the poor to increase your riches, and if you give to the rich, you will be poor. But we read here that the Lord Jesus’s grace makes you rich, it doesn’t make you poor. The second half of Proverbs 22:16 says “Whoever gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”
So, giving to the rich makes you poor, it does not make you rich.
In 2 Corinthians 9:9, we see that if you distribute freely and you give to the poor, your righteousness will endure forever; your doing the right thing (1 John 3:7) endures forever.
And then verse 10 says – “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.”
We’ve already seen who the sower is. It’s the same person that all grace is abounding to — the guys in Macedonia who were poor and yet they took what they had and gave to the needy (it is obvious that they did not give it to the rich). Those are the sowers!
“…He supplies seed to the sower and bread for food…”
The seed from the sower is bread for food to the eater, but also, whatever the sower eats is bread for food.
…Now the one who supplies…
Who is it that supplies? God. God gave seed to be sown. You sow by giving it and we are told in verse 6, not to sow sparingly. He told you what would happen if you sow sparingly and what would happen if you sow bountifully; and you are encouraged to sow bountifully, according to your means as 2 Corinthians Chapter 8:12-14 says.
And then it says that, “…He will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” The harvest of your righteousness is bread for eating too. But the harvest also becomes the seed. So you then have to decide how much of it is bread and how much is seed again. But remember, He will multiply your seed for sowing.
He multiplies our seeds for sowing, so that, like the Macedonians, we can give to the poor, to the needy! That’s who they sow to. We don’t see any other context in these passages.
“You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity...” (verse 11). Again, he makes it clear as to why you are enriched: because you are generous, not to the rich, but to the poor.
If you are not still convinced that this giving is to the poor, verse 12 says, “…For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God…”
They did not give to the wants of the rich, they gave to the needs of the saints.
How much thanksgiving flows out to God when you give to the rich? Do you understand this? When goodness overflows to needy people, it is supplying the needs of the saints. This is where your money is to go. Automatically, thanksgivings rise to God just like the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, that men will behold your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven. Rich people don’t behold, they don’t see the works. They are swimming in luxury already, and they barely notice it. Many times, they even despise it, so giving to them might even result in grumbling instead of thanksgiving.
- IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT WORKS!
2 Corinthians 9:13 – “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from the confession of the gospel and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.”
Paul was saying, “You submitted to God, and it flowed from the fact that you confessed the gospel of Christ and your generosity arising from your contributions for them and all others led them to give thanks to God.“
Now that thanksgiving is what the Lord receives, because money does not leave the earth. The money, the resources, the provisions, all go to humans, saints — these are the children of God; needy saints, not comfortable preachers. The focus of giving in the body of Christ is to needy saints. The emphasis of our contribution is to help them. At least two people receive from an act of giving; but three in this case: the saints that received it, God who is glorified, and the sower who has his seed multiplied. So even the thing which is gotten as a result of generosity is so that there will be more seed and there will be more harvest, as verse 10 says.
At the end of 2 Corinthians 9, verse 15 says — “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift…”
After talking about giving, Paul says that we should thank God for His inexpressible gift.
Verse 14 says, While they long and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God upon you…
What is the surpassing grace Paul is referring to? He began in chapter 8 to lay it out: ‘the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia’ (2 Corinthians 8:1) – the grace of giving. That is the grace that he speaks of and thanks God for.
So when a preacher says that giving to the rich is what will make you ‘rise’, and emphasizes that ‘it works’, you must know that because something works [generates results] does not mean that it is the truth or that it is God’s will. If someone gave you some money after you ‘sowed’ to a rich person, does it mean that no one ever called you and gave you some money before then? Even if it’s so and no one had ever given you money before [which is highly unlikely], it could be lying signs. Many of us have had experiences where we came to know God, and around that time, a person of the opposite sex that we had always liked and admired (and desired to be in an immoral relationship with) in the past suddenly comes and wants to be close to us. Does that mean that it’s God’s will that you be close to such a person? No. So, it’s not about what works! The fruit is not just seen in what happened. It’s in how it happens, the circumstances around how it happened.
Lying Spirits work! When you do what Napoleon Hill says, it works. If you go into witchcraft and summon the spirits of great men to come and sit with you and you consult them, it will work! It works! That’s why people join the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians — because something works. Stop going with what works! Go with what the Scriptures approve. Go with what God commands! Obey God! This is the lesson! Obey God! Don’t go with what works! Fraud works!
Psalm 73 tells you about rich wicked men who prosper and live in peace. It works for them [but that same Psalm 73 tells us about how they’ll end]. We have to stop saying, “It works.” God help us! Who told you that whatever happened to you at that time would not have happened ordinarily?
I have been giving to the poor, practiced it for more than a decade, and I have a comfortable life. I give to the poor, and I live in a 6-bedroom duplex. I was giving to the poor and in the space of about 7 years, I drove 5 different cars. So, what works? Obedience to God works.
There are things that God doesn’t want for you. Stop trying to make things work that should not work. And understand the workings of lying spirits; lying signs and wonders make things seem to be confirmed. Many times, it’s not even demonic, it’s just something that would have still happened (with or without your giving to that rich person). After all, all your other acts of goodness and kindness were noted too (and could have been a reason for the reward).
Have you never had a confirmation to do evil? For instance, you started to have immoral thoughts about someone, and then that person calls you that day. Was that from the Holy Spirit? One of us had a dream of an ex-boyfriend being immoral with her and then he called her the day after she had the dream. So, is that like proof that God wants her dream to come to pass? You may have thought of a movie or a music clip, and it wasn’t a good movie or a good song. And next thing, you actually come across it and you wonder, “What’s that? Is that being prophetic? Is God leading me to go and watch a movie that scarred my Spirit when I first watched it four years ago?” That’s how someone might mention a movie, and then stumble across it in someone else’s laptop or phone. Does that mean that God wants you to collect it? Does it mean that there’s something He wants to teach you in it when all it can do is stir up lust?
Remember, how the enemy talks to us is the same way God talks to us. You receive good calls and bad calls with the same phone lines. It’s the same form of communication. We must understand the spirit realm.
Many people have told stories of how they gave to a rich person, and then got blessed as a result of that giving and some of them are not being totally honest, but some are. The former give the impression that something very dramatic and special happened that one time that they gave, when it is not so. It’s why, if you listen to people, you will probably hear someone say, “It was this person I met [and my life changed]…” and meanwhile, they are saying this in a congregation where the person leads, and because they are preaching there, they tie a transformation in their life to that person. I suspect that many of these servants of God have other similar stories connected to some other people — “Oh, it was when I met this person that my financial life changed,” “It was when I met this one, that this happened…,” and they have different times for different people, because this pleases men. It pleases men exceedingly to hear these things. And it immediately makes you like them, so that even if you are not a part of that [church] group, thereafter, they will like to follow you and to listen to you.
So, we must understand that deceiving spirits will say things and confirm things too. If a deceiving spirit needs to win someone over, he can stir another person to give money to that person. Are men not stirred up all the time to give money to girls so that they can get them between the sheets? Is that the leading of the Spirit? Is that generosity? Is that love? I am sure that the devil gives people ideas; people have thoughts that seem good. People have had visions of people’s mothers being witches and trying to destroy their families. Does it mean that those visions are from God? Are you not to know things (judge) by the fruits? You will know a true teaching by the fruit of that teaching. Does it make the people righteous or more God-loving? Or did it make them more greedy and more displeasing and unpleasant in behaviour?
This is the truth that we must know and carry.
Pastor Ita Udoh