All giving is sowing, but not all sowing is giving. The distinction between the two is critical, and always discerned by the eye of God. God is looking for, and blesses, givers. What God looks at is the motive in the action.
A giver is a person who’s heart is in his giving. Paul said it this way:
(2 Corinthians 9:7 AMP) “Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].”
God pays close attention to the motive of the heart when someone gives. The person’s purpose in giving must not be with reluctance, with sorrow, or under compulsion. In other words, it must be a “willing” gift. Willing gifts are self-motivated and usually self-initiated. The giver has considered in their heart giving to another and is moved to do so out of love. Their heart is in their giving — not in their receiving. Givers are not considering their own receiving as part of their giving. Receiving is not part of the equation for giving, yet, the Bible promises it will happen. And, that Bible promise is emphatic.
Becoming a giver is a core value change.
Does God bless giving, or does God bless givers? Not all giving is from a giver. Sometimes people give reluctantly or under compulsion. The boss goes around the office collecting donations to United Way and you feel obligated to do what others are doing. That giving does not come from a giver. These types of things happen in church as well.
Giving something does not mean you are a giver, it means you gave. A giver is someone who predominantly has other people in their mind. They want to do something good for other people. You can’t try to be a giver, you have to have giving in your heart. God is looking for a “giver whose heart is in his giving”. Giving is part of this person’s lifestyle.
Sowing is business.
I was in the Midland, Michigan airport waiting for a flight when I began speaking with a farmer who was on his way to his “winter home” in Florida. This man farmed thousands of acres and it was his family business with his sons. I asked what happened to him when the drought came a few years back. He said, “It didn’t affect us. But it don’t matter anyway, we have crop insurance.” He didn’t really care about food for people because he was in it for the money and he would have been paid whether the crop failed or not.
Farmers don’t put seed in the ground to be givers. Farmers don’t grow food to give away. They grow food to either eat, or to sell to you to eat - it’s their business. When a farmer thinks about you, he is thinking about the money he can get from you when he sells you his crop. My uncle was a farmer and he watched the price of corn daily. He would even store his corn in silos in order to wait for the price to go up. He wasn’t giving anything to anyone. But, he did do very well in his farming business.
God has promised to bless what we put our hands to, but let’s not mistake business for giving. We need blessed, prosperous business people in the Body of Christ to fund the Gospel. I know many Christian business people that God has blessed, but they gave to be a giver and so increased.
Rich toward God.
(Luke 12:16–21 ESV) “And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
I guess the question is, “Can you be rich toward God and at the same time lay up treasure for yourself?” I don’t believe Jesus was condemning saving. This rich man clearly was not thinking about anyone but himself. He was already rich. When he got richer, he didn’t think of other people and what he could do for them. All he could think about was how he could save his goods in order to enjoy them himself. Paul had something to say to Timothy about ministering to rich people.
(1 Timothy 6:17–19 ESV) “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are 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.”
Clearly the rich are to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. The rich man in the parable was none of that. In both scriptures above, being rich is not condemned. The Body of Christ needs more rich people! But who can God trust to be a giver? Most contributions made are done so as seed sown for personal harvest. Remember, the rich man in the parable above was a farmer who had sown solely for himself.
Dependence upon God.
Sometimes when people “sow” a seed for themselves, it is an act of faith that creates dependence upon God. However, not all sowing does that. I believe this to be the case with the poor widow that Jesus watched as she was giving.
(Mark 12:41–44 ESV) “And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
This poor widow “put in everything she had” into the offering. Jesus said that offering was “more” than anyone else’s offering, even those from the rich people. God looks at things quite differently than we do. The widow’s offering created a complete dependence upon God and I believe this is what moved Jesus. People often say they are sowing seed for God to do something important in their lives, but it is not the money that moves God - it’s the dependency that the offering demonstrates. The widow’s offering proves that the amount of the offering was not the issue — it was the amount that it was to the widow — it was everything. The rich people did not give everything even though they put in “large sums.”
Action and reaction.
The Bible uses the natural law of sowing seed and reaping a harvest to illustrate a spiritual law of action and reaction. In each case where a seed is mentioned, it is mentioned as an example of an action taken. The harvest is the response to the action.
(1 Corinthians 9:11 ESV) “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?”
This is the law of action and reaction. Paul sowed spiritual things but did not reap spiritual things. So, what he sowed is not what he reaped — but it is that way with corn or wheat. Yet, he did reap because of the law of action and reaction.
If the natural law of sowing and reaping was a literal spiritual law, then we would have to sow the exact item that we want or need. The Word does not say that we reap the exact item that we sow. It tells us what we will reap.
(2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV) “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.”
Paul said we would reap “all grace” from our giving. Not only is that non specific, it is all encompassing. It’s anything needed. Paul also said that there is a purpose for the multiplication - that you may abound in every good work.
When giving becomes a seed.
When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, he spoke of an offering from the Macedonian churches that they gave to the saints in Jerusalem. Chapters eight and nine are both talking about this offering. He begins his comments:
(2 Corinthians 8:1 AMP) “WE WANT to tell you further, brethren, about the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which has been evident in the churches of Macedonia [arousing in them the desire to give alms];”
God began to move upon the church people of Macedonia and that grace was a desire to give. Giving is Paul’s subject throughout chapter eight and nine.
(2 Corinthians 8:5 AMP) “Nor [was this gift of theirs merely the contribution] that we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us [as His agents] by the will of God [entirely disregarding their personal interests, they gave as much as they possibly could, having put themselves at our disposal to be directed by the will of God]”
In one verse Paul mentions giving three times. Also, the Macedonians were “entirely disregarding their personal interests.” That means that they were not thinking about themselves or of a harvest of some kind due to them. They did not consider what they were doing as sowing seed for a harvest. Yet, Paul later tells them that God will view their action as a seed sown and will multiply it.
Paul continues speaking about their gift and that he wants it to be a willing gift.
(2 Corinthians 9:5 ESV) “So 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.”
Context is very important. The subject is “giving” throughout chapter eight and nine. Paul does not switch between the subject of giving and the subject of sowing. Paul uses sowing as an example to explain what will happen to a giver. The entire dissertation was prompted by the selfless giving of the Macedonians to the saints in Jerusalem. Again, giving is when you have the other person in mind.
God is looking for givers that He can bless. For too long the focus has been on sowing seed for personal need. They way to have your need met is to be the channel to meet someone else’s need. The very nature of the love of God is that it sees and meets the need of another. It’s time for a paradigm shift — we need to start looking outward.