When Preaching on Money, Don’t Be More “Spiritual” Than God
Copyright 2006 Rod Rogers
In spite of the fact that God makes numerous promises of financial rewards for generous giving, many church leaders are too spiritual to preach them. They grow visibly agitated when these promises are mentioned, and are quick to qualify them. For example, in 10 Principles of Giving, an otherwise outstanding exposition of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Dr. John Stott writes,
Two harvest principles are here applied to Christian giving.
First, we reap what we sow. Whoever sows sparingly reaps sparingly, and whoever sows generously reaps generously (v.6). Sowing’ is an obvious picture of giving. What then can we expect to reap’? We should not interpret Paul’s point with excessive literalism, as if he were saying that the more we give the more we will get, and that our income will keep pace with our expenditure. http://www.generousgiving.org/testimonies/display.asp?id=49
Why shouldn’t we interpret Paul’s point as saying that the more we give the more we will get, and that our income will keep pace with our expenditure? That’s exactly what he does say. The context leaves us with no other defensible interpretation. If we reap what we sow, and what we sow is money, then what we reap will also be money. Any other conclusion does violence to the text. Yet this gifted, godly expositor is so uncomfortable with the plain meaning of Paul’s promise that he dismisses it without any exegetical supportlabeling an interpretation as excessive literalism is not an exegetical argument.
A few sentences later Stott falls into the same hermeneutical trap:
If then we give in this spirit, what will happen? What harvest can we expect to reap? Answer: God is able to make all grace abound to you’ so that in all things’ (not necessarily in material things) on the one hand you may have all you need, and on the other you may abound in every good work’ because your opportunities for further service will increase (v.8).
Why the qualification, (not necessarily in material things)? Material things is precisely the subject of Paul’s discussion. Paul knows there are other rewards for giving than monetary blessing. But his purpose here is to encourage the Corinthians to give by assuring them that if they give financially, God will bless them financially. Denying this in the face of overwhelming contextual evidence makes us guilty of what I call emotional exegesisallowing our personal discomfort with a divine truth to distort the text that reveals it.
God understands that a primary reason we do not give sacrificially is that we are afraid we can’t afford tothat it will bankrupt us. That is why so many Scriptures that challenge us to give, or to live contrary to conventional fiscal wisdom, emphasize God’s promises of financial reward. Here are just a few examples:
During the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest ‘But if you say, What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?’ 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 ‘When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating [the old] until the ninth year when its crop comes in.’ (Lev. 25:4, 20-22)
Honor the LORD from your wealth, And from the first of all your produce, 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine. (Prov. 3:9,10)
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. (Matt. 6:33).
Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. (2 Cor. 9:7,8)
Along with spiritual and eternal blessings, God Himself promises us financial rewards for giving. Obviously He does not consider them to be crass or unspiritual. If we use emotional exegesis to spiritualize them, we become guilty of trying to be more spiritual than God. What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy (Acts 10:15b, NASB).
When you preach on giving, be sure to include God’s promises of financial rewards. That is the truly spiritual thing to do.