There is a predominance of “sowing and reaping” sermons in some Christian circles. The teaching goes something like this: Whatever you sow, you shall reap. If you sow good seed, a good crop will come back to you. If you sow bad seed, a bad crop will come back to you. I’d like to spend the next two or three minutes looking at this in more detail, to find out what part of the “sowing and reaping” teaching is biblical, and what part is not.
1. Despite what some popular Bible teachers teach, the Bible does not teach that sowing money will cause money to be returned to you. Here is one of the verses that is used to teach this (false message):
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Although this passage is used “dead smack” in the middle of an appeal which the writer is making for money, the promise is not that money will be returned to the giver if they give. The issue at hand is not that of *money* but that of *attitude* (see the next verse). God has never been interested in your money; what he is interested in is the *way* that you give it. A man could give a million dollars and receive “no reward” back from the Lord. Why? Because he gave it with the wrong attitude. A clear example of this is given in Jesus’s indictment against the Pharisees for how they gave:
“When then you give money to the poor, do not make a noise about it, as the false-hearted men do in the Synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Truly, I say to you, They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:2)
So the issue is not how much you give! And giving is no sure indication that you’ll get anything in return (read Matthew 6:2 again). What matters is your attitude. This is clear from the next verse:
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Notice the key here: give as you have purposed. If you find yourself “begrudging” the giving, then scale it down (give less). It would be a shame to give a lot, begrudgingly! You’d receive no reward. But if you give a little and can keep your heart pure, your reward will be much greater. To give a lot begrudgingly, in fact, is to give hypocritically (I know, I’ve been there!).
A person may give because he feels he “has” to. He then may develop a begrudging (bitter) spirit, because he felt like he was “forced” to give. All of this — I can assure you — is based on an improper father image of who God really is! The person who feels “forced” to give, has not learned that God does not force! God, rather, enjoys a cheerful giver.
2. It is not biblical to teach that a person should expect to receive a material blessing back from having given money to the church, because this would contradict Jesus’s clear teaching in various parts of the Bible:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.” (Luke 6:32-35)
What’s the teaching here? The teaching is that we should do nothing because we expect to receive something back: that would be like a sinner! So if that’s your motive for giving, according to Jesus’s own words here, you’re no better than a sinner! (You’re not in the realm of a saint, but don’t worry, you can get there quick!)
The key to understanding “sowing and reaping” is really found in the statement, “expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great,” — which deals with both our heart motive in giving, and God’s response to our giving, when it is done in the way that he desires. We are “not to expect anything” which means that WHILE WE ARE ON THIS EARTH, WE SHOULD NEVER THINK ABOUT WHAT WE WILL GET BACK FOR HAVING GIVEN SOMETHING TO ANOTHER PERSON. In other words, our motives should remain pure. We should be givers because we LOVE TO HELP, NOT BECAUSE WE LOVE TO RECEIVE! Yet, in the long run (in heaven), we should expect that God will reward us.
In fact, if you really want to do things God’s way, you need to start thinking about things in the same way that Jesus thought about them. He had no concern for his earthly welfare, as long as his basic needs were met. His first and foremost concern was for others, and what he could do for them. He was not even looking for a reward in heaven in any physical sense, but rather, his “reward” was the souls that he would win and bring into heaven, as a result of his tremendous work on the cross.
And, by the way, was Jesus rich, and powerful, in the earthly sense, while he was here on this earth? No, he actually said that he had nowhere to lay his head! That doesn’t mean that we are to be poor (because Jesus was not poor). But we are to have a focus that is continually directed in heaven’s direction, rather than earth’s.
In closing, may I leave you with the following verses, which clearly show us that the “reward” that we are to look forward to is not HERE on this earth, but is, rather, in heaven:
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:12)
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” (Matthew 16:27)
“Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” (Luke 6:23)
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Re 22:12)
What then are we looking towards? Physical rewards, or spiritual rewards (i.e. souls)? Have we been taken in by empty, vain, teaching? I fear that some of us have. It is time to get out of it, and get on with doing the real work of the gospel.