Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Do you suppose there is a relation between he who sows sparingly and he who gives grudgingly or he who gives under compulsion? Might it also follow that bountiful sowing is the giving that is in accordance with the heart? Could it be that simple? Do you realize that even if an externally imposed motivation produces impressive results, those results are RESTRICTED by the fact that they do not touch the very essence of the one who follows them? On the flip side, if the command itself was somehow given life and put within the innermost being, to follow it would be the only sane course of action that would satisfy that heart from which the desire originates. I think we have misjudged the miraculous wonder that has taken place within those who have the Spirit.
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. Luke 17:10 KJV
In my life, this verse was presented as part of the motivation to serve the Lord, and I was correctly taught that merely doing my duty would cause me to be unprofitable. Unfortunately, the solution I heard was that I needed to get on fire for the Lord. The odd thing is that this motivation conforms to how my performance is measured where I work. Doing what is expected is rated a mere "3" on a scale between 1-5. Considering the fact that anything below a "3" is unacceptable means that doing what is expected only serves to keep me employed. Very meager rewards, if any, are given for doing what is expected, for these are reserved for those who OFTEN (4) or ALWAYS (5) exceed expectations. Interestingly, I've heard the designation "on fire" used to describe those who always exceed expectations. Not surprisingly, the inevitable result of being on fire is that one gets burnt out in the process. Do we not understand that whether we fail to meet expectations, meet expectations or even exceed expectations that we are living in view of EXPECTATIONS? Isn't it clear that living according to duty in any way, shape or form is simply living according to LAW? Jesus made it painfully clear that those who live according to performance will end up admitting that all such performance has been UNPROFITABLE. "Under compulsion" implies a duty that results in one who gives grudgingly. We can candy-coat it all we want but, in the end, the duty-driven individual cannot escape the unavoidable reality that he has been an unprofitable slave. And why is this? Because it does not come from within him. Earlier in the same letter, Paul told the Corinthians:
... Do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? YOU are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that YOU ARE A LETTER OF CHRIST, cared for by us, written NOT with ink but with the SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such CONFIDENCE we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:1-6
His confidence in them was based solely upon the reality that God's Spirit made them adequate. This adequacy is presented as a comparison AND as a contrast. What's the comparison? The fact that something has been written to cause this adequacy. What's the contrast? That the writing that has caused this adequacy is not something written with ink, but that the writing is the Spirit of the living God that has been written upon the heart. You see, it's not that God has put a something upon our hearts, but that God IS the writing, and the human heart IS the tablet written upon. Now, does the adequacy that comes from having God written on the heart suggest a sowing that would be described as sparing or bountiful? Then, how about the sowing that is motivated from the writing of ink or upon stone? If the Spirit gives life and the letter kills then it should be pretty stinking obvious what the difference is between the sparing and bountiful. Is it any wonder why Paul put the whole matter of giving upon that which had been purposed in the heart, for if God is written upon it then WHATEVER is given according to it is adequate, sufficient, plenteous ... or bountiful. And since like produces like - or after its kind - then whatever is sown from the heart cannot fail to reap the fruit that comes from the Spirit. You think?
Now, I left a matter hanging from the last Shoveletter concerning how Paul masterfully prevented this collection for the saints from turning into an opportunity for the arrogant among them to boast. Now, I mistakenly said that Paul was sending a group of Macedonians, and though there may have been one or more in the group he sent ahead, he had actually mentioned the possibility that if some Macedonians came along with him it might create an embarrassment if the Corinthians were not ready. The Corinthians' story so powerfully showed the work of the Spirit that the Macedonians became filled with joy to give way beyond their means.
Paul let them know that he was sending Titus ("he is my partner and fellow worker among you"), and "the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches", and also "our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you." and it seems others who he states "as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches". Do you hear the strong message here?
Titus was Paul's personal representative to the Corinthian group, but he was NOT Paul, and he was young. I think those who wanted to look impressive compared to Paul would have felt cheated by the very presence of this wet behind the ears kid who was sent as Paul's partner. It would have caused them to sulk. But it would have caused those who regarded Paul as having God's true authority to listen to this kid as they would Paul himself.
Next, there's a brother who isn't known by his name but by his reputation in the things of the gospel. A person of such fame obviously had no importance whatever in the things of the world! His very presence would have deflated any bloated puffers among the Corinthians as the people would have been looking forward to meeting this man they had heard about, a man whose only fame was in the good news of Christ.
Then, there's the man Paul sent who couldn't wait to see THEM. This was the kid with stars in his eyes for his heroes in the faith, the Corinthians!! You see, they KNEW why he had such confidence in them, and it was because of the real work of the Spirit in their hearts they had put on hold for almost a year in favor of more impressive works of the Spirit by which many of them were boasting one over another. How sobering it would have been for them to realize what a disappointment they would be to this man in their insane frame of mind.
Now, take this dynamic situation and then consider what Paul sent them to do. If EACH was to set aside what he had purposed to give and this group came to collect what was saved up, then they probably visited individual homes so that no one knew what the others were giving. This is what would take the thunder from the arrogant and is the same that would remove the temptation from the others who might try to compete if it had become a public display of covetousness. They would have collected the funds in private so that each was left to give only according to a heart that had God written on it. Then Paul would have shown up with the Macedonians, who would have seen the powerful work of the Spirit of God in these people who had stirred their hearts the year before.