Seed-sowing in the Church
It is characteristic of most Christians today, to give out huge sums of money towards a particular cause the church is embarking on: be it missions and outreaches, building projects, the organization of special programs, the welfare of members etc. All these are very necessary for the enhancement of God’s kingdom here on earth through the church. I dare say this is God’s plan for the church. However, just like everything good, I have reason to believe that some ‘people’ are abusing seed-sowing in church – both the givers and the ‘receivers’ (being the men of God) alike.
First of all, we need to know whether the term ‘seed-sowing’ in reference to giving out money and other material gifts to the church is biblical. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul said, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”. If you take a critical look at the preceding verses, it wouldn’t be hard for you to come to the realization that he was referring to offering money (or any form of material support) for a particular cause in church. Paul was quite boastful of the readiness of the Corinthian church to give to support Christians elsewhere in Jerusalem who needed the help. Notice that the Corinthian church was giving to offer relief to people in distress – that is so remarkable. Since the agricultural term ‘seed-sowing’ is used as a metaphor here, it means there are some correlations between sowing seeds on a farm and giving money to support the work of God that we need to pay attention to. The first of such is, the seed will grow into a tree that will bear fruits for the nourishment and enjoyment of the sower for many years to come. Secondly, seeds don’t germinate into trees overnight; it takes time, watering, right weather conditions etc. for a seed to germinate into a full-blown tree. Thirdly, the more seeds you plant, the more trees you have and the more trees you have the more fruits you will harvest. I believe this is why Paul said that ‘he who sows sparingly will reap sparingly and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully’. Not only is this analogy agricultural, in this instance, Paul is saying it is a spiritual principle as well.
Should we give solely because we want to reap benefits?
This is a very important question because the reasons for our actions go a long way to influence us to be either consistent or grow weary in doing them. As I have already stated above, it may take a long while to reap the benefits of seeds you’ve sown, therefore giving solely because you want to reap benefits is ok, but however, one might grow weary in doing it if the desired reward is not forthcoming. Jesus himself stated in Luke 6:38:
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
Some have argued that he wasn’t referring to giving material things in the context in which this statement was made. That isn’t the point I’m trying to make or debunk. I just want to stress the fact that he indeed did mention that when we give (whatever it is you think he meant) it shall be given back to us in a greater measure than we gave.
This is what I believe. We must give first and foremost to offer help or to support a particular cause that is of immense benefit either to the church or to humanity at large. Then we can go on to expect to receive in a greater measure as a reward for the seed we have sown. When you help someone pay his registration fee for an external exam, shouldn’t you do so first because you want to help the individual? Is it not a bit off to only offer help because you want help from God in return? There is nothing wrong in expecting to be blessed for your giving, it is only wrong if that is your only motivation. For some reason, it appears the blessings that are due people who give are the only reasons why people give to the church these days and it is sad. Therefore, unless a sermon is preached about seed-sowing and bountiful harvest, most of us are not likely to give. The mere fact that there is a need or someone is in distress or even the church is embarking on a worthy cause should motivate us to give bountifully.
Is it right to give and expect rewards under the new covenant?
Under grace everything is given to us freely not because of our good deeds but because God is good and his goodness is enough to ensure that we have our heart’s desires. Because of this many are of the view that, giving money and expecting to receive rewards in return is set in Old Testament traditions and is devoid of Grace. First of all, I have quoted Jesus above saying we should give and it will be given back to us. Also, Paul said ‘he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully…’. Don’t these two statements contradict the very ethos of the gospel of grace? Because at a glance it appears we are positing a performance-based doctrine when we say do this and God will do that. In Romans 4:16, the bible says that “… it is of faith that it might be by Grace”. Which means when the act stems from faith the grace of God makes provision for the desired results. It is first of faith that it might be by grace. Hence, if your giving is an act of faith in God, your reward will be made possible by the Grace of God. We don’t give to God to persuade him to give to us. The idea that you can twist God’s arm into doing your wish by your offering is rather erroneous. Giving is an act of faith and I believe God responds to our acts of faith accordingly in his own time and according to his purpose for the individual in question.
Should we give to men of God?
Sure. I believe it is only right for Christians to give to the shepherds God has put in charge of us. Be it in monetary terms or any other material gift. Men and women of God bless us spiritually week in and week out so it is only right for us to also bless them materially. Paul quoted from the Old Testament to support this very point when he said “… thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth the corn” 1 Corinthians 9:9. He was simply saying it is the right of every man of God to receive material blessings from the congregation he oversees. However, in later verses, Paul mentions that though he has the right to demand material support from the churches he oversees, he has decided against it. He stated that he would rather die than have any man deprive him of his ground for boasting – presumably in the fact that he preaches only because necessity is laid upon him and not because it is a means to make money. We can learn a thing or two from Paul’s stance on the issue. It would be better for you as a man of God to not place unnecessary financial burdens on your congregation than to do so and place a hindrance in the propagation of the gospel. It is very necessary for congregants to take care of their pastors and give to them when the need arises.
Does God expect the poor to give?
This is by far one of the most controversial questions to ask on this subject. Most people see seed-sowing in the church as an act of extorting from the poor to enrich already rich men of God. The truth is God expects everybody to give something, even the poor. It is a matter of what you can give. There are several instances in scripture where we see God receive offerings from poor people and sometimes even ordered them to give the little they had to him. Abraham is one of such people. He had so much cattle, flocks of sheep etc. God could have asked him to offer a 100 sheep and it wouldn’t have been a problem to Abraham. However, God asked him to sacrifice his only son. The very son Abraham waited 100 years to have. This is a typical example of God demanding one who has very little to sacrifice his little. The reward for Abraham’s faith, obedience, and loyalty to God is beyond understanding. We should learn from Abraham.
Remember the story of the widow’s mite? The Bible describes her as ‘a poor widow’. She put in two mites (copper coins) yet Jesus said the widow’s offering was bigger than any other amount of money offered on that day. How is that so? I believe, in comparison to the percentage of money she had, those 2 copper coins were a large portion of her wealth. However small they were, the master was pleased and that’s final. The poor should be allowed to give in church too. Only that the bible says nobody should give reluctantly or out of compulsion. Everybody must give as he/she has made up his mind to give. God loves a cheerful giver, period. Nobody should be coerced to give. Nobody should be embarrassed because they didn’t have enough money to give. Seed-sowing is not ‘blessings auction’ where blessings are on sale to the highest bidders. If the widow’s 2 copper coins were regarded as great offerings, then we should know that God’s standards for what we call a big offering differs from ours. Hence, when scripture says we will reap bountifully when we sow bountifully, it is probably not referring to the amount you give but the percentage of that amount to your entire wealth.
The other question people ask is that, can God be specific in his demands? Yes, he can. God didn’t tell Abraham to sacrifice a human being. He stated categorically that he should sacrifice Isaac. That’s specific!
Christians are the sole sponsors of the church’s activities and it has been like that since the day of Pentecost. The church is its own donor body. We can’t expect the world to fund our projects. Therefore, we must learn to give to the church. Men of God must also use the money given for the right purposes and not misappropriate church funds. The Christians in the church in the book of Acts are said to have sold their property and given to the church. Therefore, there was no one in the church who had a need – everyone’s need was catered for. This is the level all churches around the world should aspire to attain. We can and should even do better than this.