Common wisdom today is that money makes money by being invested. The days of savings accounts and compound interest as a means to putting our money to work are long gone. And, the way we measure how good our investments are is by the amount of money it returns.
But what if there are non-monetary returns we should be considering? What if at least part of our portfolio should be invested for returns that never go back into our account but instead go to Another?
This morning I’m continuing to chew on Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to give generously to the saints in Jerusalem. And I’m wondering if there isn’t a lesson in kingdom economics here.
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ . . .
(2Corinthians 9:10-13a ESV)
Paul is encouraging the saints at Corinth to fulfill their pledge to practically assist the saints in Jerusalem who are taking it in the teeth for following Christ. He wants them to be generous. His word picture is that of a farmer who has to make a call as to whether he sows seed sparingly or bountifully. Does he conserve so he has food for today, or is he more sacrificial, anticipating a bountiful harvest for tomorrow? “Each one,” Paul says, “must give as he has decided in his heart” (9:6-7).
But the harvest Paul is talking about is not necessarily a money for money crop. It’s not measured by some return on investment ratio. Rather, Paul calls it “the harvest of your righteousness.” And it’s not about money making money. Nor is it about expecting some spiritual benefit based on the amount physically invested. Rather the “proceeds” from the investment, the harvest anticipated, what will be produced, is “thanksgiving to God.”
Their money would not only supply the needs of the saints but would also “overflow in many thanksgivings to God!” The harvest of their liberal sowing of monetary seed would be realized in glory to God. That’s the math of kingdom economics.
Gospel giving bears a harvest of righteousness and that is realized when thanks is given to God. What more return could we ask for?
And I’m thinking that, whether it’s a saint who knows the Giver of all good things or a sinner who is still in darkness, when they give thanks to God for generosity shown them by the people of God–whether they know God personally or not–that it’s a heavenly return on our earthly investment.
For the believer, they praise the God who shows Himself faithful by supplying all their need in Christ.
For the unbeliever, grace-filled, generous giving combines with God’s other “invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature” clearly perceived through creation (Rom. 1:20), to bear witness to the common grace shown to lost people as the Creator patiently seeks to make Himself known. Some monetary provision but a sign post pointing to God’s greater gift for their greatest need. And when they say, “Thank the Lord!” a harvest is realized in heaven. The glory given to God providing an opening for the Spirit of God to further the gospel work of God in calling them to reconciliation.
O that we might sow in anticipation of such a harvest–a harvest of our righteousness. That though we may not hear it ourselves, that our generous disbursement of our material wealth into the lives of others for the sake of the gospel would result in the reaping of an abundant crop of thanksgivings to God.
Seed generously sown as we’re enriched in every way. The return on investment an overflowing of many thanksgivings to God.
By the grace of God alone. For the glory of God alone.