I’ve never been a farmer.
But I have planted grass. From seed.
Proper preparation is everything. I carefully planned where the lawn would go, mapping out the sprinkler system on graph paper. I dug the trenches as straight and narrow as possible, then measured, cut, and laid the pipe. I researched and installed the appropriate sprinkler heads. I wired the manifold and control box. I meticulously amended, leveled, and smoothed the soil, picking out every pebble.
And then, finally, I got to scatter the seed.
Compared to the more plodding, detailed work of preparation, it felt like a weekend party. I used a “Whirlybird” spreader, which sends seed flying promiscuously in all directions. No counting, no measuring, just liberality — in the hope that soon a lush green lawn would sprout from bare ground. (Alas, with the drought, the lush green lawn that later grew is now the color of bare ground.)
As we’ve seen in earlier posts, the apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Corinth to participate in the charitable collection he was taking up for the poor in Jerusalem. Wanting them to grasp the relationship between generosity and joy, he wrote:
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:6-7, NRSV)
To “sow sparingly” is almost a contradiction in terms; sowing is itself a generous act that anticipates a correspondingly rich harvest: stinginess in, stinginess out.
But Paul says nothing about the actual amount to be given. What the NRSV translates as sowing “bountifully” (or the NIV, “generously”) more literally means sowing “for blessings.” Sow for the sake of blessing, Paul suggests, and you will reap blessing as well — and as he will add shortly, not blessing for your individual benefit alone, for the benefit of the entire church and to the praise of God.
Again, it’s not about the amount; it’s about the attitude. What’s important is that the gift be given freely and cheerfully, not as a matter of mere religious observance, not out of fear or resentment.
Such cheerfulness, of course, can’t be manufactured out of thin air. It’s when we know ourselves to be blessed that we most want to bless others, and Paul will try to make sure that the Corinthians understand that too. More about that in upcoming posts.
But for the moment, consider again the metaphor of planting grass. What I want is a lawn, not a sack of seed. To sow sparingly is to hoard seed, instead of enjoying what might grow from it.
Is that how we think about giving?