Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Sowing and reaping?

I’m pretty confident that you have at least once heard the term sowing and reaping, or "seeding" in the Christian circle. Whether it be by your Pastor in your local church, a televangelist on a Christian TV channel, or in a book by a Christian author. The term has been widely used in the body of Christ for a long time now and has even become a doctrine in some respects.
But what does the bible really have to say about sowing and reaping? Let’s have look at some scriptures on the topic.

One of the favourite scriptures concerning seedtime and harvest is Genesis 8:22 ….
Many people take this scripture and apply it to anything, but it is most commonly applied to financial sowing to ministries and “men and women of God”. But what was God referring to in vs 22. Well If we read from Chapter 6, we see God instructing Noah to build an Ark because he was about to destroy the earth by water (flood) because of the grave evil on the earth. In chapter 8 vs 21 God promises “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done.

Here we see that God had cursed the ground due to the wickedness of the people and promises never to do it again. In verse 22 he continues … “as long as the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

So was God referring to literal seeding in the earth, i.e. planting of crops or was he speaking of everything that man calls seeding i.e. sowing money into ministries expecting to get a return on our investment? I cannot conclude this to be what God meant. Can you?

2 Corinthians 9:6-But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

This is another scripture which is often used encourage giving financially to a ministry or minister. One the surface this scripture does seem to mean, that if we give small we receive small and if we give much we will receive much in return. However, If we look at the surround text we will get a better understanding of what Paul was saying to the church at Corinth. If we back up a bit further to the preceding chapter it will help us get a better understanding of the context. From the text it appears that the Corinthian church where experiencing a time of financial prosperity (cht 8 vs 14 but by equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality). What was the want of the church at Corinth and what was the want of the church at Macedonia? Paul seems to be encouraging an exchange between the churches to encourage equality. The church at Macedonia where in want financially (chp 9 vs 12) while they prospering in many other areas, eg. grace, righteousness, devotion to God.

Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to follow in the footsteps of the Macedonians and pursue righteousness. Titus had been sent to Paul by God to help and comfort him and the other apostles at a time when they where in need and cast down (chp 7 vs 5,6). Paul was desiring that Titus would also visit the Corinthian church in there now time of need. Paul boosts of the grace of God on the Macedonian church while boasting to the Macedonians of the generosity of the Corinthians and there pledge to financially assist the Macedonians. If we return to or first text in Chapter 9 vs 6, we understand that Paul in encouraging them to sow financially to the Macedonian church in need (vs 9, as it is written, He has dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever). Then we continue in verses 7 and 8, every man according ….

Paul puts in focus a reaping of grace, righteousness, good works and thanksgivings to God (vs 8,9,10.11,12) not a reaping of financial blessing which they already had. God in more concern about us being bountiful in righteousness, grace, etc then being bountiful in finances.

Paul reminds Timothy to teach the same to those who are rich in finances. 1 Tim 6:17-Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.

This is what Paul was encouraging the Corinthian church to do.
So what do we learn from this? We as Christians should support and help other Christians in need, whether they are in a third world country, your local church or you brother or sister.

Now what about you local church, pastor, etc. Should we not financially support our local church? If my Pastor is ministering fulltime how will he and his family be supported?

Firstly, if you fellowship at a local church, If you have the means it is only effecal that you support where you can to assist the church in functioning. However it must be said that this not limited to finance. Some people may not be in a position to assist financially, but may be involved in the helps ministry of the church on a voluntary basis lending a skill or gift to the body of believers.

The bible says 1Timothy 5:17-Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

So according to the scriptures elders should be looked after by the church as they do the work of God. What is important though is that they are actually labouring in the word and doctrine and not sitting at home during the week watching tv or out playing golf. This is certainly the criteria.

As much as the ox must not be muzzled, no one who remove the muzzle if the ox was eating the entire harvest. An elder should be fed but not consume the entire harvest!

Also if possible elders should continue to work where possible and it should be a last resort to receive financial support from the congregation. Today many ministers are living far beyond there necessary means, flaunting lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous, with fleets of luxury vehicles, millionaire mansions, planes, and expensive jewellery. This is not what is meant by “do not muzzle the ox”. This is fleecing the flock which God is certainly against (Ezekiel 34).

Lets look at a key scripture concerning sowing and reaping. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not to worry about the things of the earth like food and clothing. These are the things that the world chases after. God is our father and will provide these things if we continue to put our trust in him. Lets look at vs 26, behold the fowls of the air: for the sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

This is a valid question to be answered. Ask yourself. Am I more important to God than birds? The answer is yes you are! God is heavenly Father, so that means a lot. As we see, Jesus himself says that the birds do not sow, nor reap, yet god provides food for them. This means that God will provide food for us, if we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (vs 33).

The problem is that many of us are pursing God out of greed and ulterior motives. Some are sowing “seeds” because we are not content with what we have already, so we are trying to use God as a high interest low risk building society.

In verse 28-30, Jesus continues with another example, this time using the lilies of the field and how God has beautifully clothed them. Again he explains that they are nothing to God compared to us his children. He ends vs 30 … shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

O ye of little faith? Jesus says they have little faith. Today may teach that sowing seed, and believing God for a harvest it great faith. This could not be more carnal and far from the truth. What you will find is that it is the rich (financially) preachers who seem to be teaching faith yet they have no understanding of what faith really is.

James 2:5-Harken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 but ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgement seats?

The bible says that it is the poor who are rich in faith. Why? Because they have learnt how to trust God to provide for them on a daily basis (Matt 6:11-give us this day our daily bread).

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