A friend of mine was once doing a short internship at an African-American church in the United States. During the Sunday morning service, when the offering was taken up, the congregation would sing a song about sowing in generosity and reaping a blessing. My friend would always shake his head at this, feeling somewhere between bemused and alarmed at this flagrant display of prosperity theology. He felt no small dose of shame when it finally dawned on him one day that the congregation was in fact singing the words of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.
Just to be clear, God is not a slot machine. We do not put money into him and hope that the odds are in our favour and he pays off big sometime soon. Neither is God a Ponzi scheme where we offer him our financial gifts with a view to sharing in his riches until it all goes bust. Nor is God an investment opportunity where we get the the inside track of an exciting new project with the guarantee of exponential profits after a short period. God is nothing like this.
What is certain, because it is scriptural, is that God is generous and he generously blesses his people. It is from that blessing that we in turn feel the tug of the Holy Spirit at our hearts to bless others out of our abundance and to bless God back out of thanksgiving. Divine generosity creates a contagious habit of giving that exponentially increases as it is experienced and shared with others. This isn’t about algorithms or karma, it is the circle of divine generosity that begins with God and ends with God, because God is the giver of all good things, and we are part of that circle in our own giving and receiving of gifts.
It is dangerous, because it is so obviously alluring, to think that if we give to the church or to charity, that God somehow owes us. That’s not true, never has been, never will be. Who can lend to the Lord that the Lord should owe him or her anything? God has no creditors, only debtors, those who have been redeemed from debtors prison! What is true, however, is that if we give to this circle of divine generosity, we will contribute to an abundance of blessing for those in need (sowing) and we ourselves will benefit from it in due course (reaping). The little boy who gave Jesus five barley loaves and two small fish saw his gift miraculous multiplied and used to feed others and himself probably ate more than he brought along that day.
When we engage in feats of generosity, we are never to think about what we can get out of it. Rather we should be driven by thanksgiving and a desire to bless others as we ourselves have been blessed. We are to believe that from our meagre or mighty resources that God is able to do much, and as much as we give, we can confidently expect the circle of divine generosity to spin faster and wider, and to find ourselves experiencing the exponential blessings of its increasing revolutions.