Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, Psalm 126:1-6, Hosea 10:12
“Jesus talked about money more than any other topic!”
Growing up, my dad issued this statement every time he spoke about stewardship. I have no idea if he was actually right—I have never tallied up the passages myself—but he was certainly on to something. Jesus was, without a doubt, concerned about our possessions. Between His parables and His one-on-one interactions, Jesus often addressed wealth, greed, investment, and stewardship. Whatever the precise frequency may have been, Jesus talked about money a lot.
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul seems to pick up where Jesus left off. He is bold and unashamed in instructing the Corinthians to give. His tone is straightforward, and He seems totally unembarrassed by the indelicate topic of money.
The combined witnesses of Jesus and Paul remind us of an oft overlooked truth: how we talk about money matters. God doesn’t simply want us to give; He wants us to do it for the right reasons, and to think about our finances in a holy way. Along those lines, Jesus and Paul both steer us away from two common errors in our language about finances.
The first error is thinking of our finances as private. When it comes to money, many of us have a hands-off approach; we don’t want to be told what to do with it. I have heard stories of church attendees walking out of the service, never to return again, simply because the sermon was about stewardship. Money is a touchy subject, and as a result, pastors can be skittish about discussing it. Some even apologize to their congregations on the rare occasion that they do address finances.
Paul, on the other hand, is unapologetic. He does not mince words when he warns, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,” (v. 6). Based on passages like this one, it’s impossible to read Scripture and conclude that our money is nobody else’s business. God is not ambivalent about our wealth, but instead lays claim to it, so we cannot balk when our church community invites us to be generous.
The second error in our thinking about money is that of the prosperity gospel. This error gives inordinate attention to wealth, and it worships a transactional god whose grace is something we earn. The prosperity gospel interprets Paul’s words in a materialistic way, promising that if you give your money away, you are guaranteed to make much more in return.
Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9 seem especially vulnerable to the distortion of prosperity preaching, since he promises “whoever sows generously will reap generously” (v. 6). However, what distinguishes Paul’s message from the prosperity gospel is motivation. The prosperity gospel is motivated by material gain, whereas the “cheerful giving” that honors Christ is motivated by gratitude. Put another way, we express our gratitude to God by being generous with others, just as He is generous with us.
What is interesting about these two errors is that they produce the opposite effect. One discourages us from talking about money, while the other over-emphasizes it. But Scripture offers a third option. We can and should talk about money, but in the right way and for the right purpose: to the glory of God, the love of others, and the good of the world.
In truth, our finances are really not our own. They are God’s resources, which we are called to steward well. “And God is able to make every grace overflow to [us], so that in every way, always having everything [we] need, [we] may excel in every good work” unto to Him and for His glory (v. 8).
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.