By David D. Ireland, Ph.D.
Lead Pastor of Christ Church
There is never a perfect time to plant a financial seed. Whether it’s an unexpected bill, the urge to buy the latest electronic gadget, or the economic uncertainty spawned by the global pandemic, the challenge of sowing a seed is always ill-timed.
I get it. To a normal person the thought of planting a seed during tough times sounds preposterous. And the person daring to make this bold ask appears almost devilish. You want to get away from them. But before you do, there are three issues to ponder and pray about.
1. Planting is MY choice.
Paul approached the Corinthians about giving financially towards the struggling believers in Jerusalem. His request to plant a seed appeared ill-timed because they were dealing with their own problems—sexual immorality, suing one another in public court, and even abuse of the sacred communion meal. Knowing that planting is a choice, the clever apostle knew it was not his place to issue the Corinthians’ no for them. Let them say “no” to the request, if they so choose.
To help the Corinthians process the request, Paul cites the Macedonians’ response to the same request. Talking about an ill-timed ask, Paul wrote, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2, NIV). The Macedonians were facing a huge test. While the Bible is silent about the specifics of their difficulties, two things are certain: They were facing extreme poverty and excessive persecution.
Instead of dismissing Paul’s request with a firm “no,” these poverty-stricken believers did something to show how rich they really were. They brought the matter to God in prayer (2 Corinthians 8:5).
2. Planting is MY opportunity.
The Macedonians realized planting is an opportunity to access a harvest. The principle of sowing and reaping, also known as giving and receiving, is a divine law the Early Church practiced. Paul said, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV). Although planting is a choice, Paul highlighted that reaping follows sowing. Put another way: When you sow you should expect to reap.
In essence, planting is an opportunity to reap a harvest. There are ethical and moral pitfalls to be avoided. If you are planting only with the selfish aim to reap a harvest, that’s not good. The Macedonians and Corinthians were urged to plant for the moral good of helping the destitute believers in Jerusalem. This was to be their primary aim and moral compass.
Yet, our good is never devoid of personal benefits. This is precisely why Paul said, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13, NIV). Whenever you seize the opportunity to sow, God watches over the seed to ensure a harvest.
3. Planting requires MY faith.
I feel a bit unspiritual after reading the Macedonians’ response to Paul’s request. Instead of rejecting the idea outright, they first prayed. In my earlier days as a Christian, I used to immediately reject the idea of planting a financial seed. As I matured, I realized the real issue driving my knee-jerk reaction was my faith—or should I say: my lack of faith. I used to disguise my faithlessness with the notion that the request was ill-timed. Or, the person making the ask is unrealistic, selfish, or needy.
While that may be true of some leaders, in my case I was struggling with not knowing how to exercise faith. If faith is never exercised it will lay there dormant, only to lose value and potency. This is precisely why the Macedonians exercised their faith and why I urge you to read the entirety of 2 Corinthians 8. They did not let their circumstances dictate their actions. They first went to God. Next, they saw sowing as a bridge and not a barrier to their harvest. Finally, they connected sowing and reaping to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9). A seed sown is akin to being dead and buried. When it germinates and grows it’s like being resurrected. It took faith on Jesus’ part to die for our sins believing God would raise Him. Planting requires faith, and His act of faith produced a harvest of countless sons and daughters!
Before you go, please answer this question: Should I plant a seed?
David D. Ireland, Ph.D. is the lead pastor of Christ Church, a multisite and multiracial church in northern New Jersey with a membership of 9,500. He is a former diversity consultant to the NBA and author of some 20 books, including the newly released One in Christ. For more information, please visit: http://ChristChurchUSA.org, @DrDavidIreland, and http://davidireland.org.