Brothers and sisters, 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. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, He gives to the poor, His righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:9). He Who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us.
Very plainly, Saint Paul is talking about money here. More specifically, about the collection he would make to support the Christian communities in Jerusalem, who were struggling. Why would he talk about money? What does money have to do with the life of a disciple, life of a Christian?
If we read through the New Testament, specifically from book of Acts of the Apostles and through the Epistles, we will see that money is mentioned quite often. When a person decides to become Christian, to make Jesus Christ the center of his or her life, all of his or her life effected. Since money is part of our life, this part also participates in our Christian life. In Christ, all of our life is transformed, finds meaning, so do our finances.
From the very beginning, people who were baptized and became Christians, became part of a specific local community. It is impossible to be a Christian on your own, without a community. Our faith is personal, but it is lived out communally.
In order to become part of a Christian community and support each other, early Christians sold everything and gave it to the heads of the community. The heads of the community would then make sure that everyone in their community was taken care of, and if anything was left over, they helped others.
Once Christianity was legalized and then became the main religion of the Roman Empire, the way the faithful contributed financially changed. But they still contributed because finances is part of our life, and all of our life is dedicated to Christ when we become part of His Body, His Church.
Even today we participate financially in our parishes. Each parish has different system of financial participation for their parishioners: some have dues and collections, some have pledges, some have assessments, and some have tithes (giving 10% of income). There is no perfect system, the one that works is the one where the faithful take seriously their financial participation as part of their Christian life.
One of the best strategies for a Christian giving, is to give a percentage of your annual income. Figure out a percentage point that you can give, let's say 1%, and give that the first year. Each subsequent year, increase your giving by 0.5 or 1%, until you reach 10% (a tithe) or a percentage point with which you are comfortable. As long as our giving is honest and intentional, it will be for the glory of Christ.
Our Christian financial participation does not end with giving to our parishes. There are many great charities that do Christ's work in the world. Support of these charities is part of our Christian giving.
Saint Paul compares financial giving to sowing. When we sow seeds on the field or in our garden and we are greedy with how many seeds we sow, then our harvest will be poor. On the other hand, if we sow bountifully, meaning as much as is needed for a good harvest, then we will reap accordingly.
Saint Paul also insists that if we are faithful with our Christian financial participation, God will "provide [us] with every blessing in abundance." God is not a bank, nor a stock market. It does not mean that if we invest x, we will get 10x in return. Notice for what Saint Paul says God will bless us abundantly - "so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work." Meaning, if God blesses us with something, whatever it may be, it is so that we may share.
Whether rich or poor or in between, we all have blessings and riches that we can share. When it is done in Christ and for His glory, that is not reluctantly or under compulsion, our sharing becomes bountiful.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest