The Apostle Paul gives some great advice in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, about sharing and receiving from others. Paul had just finished praising the churches of Macedonia, who gave out of their own poverty to help those in need in Jerusalem. When we find ourselves with out, or have went through times it often seems easier to relate to someone else who is in need. Paul encourage the Corinthian Church in some practical ways, with regard to giving. We can learn from these instructions some practical steps for giving in our own lives.
First, Paul instructs us that when we are generous the blessings flow back to us. This is not some formula for success, but rather a way in which blessings seem to continually flow. We are blessed that we may bless others, in turn they may bless others, and as Paul points out at the end of this passage in prayer those blessed are blessing the giver. This flow really reminds me that we are not alone, but interconnected to the believers around us. We need one another, and in living we bless one another through life.
A second principle is to give using our mind. We should, when possible take the time to consider what type of gift we can both afford, and that is best suited to the need. Thinking is not just a principle of tithing, but of all stewardship. God's plan is that we bless one another, but if we give all that we have with out thought of our own need, then we might well be unable to help others in the future. Thinking and giving should include how we use all of our resources: time, money, education, and influence.
In thinking we also should make decisions as a family, as to what we will give to any given need. By including our family in the process we accomplish two very important tasks. First, we are teaching our children or other family members the importance of good stewardship and sharing. Second, we are keeping clear and open communication between spouses.
This second area is vital to a marriage, as a couple should be giving together. I know of a church in a town I once lived that had held a great pledge drive. The only problem was that several people promised money with our consulting their spouses. Some of these spouses were neither attendee's of the church, or even Christians for that matter. When it came time to collect the money problems arose in these families. One family in the church already faced some problems, and this issue of money and promises with out talking to the other spouse added into their filing for divorce. While the idea and pledging was good, this is a reminder that we must make such decisions as a family, and not alone.
Ultimately God loves a cheerful giver, and so our giving should be from a heart that desires to share and give. Paul even states that we should not give "out of compulsion" (v.7). This heart felt giving may go far beyond money. I know of ladies who sow quilts for missionaries. Others who collect household needs for missions organizations. When my family were headed off on a church planting adventure a church blessed us with both a monetary gift, and with a van load of household items for a move into a new home.
In blessing of God's ministers and mission workers we are freeing people to focus upon the task of ministering to the people God has called them to. We are directly then involved with that mission in our own lives. We should always be willing to give to such needs in our communities and around the world.
Giving is a way of praising God. Paul tells us in verse 11 and 12 that this giving is thanksgiving to God. As we give we can praise God that we are able to help in His blessing of others. It becomes an attitude of thanksgiving and sharing that passes God's love on to others around us.
What if you find yourself on the receiving end of giving, how should you respond? First, with thanksgiving to God and the person who has giving to help you. You may not always know who has blessed you. I remember a time when our family was down to a a couple of cans of food on the shelf. We walked out of our trailer to go to a mid-week Bible study to find two grocery bags full of food. I do not know to this day who gave those to us, but we thanked God and prayed God's blessing upon them. Paul reminds us that those who receive, pray for those who have given. This keeps the blessings passing along.
We do need one another in life, and I pray that you will be able to be blessed in giving generously, as God would lead and direct you to needs around you and your family.