Friday, April 16, 2010

Will You Scatter or Hold Back?

There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.
(Proverbs 11:24)

It might seem counter-intuitive, but the one who “scatters,” who disperses and gives freely out of his resources, is the one who sees increase in his resources and has all he needs. But the one who holds on to what he’s got and is tightfisted with his resources, giving only sparingly, will end up in lack. The Message says it this way: “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”

Surely the apostle Paul had this in mind when he said, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). He was taking up a collection for the beleaguered believers in Jerusalem and seeking generous support for them. But the principle is universal: How you sow is how you will reap.

The psalm writer speaks of the righteous man and the blessing that comes upon him because, “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor” (Psalm 112:9). The Hebrew word for “disperse” is the same one for “scatter” in Proverbs 11. This is a man who does not withhold his resources but gives freely and generously. Part of the blessing on him is that “wealth and riches will be in his house” (v. 3). Why? Because God can trust him to use it properly and give with an open hand, just as God does. As Paul said, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Generosity begets generosity, abundance begets abundance, and prosperity begets prosperity. But those who hoard and refrain from helping others — that is a poverty mindset, and it begets poverty. Wisdom goes on to say,

The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.

The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
(Proverbs 11:25-26)
The “generous” soul is, literally, the one who blesses (berakah). That is, he freely blesses others by his generosity. The result is that he will himself be abundantly blessed and will prosper. Because he has helped meet the needs of others, satisfying their thirst, his own needs will also be met. It is easy to become so focused on meeting our own needs that we forget about the needs of others. But if we will give attention to helping others, we will find that it comes back to us in unexpected ways and there will always be more than enough.

Even in our business dealings, it is the generous man who will prosper. The example here is of a vital commodity in a time of need. The man who withholds it from the market, in order to drive up the price, will be cursed by the people who need it most — he is trading on their misery. But the one who sells his produce at a reasonable profit will have the blessing (berakah) of the people. He benefits them and they benefit him. The Message renders verse 26 this way: “Curses on those who drive a hard bargain! Blessings on all who play fair and square!”

The first man is trying to squeeze all he can out of the situation, to bleed the market dry. He is playing a zero-sum strategy and thinks that he can prosper only at the expense of others. The second man is not afraid to about leave some money on the table. He understands that when he helps his customers prosper, he will prosper as well.

It is really all a matter of sowing and reaping. What you sow is what you will reap, and always in proportion to how you sow. Jesus taught this principle: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

That is a powerful promise for those who have learned to sow bountifully.