Open: Week 3

Open to Growth

Week of November 1

Opening Prayer:
Jesus, we pray for you to be here for this time. Bless us, that we may be with and more like you as we connect. We thank you for planting seeds of curiosity and vision through this season of openness. Finally, we ask to take a deeper and more honest look at our capacity for growth. Amen.

Historical Context:
The passage below is from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. He had previously spent 18 months living with and  ministering to the newly formed community of Jesus followers. After his departure, Paul and the Corithian church used letter writing as a means of communication. While First Corinthians can be read as a response to a letter from the church, this second letter was written in defense of his teachings and apostleship. In Chapters 8 and 9, the apostle encourages them to continue preparing for and collecting an offering for the church in Jerusalem. Paul connects generosity to themes of grace found in the good news of Jesus. The passage below reminds us that God wants giving to be rooted in self-examination and cheerfulness, without reluctance or compulsion.

Read Aloud:
2 Corinthians 9:5-15 (CEB)

5 This is why I thought it was necessary to encourage the brothers to go to you ahead of time and arrange in advance the generous gift you have already promised. I want it to be a real gift from you. I don’t want you to feel like you are being forced to give anything. 6 What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop.

7 Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. 8 God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. 9 As it is written, He scattered everywhere; he gave to the needy; his righteousness remains forever.

10 The one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply your seed and will increase your crop, which is righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. 12 Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God. 13 They will give honor to God for your obedience to your confession of Christ’s gospel. They will do this because this service provides evidence of your obedience, and because of your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. 14 They will also pray for you, and they will care deeply for you because of the outstanding grace that God has given to you. 15 Thank God for his gift that words can’t describe!

Engaging Scripture:  
  • Why do you think Paul used the agrian principle of sowing and reaping in this passage? How might the original hearers have understood this, related to their material giving?

  • Verse 7 frames giving as a matter discovered and decided on in the heart. Many converts may have been used to prescriptive measures for offerings. Do you think this style of intuitive or spirit-led giving impacted the church at Corinth?
Application Questions:
For a lot of us, growing in generosity feels impossible. We wonder how much we should give, and if the sum we can contribute will actually make a difference. We learn from the teachings of Jesus that our giving becomes more generous as we increase our sacrifice, intentionally, and joy.

Let’s go verse by verse this week…
Verse 6
Paul uses the image of seeds and harvest here. Can you think of a time when you have seen a seed planted and over time it grew into something new?

Verse 7
What pressures do you feel when you are making financial decisions? Anxiety around current demands on your money? Insecurity from comparing yourself to others? Fear of not having enough?  

Verse 8
What steps can you take to strengthen your trust in God’s provision?
Closing Prayer:  
God, you are a God for every generation, and we are your church. We pray to understand and relish in your generous nature. May we be transformed into your likeness. Set us afire for the things that you will bring forth through each of us. We are grateful that every good and perfect gift ultimately comes from you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Taking it Further:
Spend some time reflecting on the Journey of Generosity Pathway. Where are you on your generosity journey? What would it take for you to move to the next step on the path?

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