Part 1 -- Sowing the Seed
by Peter J. Wade
Whether you personally approve of the trend or not, the fact must be faced that finance plays an important part in our lives. At the present time there is every indication that money matters will continue to be predominant in the material world in which we live. You are well aware of the many financial decisions you constantly make.
As we shall see, money is necessary in our society, but it is amoral, neither right or wrong in itself. Money is only a symbol, and the way it is used reflects the tastes and expresses the ideals of those who use it. You are accustomed to receiving money and spending it -- which do you like to do best?
No doubt many are happier to see the money coming in rather than going out. But why? Should not both actions bring equal happiness? The supply of your every need will include the use of money -- and the right use will bring abundance, prosperity, and successful living. Perhaps the widespread misuse is a sign of wrong teaching rather than ignorance concerning money. Fortunately, wrong teaching may be replaced by the right teaching of the Word of God. And God's Word has much to say about material blessings, from Genesis right through to the church epistles.
I would like to share with you a phrase from Philippians 4:14-15 as a starting point for our research into this subject. "Moreover, you have well done that you did communicate with my affliction." Paul's affliction was not that he was sick, or that he was lame, or that he had broken an arm. His affliction is mentioned in verse sixteen where he speaks of his "necessity", material things that he needed. "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only." This is a principle from the church epistles for believers in this church age. I call it the principle of giving and receiving.
I do not personally use the word "tithing" because in my research in The Word, tithing is a term associated with the Old Testament. Tithing indicates primarily a one-way deal, the giving of ten per cent, whereas I believe the New Testament principle is one of giving and receiving. I know people who have tithed for years, in fact tithed and given offerings until it has hurt, and yet they were still as poor and unprosperous as they were at the start. There has to be something more than just tithing -- and that, I believe, is an understanding of the principle of giving and receiving.
"No church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again [that is, twice] unto my necessity, not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound to your account." This principle of giving and receiving is illustrated by fruit, the seed of the tree. That fruit abounds or increases to the account of the one who does the sowing of the seed or the planting of the tree. This is the principle that we must understand with a mathematical exactness and a scientific precision, so that we can put it into operation. We not only give but we receive; we not only sow the seed but we get fruit abounding to our account.
In this day and age we often hear about recessions in the economy, that there is a credit squeeze on, or money is tightening up. I want to tell you on the basis of God's Word that there will never be a recession that will affect a believer who is walking on The Word. No credit squeeze or tightening of money should have any effect on a believer. We are not dependent on outward circumstances -- we are poised and balanced in Christ. Churches and groups of believers should not fluctuate in what they are able to do because of the state of the economy. The economy can go whichever way it likes, and it may constantly go up and down, but ministries are not dependent on the economy but upon the believing of the believers. Now that may go up and down. It shouldn't, but it may. The same truth is evident in an individual believer's life as well as in a businessman's life. It is not the circumstances which surround you that govern the principle of giving and receiving -- it is your own individual believing.
In Philippians 4:17 the illustration is from nature. This is another example of the truth that "does not nature itself teach us?" On this occasion, God has brought to our understanding the figure of fruit, "fruit that may abound to your account". Now the best way that fruit can abound and benefit us is not by swallowing the apple but by getting the seed of that apple, planting it, and allowing it to increase.
Every seed has a small shoot ready to sprout, usually tucked into one side of it. Let's call this the embryo, the part of the seed that is about to develop and grow. A seed also has food for its initial growth, and this is called the endosperm. Every seed also has a coat that surrounds and protects the seed. Now every seed basically has these things: a part that is ready to grow, food to feed that growth until it can establish new sources of food, and a seed case or shell that protects the life in that seed until it is ready to sprout. As long as you keep a seed or a fruit in a vacuum container, for example, it will not grow. The only way you will get that seed to grow is to place it in the ground and leave it alone. When the seed is in the ground then an increase in heat and moisture will promote the right conditions for the embryo to sprout. It will use up its food, develop roots and leaves, and become a plant. But this will never happen until you have planted the seed.
Let me emphasise this point before we leave the illustration of the seed. Within every seed there is always the provision for its own growth. In John 12:24, Jesus said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit." The seed is given to the ground, the person who owns it has taken his hands off it, and it seems to die, to disintegrate. Unless it is sown in the ground, it will just be one seed. But if it is put into the ground, it brings forth much fruit because the seed will grow. It will send down roots, it will send up shoots, and it will grow into a plant and will, as Jesus stated in another parable, have fruit fifty-fold, sixty-fold, or perhaps one hundred-fold its own number by the time it is through. This is the same principle, the principle of giving and receiving, and the first aspect of the principle is that something has to be given.
Another tremendous example of this principle of giving and receiving, a principle that is applicable in every age, is found in Psalm 126:5-6: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
The scene here is of a man in the East who knows that by going out with his seed basket and sowing the seed, his family will be short of food for a period. But he also knows that unless he does go out and sow seed, then they will starve anyway. So he takes precious seed, which could have been used as food for his family, and with weeping, he goes out and sows it. He knows that by spreading it on the ground it will grow, and he shall "doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him", because the seed will have increased itself sixty-fold, one hundred-fold, and so on. It's a tremendous picture, and a great principle that operates at all times for saved and unsaved alike. It is one of the principles that God has set into operation: what you give you keep, what you keep you will eventually lose. If you hold on to that seed, you may only make a loaf or two of bread and then the seed is gone, but if you give it, sow it, then you will receive.
All nature increases on the basis of a seed and without the sowing of seed there would be no continuance of nature itself. Both the vegetable and animal kingdoms continually replenish themselves by giving. This is why God declared in Genesis 8:22 that "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest... shall not cease." The principle continues until this very day in the natural world. The same truth has also been a principle in the spiritual life of believers throughout the onward march of time.
First of all, to operate the principle of giving and receiving, the seed, an investment, has to be given. Without this act, nothing will happen. As somebody has well said, if you give to God nothing, when God multiplies it you still have nothing, because that is the principle. God is no longer in the creation business to create things out of nothing. God is now in the forming and making business, using what is already there and increasing it abundantly.
A further Old Testament verse warrants quoting right here. Proverbs 11:24 states: "One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty." Here is the same principle as we observed in action in Psalm 126. If the seed-sower had withheld more that was wise at the time, it would have tended to poverty. He would have had food to eat during the winter, but when spring came, there would have been no crop to reap. Verse 25 emphasizes the result of giving: "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."