VI. We Reap In Proportion to our Diligence (2 Cor. 9:6)
In this series we have been looking at the Christian and prosperity. Our theme verse is 3 John 2. We’ve not recited that in a couple of Sundays, so lets see how good your memory is. Let’s recite it together. 3 John 2. Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. God loves to prosper His people in every area of their lives. He loves to give them good health, emotional stability, finances, family, friends, ministry success. When everything that we have and own is at God’s disposal, and we just see ourselves as stewards, God loves to pour back into our lives 100 fold. And several of you have reported that even in the last few weeks you have seen God’s blessings poured into your lives as you have begun applying the principles in this series. And I think that the laws of harvest found in Galatians 6 are critical, even though they are only a part of this series. The neat thing about these laws is that they are universal laws that apply to believer and unbeliever and even to cultures. They revolutionized Protestant Europe.
And today we come to law six. This is another law of harvest that gripped the Protestant Reformation, and especially of Puritanism in America. It is called the Calvinistic work ethic. Some call it the Protestant ethic or the Puritan work ethic. Here is the law of harvest: we reap in proportion to our diligence. We always reap in proportion to our diligence. To the degree that we embrace the Calvinistic work ethic, to that degree we will have an increase of harvest.
Now let me just contrast this law with law number III. We already saw that even the smallest amount of investing that we do into God’s kingdom produces a far greater harvest than what was planted. Law number III says that you always reap a multiplied increase of what you sow. You plant one kernal of corn, and you get several cobs full of corn kernals.
But this law goes beyond that. This law indicates that the more diligent you are as a farmer in sowing, fertilizing, watering, harvesting, etc., the more you will get back. Law III shows God’s part (only He can give the increase), and law six, the law we are looking at today, deals with our responsibility. So we reap in proportion to our diligence.
And let me say that proportion can deal with both quantity and quality. Does what we invest have quality? It can also deal with the variety of seed as well as the number of fields that we are willing to sow into. Verse 6 deals with the proportion of sowing with all that we give (that’s the seed), and verse 10 calls us to sow into every field that God brings into our pathway. We will reap far more if we sow into ten fields than if we only sow into one field. And so verse 10 says, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Turn to the book that is right before this. 2 Corinthians 9:6. This is a verse that gives the principle very broadly. Paul applies it to giving, but it can apply to anything that we do. 2 Cor. 9:6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. That’s why Proverbs 12:27 says that the lazy man will lose what he has already gained, “but diligence is man’s precious possession.” Diligence is man’s precious possession (Prov. 12:27). In fact, for an immigrant who is living in a society that is prejudiced against him, diligence is really his most precious economic possession. It’s the one thing that helps him to compete in an uneven world. And today we are basically going to be examining the question: “Do you have the Protestant work ethic?” And do you have it not only in your business, but also in other areas? Maybe you are diligent at work, but you are not diligent in how you invest in your marriage, or what you put into your education. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… And so the Protestant work ethic needs to be applied not just to business, but also to marriage, education, exercise, health, speech, etc., etc.
Nor is it enough to be diligent once upon a time. Galatians 4:18 says, But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you. A boss doesn’t ever have to check up on a person who has the Calvinistic work ethic because that employee is motivated by far more than immediate gain or by what others think. He is looking to a long term harvest. So that is the principle in general. What I want to do in this sermon is chase you through a bunch of Scriptures in different slices of life and have you examine yourself to see if this may be the reason you aren’t prospering. God’s desire is that you prosper in all things. So let’s lay hold of this law that you will harvest in proportion to your diligence.
Business and Wealth
And why don’t we start with a look at business and wealth. Do you seek to excel in your career or your work place? The Puritans always insisted that Christians needed to strive to be the best in whatever they did: it didn’t matter if it was in being a mom or a wife or being a farmer or printer. They taught that there needed to be quality and there needed to be diligence. Proverbs 10:4 says, the hand of the diligent makes rich. Proverbs 21:5 says, the plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty… No doubt about it in God’s mind – the Protestant work ethic works! It really works. Even when people seek to rip us off like they tried to rip of Jacob, God guarantees that we will prosper, sometimes in ways that are totally unexpected. Jacob told his wives, And you know that with all my might I have served your father, yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. He did not have good working conditions and yet God prospered him as he tithed and sought to be the best. He was really indispensable to his father-in-law. And we must become indispensable. I have tried to teach our children not to do the least work for the most pay, but to do the opposite and God will bless them by making them indispensable and through referals and tips. But it doesn’t come natural, does it?
And Proverbs is riddled with statements that connect a diligent servant’s heart with influence and prosperity. Proverbs 12:24 says, “The hand of the diligent will rule.” Do you want God to give you greater dominion? Then serve with diligence. We tend to be skeptical of that because we live in an age of power religion and power politics and it seems that people prosper not through diligence but through who they know and through manipulation. And so it takes faith to believe these Scripture statements. And yet Webber in his masterful thesis demonstrated how the Protestant work ethic brought prosperity to the West. Christ said the same thing when He said that those who serve the best are the greatest. Proverbs 17:2 says, “A wise servant will rule over a son who causes shame, And will share an inheritance among the brothers.” In otherwords, a diligent work ethic will get you farther than blood relations. Even Jesus was called “a servant of rulers” in Isaiah 49:7. Matthew 25:21 gives the general principle when Christ says, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” And you don’t have to be in business for very long to realize that that is true. The most successful businesses have the attitude that the customer is always right and that we must seek to satisfy the customer.
Chilton said, ““Profits are possible because of the biblical principle of “dominion through service”: the efficient (least wasteful) producer receives the greatest return. The moment he turns from serving the public, his profit will disappear, because the consumers will take their business elsewhere. The consumers always decide which producer will get the profits. Now it is true that some of the “bigness” of big business has been made possible by unbiblical government subsidy and protectionism. But apart from such ungodly activity, the characteristic feature of big business is efficient mass production for the needs of the public. And the more efficient a producer is, the more profit he earns, and consequently he is able to exert even more influence upon business, which is as it should be: the control of production is in the hands of those who are the best in serving consumers.” (P. 39)
He is simply saying that business does not flow to the lazy and the inefficient, but to the diligent who strive to be their best. Now I think that America still excels in this to a large degree. But we are fast moving away from the Protestant work ethic and into a society where manipulation, force and envy dominate. Let’s just think about that for a moment by comparing cultures. One of the intriguing exegetical conclusions that Gary North came to in his commentary on Deuteronomy was that a good sign that a society has just laws is when immigrants can grow wealthy despite prejudice against them. Most societies have so much resentment, that immigrants are kept in their ghettos and economic opportunity through hard work is not possible. North said,
“This is an important mark of a righteous society: Strangers flourish. The rule of law, if the law is just, provides the judicial framework for economic growth. Immigrants are notoriously thrifty and hard working compared to those who stayed behind in the old country. What we call the Puritan work ethic, which includes future-orientation and thrift, enables the immigrants to prosper. A society that oppresses strangers is unjust. The blessings of justice can be seen in communities of immigrants who prosper and eventually grow wealthy enough to move out of their cultural ghettos in a generation or two.” (Gary North, Deuteronomy, p. 294)
Now there are several ways in which America is moving away from that just society. We’ve covered most of them in our mercy ministries class, but let me just take the minimum wage as one example. Unions have long been supporters of the minimum wage even though no union in the country has employees at the minimum wage. Their interest is not in sharing the wealth, but in making sure that no competitors can come in with lower wages. The only two cries that an immigrant can successfully use in a land that is prejudiced against him are “I can work for less” and “I can do a better job.” Minimum wages make the first cry illegal and thus makes it hard if not impossible to convincingly give the second cry. The socialist dream of many modern liberals keeps most people from benefiting because it blinds people to the truths of the laws of harvest. Socialism destroys intitiative, incentive, industry and in the process destroys income. Socialism is the antithesis of the Protestant work ethic.
We need to make Proverbs 12:27 our motto: “diligence is man’s precious possession.” A Christian should strive to be indispensable. Pagans should say, “I don’t dare fire so and so because I can’t get along without him.” A wife should be so indispensable to her husband and children that far from being a burden to them, the husband and children rise up and call her blessed. In too many American homes the wife competes with the husband, and rather than providing division of labor for the family’s business, she drags him down. Being a helpmeet is her job. Now we will be seeing that a husband must invest in his family as well.
Every one of us needs to realize that we are called to dominion through service and prosperity comes to those who are not lazy and an increase in rule or dominion comes as well.
Finding God in Worship
Now let me just quickly go through a whole bunch of other areas of life. You will prosper in your worship to the degree that you work hard at seeking the Lord. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” You get what you invest into your relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 says about God, He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. How diligently do you seek God in your private worship? Is there passion in your prayer life? If not, it may be because you have not invested your voice in worship and you are worshipping silently. You have not invested your body, soul, emotion and thinking in worship. Our worship will be prospered to the degree that we apply the Puritan work ethic to it. Worship with everything that you have. Jeremiah 29:13 says, And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Well the same is true of all our expressions of love to God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” You get out of your relationship in terms of harvest to the degree that you are diligent. And God sometimes will test us. Deuteronomy 13:3 says, “the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” When you pass the test God says that He will have compassion on you and mutliply you (v. 17). Are we apathethic in our love? Don’t expect great manifestations of His presence with you. Jesus said, “…he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Do you long to have Christ manifest Himself to you? Then love Him with all your heart. In verse 21 Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” And I don’t have time to speak of all the blessings that flow from a diligent love relationship with God, but Deuteronomy 30:16 says that if we love the Lord in the concrete ways described, “the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.”
Does your service to God grow wearisome? Galatians 6 knows that it can. Paul tells us to not grow weary because there will be a harvest if we are diligent. Paul says, Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. (Rom. 12:11). Deuteronomy 11:13 and following is one of many passages that speak of increased harvest to those who serve God well. “And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, ‘then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.’ Etc., etc.
The Protestant ethic obviously applies to wisdom. Proverbs 8:17 has wisdom saying, “I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.”
It applies to teaching our children. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” And God goes on to discuss the incredible blessings that can come to those who teach diligently. We will harvest in our children’s lives to the degree that we diligently teach. Quality and Quantity.
Does this principle apply to faith? Yes it does. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6). James tells us that when we waver in faith we will not get what we ask for.
Does this apply to how we give? Yes it does. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And what is the result of this generous, joyful giving? The next verse tells us: And 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. I have had times when God has prompted me to empty my wallet at a church gathering, and it has been joyful not only to give, but to see God opening the windows of heaven to me. We reap in proportion to our diligence. Proverbs 11:24 says, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. And it not only lays up treasures in heaven as Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:19 and as Christ Himself said in the Sermon on the Mount, but it is infectious. It rubs off on others. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9 that the willingness and the zeal and eagerness of the Corinthians to give out of their poverty stirred up the Macedonians and those in Achaia were stirred by their zeal to begin giving as well. God blesses us in proportion to our diligence.
Believe it or not, this even applies to eschatology. Turn to 2 Peter 3. A lot of people approach eschatology as if our responsibility had absolutely not role or place in it. But that is hyperCalvinism, not Calvinism. Calvin said that our efforts hastened the fulfillment of prophecy and without our diligence nothing can be fulfilled. Of course he went on to say that God would stir up our diligence in His grace. But notice how Peter words this. 2 Peter 3, beginning at verse 10.
2Pet. 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. [But notice in the next verse that his conclusion is not, sit back and watch it happen. Verse 11 says,]
2Pet. 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2Pet. 3:12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
2Pet. 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2Pet. 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; Now why was Peter giving this exhoration? It was in response to the scoffers in verses 3-7 who claimed that God’s sanctions are not found in history and things stay the same whether a culture is holy or sinful. And Peter says that is absolutely false and they are willfully forgetting God’s sanctions. The reason that God is waiting for the second coming is because He is waiting till the Great Commission is fulfilled and the church has made disciples of all nations. Look at verse 9: The LORD is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. When the last elect person is saved, Christ will come back, but not before. And our diligence in the Great Commission hastens the day of His coming according to verse 12.
This law applies to tithing. Deuteronomy 26 calls us to tithe with all our heart and seek the Lord’s blessings. Malachi calls us to test Him and see if the windows of heaven are not opened to pour out more blessings than we can hold.
Observe the Law and Obey
God applies this call to diligence to how we obey and apply the law of God. For example, Exodus 15:26 says, If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.” Deuteronomy 30 tells us that if we obey God and turn to Him with all our heart and soul that “the Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the LORD will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers. We tend to be skeptical of this law of harvest even as it is applied to business. But Deuteronomy 28:1 applies it to everything. God will set you on high.
Scripture calls us to rejoice with all our hearts (Zeph. 3:14), to believe with all our hearts (Acts 8:37), to pursue holiness with all our hearts, to seek knowledge with all our hearts (2 Peter 1:5), etc. This law applies to all that we do. Now I know that the horse probably died five minutes ago and I have been beating it unnecessarily for some of you. But there is such a predisposition to think that God will bless us irrespective of our diligence that I would rather give to much than too little. And believe me, Scripture gives far, far more references than I have given in each area.
So I want to end by asking four questions:
How many fields are you sowing God’s grace into? Galatians 6:10 says we are to do good to all men, especially to those in the household of faith. We are to seek to bless and encourage and to minister to all whom God providentially brings into our path. Now this does not rule out specialization. You may have only a small plot given over to herbs, one acre to peas and ten acres to corn. If you aren’t a civil magistrate, you don’t even need to sow in his field. But you have your own field of influence in a magistrate’s life. The question is not, “Are you sowing in someone else’s field?” There is far more land to sow than one person can do. The question is, are you sowing in all the fields that God has given as your responsibility?” Are you sowing blessing and teaching and guidance into the fields of your wife and chilren. Are you sowing into your business the seed God wants there? Are you sowing into the lives of the divine contacts God brings your way. Those of you who have read the Prayer of Jabez book know what I am talking about. It may mean offering a smile and a brief word to the postman, or putting down the book we are reading in the bus so that we can minister to a distressed mother. It may mean a tired dad talking to a child when he would rather watch TV. How many fields are you investing in that God has brought to you?
Second, how consistently are you sowing into savings, education, family? There are some things which cannot be haphazard. There must be consistency.
How good is your seed? Don’t just go on hunches. Study, study, study.
How diligently are you sowing? 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” “diligence is man’s precious possession.” Amen.