While it is possible for God’s generosity back to us, to come completely out of the blue in a truly miraculous way, it is much more common to see God bless the work of our hands. We’ve all heard the stories about someone who gave sacrificially and shortly thereafter received a check in the mail, an inheritance or some other miraculous provision they were not expecting, but that is not the norm. That’s why they are called miracles and I’ve certainly had my share of them!
What I see too often is Christians claiming their miracle provision while being neither generous nor industrious. In other words, they would rather check the mailbox daily looking for a miracle then to work or start a business that God can bless. God does not reward laziness. If you are giving $100 per week so you can stay at home and watch TV while expecting a $10,000 per week (100-fold) return in the mailbox, you are deluded.
The 100-fold return in the Bible is both a figure of speech and an actual event, depending on where you find it. The Bible says God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Really? Is that literal? Is it just a thousand hills? Or is it as one man said, God owns a thousand cattle on a hill? The truth is, God owns all the cattle and all the hills beneath them too.
Consider what Jesus said in Mark 10… “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much – homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.” Let me point out that the context for this verse is not about giving money, but rather how difficult it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God.
It is self evident that He didn’t mean we could expect to go away on a mission trip, and come back to find out that instead of three siblings we would have three hundred! That instead of five children when we left, we could return and find a small town of five hundred kids that were ours! But somehow, there are those who want to single out the real estate mentioned in that verse and suggest that if you forsake your home, you will end up with one hundred homes. Hmmm. Makes me imagine giving away a boat and a plane and coming back to an Air Force and a Navy! The true meaning should be obvious.
The other familiar passage is where Jesus was ministering by the sea and told them what we now call the “parable of the sower”. Later, He revealed the true interpretation to His disciples. (By the way, He is still revealing truth to His disciples (disciplined learners) today. Are you one?) He explains to His disciples that what is being sown here, is the Word of God, not checks made out to His ministry. I don’t believe for a second, He was prepping the crowd for an offering.
The 100-fold return was about the effect the Word of God could have on the lives of those who prepared their heart to receive the Word, (as a Word specifically for them – see original Greek), kept it free from distractions and began to bear fruit. It’s not a mathematical calculation.
The 100-fold return in this context is really referring to what is possible when someone is fully surrendered to the Word and will of God. One of my heroes of the faith, D.L. Moody, said it this way; “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man.” Moody wanted the Lord to get the maximum return (aka 100-fold return) on His life. That is what I believe is meant in the parable of the sower.
In tomorrow’s blog I will get to the literal fulfillment of the 100-fold return…