One of the curious ways that Scripture expresses the mysteries surrounding God’s kindnesses to us is with the word multiply. He put us into this world to multiply in fruitfulness, and when He brought us out of the darkness of sin, it was with multiplication in mind. In the early days of the Church, the number of disciples multiplied (Acts 6:1, 7; 9:31). The word of God grew and multiplied, which was another way of saying the same thing (Acts 12:24). All this was in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, which was in effect a promise to do a lot of multiplying (Heb. 6:14). But God does not just multiply quantitatively, He also multiplies certain qualities in us — which in turn lead to greater and greater quantitative multiplication. Grace and peace can be multiplied to us (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:2). And of course, love, and peace, and mercy can be multiplied also (Jude 2). When mercy really is mercy, it is mercy multiplied. God does not dispense His mercies with a teaspoon, and if we want to imitate, we can’t do that either.
One of the great sins committed in economic theory and practice is unbelief. One common form of unbelief is to fear that multiplication doesn’t really occur in the realm of goods and services at all, and that we are all therefore headed for terrible shortages of everything, and we are all going to die. “Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10). God is a multiplier. The other form of unbelief occurs when this multiplication is simply taken for granted, and greedy men assume their own kind of greasy lordship over it, and seek to transform God’s lavish “thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold” into something more alluring to day-trading suckers, all printed up on a high gloss prospectus, promising a return of a hundrity-zillion-fold, resulting in the collapse of all those banks run by really smart people.
Both of these sins are unbelief at the root. The first is fearful and God is going to let us run out, and so we have to regulate and ration everything. All of economic life is assumed to be a zero-sum game, with a fixed number of resources. The pie always stays the same size, and the number of pie-eaters grows. This necessitates, as unbelief reasons, that we must cut smaller and smaller pieces of pie. But God created the world in such a way that pies grow, and not just the number of pie-eaters.
The second form of unbelief is as greedy as the local boneyard, and thinks God is not going fast enough with that thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold business. “The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough”(Pr 30:15-16).
Mercy ministry has to assume, trust, and really believe in the multiplying powers of God. It must never give way to the unbelief that thinks God is chintzy and that we are all going to run out. Neither must it give way to the unbelief that thinks God was generous after a fashion, but we surely must expect more than that.
“Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10).
God multiplies His goods in our lives so that we might learn to imitate Him. In the realms of giving and generosity, God wants us to learn how to live in a way that is consistent with this aspect of His character. God multiplies it, and we as His children are there to pass it out.
“And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mk 6:41-44).
So we started with five loaves and two fish. Note that the miracle here is not the multiplication itself, but rather how fast the mulitiplication was accomplished. Every loaf of bread that any of us has ever eaten was multiplied just as much as those five loaves were, but simply over the course of three months instead of three minutes. So assume that the food they started with could have fit into one basket. That means that they started with one basket, ended up with twelve times more than that in twelve baskets, and fed five thousand men in between. This is a reflection of the nature of God. Only a lunatic would want more, and only a blind miser could miss that it going on.
One of Bunyan’s characters in The Pilgrim’s Progress says something like:
There was a man, some thought him mad,
The more he gave, the more he had.
When men labor in business, provided they are doing it under the blessing of God, they are not working in an arena that is ungoverned by this principle in order to bring their money over to the realm of philanthropy that is governed this way. No. It is not true that God multiplies when we give alms, but He withholds His multiplying blessing when we labor in our vocation. No, God is multiplying all the time to those who are multiplying all the time. Those who understand His ways are in a unique position to follow John Wesley’s shrewd advice on this — “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Earn all you can, and don’t hold back. Save all you can, and don’t hold back. Give all you can . . . and don’t hold back.
Work offered in faith is giving. Saving in faith is giving. Giving in faith is giving. When work is taking, it is unblessed work. When saving is taking, it is unblessed saving. When giving is taking (as it often is), it is unblessed giving.
And so we give in order to get. But that is not the end of the story. We give to get in order to be able to give again. If we want God to multiply our efforts in mercy ministry, as we should, we need to see how He multiplies His grace in everything. May the God who multiplies profits, balance sheets, silos, opportunities, and markets also bless your overflow so that you also multiply your ministry to widows, orphans, the hungry and the lost. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life”(1 Ti 6:17-19).