“God loves a cheerful giver.”
We’ve all heard this before, usually at the very time we are not being a cheerful giver and don’t want to hear it. But it’s true: God loves a cheerful giver.
This simple but powerful statement could be used as a blunt instrument to pressure someone into giving – but then the giving probably wouldn’t be done very cheerfully. I happen to think God likes uncheerful givers, who at least are giving when they know they should. But I know that He loves cheerful givers.
Behind this statement lies a truth even more fundamental, and it is this: that God is the Original Cheerful Giver. In asking us to be cheerful givers, He is only asking us to be made like Him, which is the goal of salvation anyway.
It is in God’s nature to be a loving giver, and when He gives, He gives with joy. Think of how much God has given you. It was God who gave you life and placed you in His wonderful world. It was God who gave His only-begotten Son to suffer and die for you and your sins. It is God who provides for your every need. Even in those things that we can do for ourselves, who do you think created you with those abilities or put you in the circumstances of your life?
God, therefore, is the pattern of cheerful giving. He is the Original Cheerful Giver. Think of how much God has given you, and then of how much you have withheld from Him. Thank God He is not more like us! What a contrast, from a God who has given us all, when we deserved nothing, to humans who owe God everything and give Him next to nothing.
For the last few chapters,St. Paulhas been speaking of the giving of the Macedonians, Corinthians, and others. I hope their cheerful giving challenges us all. And here is Paul again, challenging us to rethink our tithes and the giving of other gifts to God. God wants His children to give not just their money cheerfully but also the thing that money stands for: their wealth, their power, and especially their lives.
In our giving, we become like God. God wants to change us from Ungrateful Takers to Cheerful Givers like Himself. Just as when God cheerfully gives, the world is blessed, so is the world (including ourselves) blessed when we give cheerfully. One of the laws of God’s kingdom is that if you sow sparingly, then God will bless you sparingly. But if you sow bountifully – greatly – then God will bless you greatly.
In robbing God, then, by withholding what we should give Him, we are only hurting ourselves. By withholding our gifts to God, we are, in essence, asking Him to withhold His blessing from us. God has so connected us to Himself that what we do in this spiritual life (and life is all spiritual) has consequences for our relationship with God, and therefore consequences for the blessings we receive from God.
We might even say that God loves and blesses Cheerful Givers but He is displeased with and withholds His blessing from Ungrateful Takers.
The blessings that God has in store for the cheerful giver are, naturally, not only for the giver himself. If this were the case, it’s all too possible that the giver would then give only in order to get more, and this would subvert the loving nature of God and His kingdom. When we give cheerfully, we give not only for our blessing but also for the blessing of the whole Church.
The blessings that Paul reports have come from the cheerful giving of the Corinthians are not primarily blessings they themselves have received. In verse 11, they are indeed blessed: they are “enriched in everything for all liberality.” In other words, their blessing is to be able to give generously, not a blessing that they get to hoard for themselves!
But the rest of the blessings Paul lists seem to be for others. God Himself seems to be the prime beneficiary. In verse 11, the giving of the Corinthians results in thanksgiving to God. What an incredible blessing! To think that my meager gifts to God’s people will be the cause of more thanksgiving to God! In verse 12, the gift of the Corinthians blesses other Christians because it “supplies the needs of the saints.” Again, how blessed to be able to act like and with God in supplying the needs of the saints. Again, Paul mentions how this too results in thanksgiving to God, from those whose needs have been met.
In verse 13 we find that in all of these things, which are the “proof of this ministry,” God is glorified. Whenever we act as God’s ministers, by being cheerful givers, God is glorified. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us, this is the chief end of man – to glorify God. By our cheerful giving, others see the grace of God in us (verse 14). As I keep discovering (especially when I readSt. Paul), it is through us that others see God and respond to Him. When we give, God is glorified and His people blessed. When we hoard, God is dishonored and His people not blessed as they could be. Finally, Paul reminds the Corinthians in verse 14 that because of their giving others begin praying.
This is an amazing list of blessings that result from our giving cheerfully. The one blessing that Paul directly states is that we receive the grace to be able to give even more. But the greatest blessing of all is implied: that by giving cheerfully, we are made like God Himself, the Original Cheerful Giver, and are participants of Him through His Son.
Prayer: Praise be to You, O Lord, for You gave Your Son, the greatest riches in the world, when I deserved nothing. Thank You for Your heavenly gifts to me every day. By the gift of Your grace, allow me to become more like You in Your cheerful giving. Where my heart is stingy and miserly, make it more generous, and where it is still selfish, fill it with love.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to meditate today on being a cheerful giver, on both being a giver and on doing it cheerfully. Though I may not have an obvious opportunity to give today, I want to be so ready in my heart that every gift I give from now on will be motivated by God’s gifts to me and the blessing my gift will be to others. If I hear the Spirit speak, I will act in the specific ways He is telling me to act.
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day