Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
Giving is not always easy, but God wants us to give and to do it happily. Why is God so concerned about how we feel when we hand over our resources?
What Does it Mean to Give Cheerfully?
An act done “cheerfully” is done with a happy heart. Usually, spending money isn’t fun unless we’re buying chocolate or books, but sometimes we spend money for a purpose. We support worthy causes. We tithe to our churches. That feels good, right? Maybe you write a check, or perhaps you give food, clothes, time, or expertise.
Paul is telling believers at Corinth to give resources to the church; not with a bad temper but a genuine smile. Money, food, and other essentials were to be distributed by the church leadership where it was needed. Believers were told to do this to please God and serve each other. This act of generous obedience was supposed to feel good and bring joy.
Who Wrote This Encouragement for Generosity?
The Apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. The Lord had graciously revealed himself in a special way, setting Paul on an anointed path. He possessed nothing except whatever he wore on his back and the sandals on his feet. People fed him and gave him somewhere to sleep—or they didn’t. He relied on the grace of God and the generosity of strangers.
Paul knew what luxury looked like from his time as a leading Pharisee; he also knew what it felt like to give up wealth and privilege. When he encouraged the church at Corinth (or any church for that matter) to do something, he had already set the example, both in deed and in heart.
The Context around 2 Corinthians
In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote:
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. – 2 Cor. 1:5-7
He sets up the theme of sharing all things, whether emotional or physical. The church was created to share every burden and reward. Paul encouraged Christians to distribute everything they had amongst themselves so that no one went without physical, emotional, or spiritual support. Paul’s letter followed “the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.” The purpose of this suffering, in Paul’s words, was to learn to rely wholly on God “who raises the dead.” (1:5-9) God raised his Son from the dead; he can be trusted with their money.
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5 Biblical Ideas for Cheerful Giving
Maybe you worship God but forget his power and trustworthiness. Or, perhaps the issue is plain greed and rebellion: you know what God wants from you and it feels like punishment.
Yet, because you’re reading this, you must want to make a change. You want to learn how to give without grumbling.
Here are some ideas to help you open your wallet and your heart simultaneously.
1. Find out where the money goes. Talk to your pastor. Maybe you’ll feel better when you understand how much prayer has gone into the church’s financial decisions. Attend your annual general meeting (AGM) to learn more, and pay attention to regular reports about the impact of church spending within the body, in the local community, and globally.
2. Pray about giving. What does the Lord say to your heart personally about generosity vs. tight-fistedness? Consider keeping a journal in which you pray for wisdom and joy. Record the ways in which God answers these prayers. If your heart does not soften, ask yourself why and discuss the problem with a godly, trustworthy friend.
3. Remember what Jesus said. “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)
Pastor Joe McKeever writes, “If you’ve received nothing, you are exempt from giving!” in “The 10 Best Reasons to Give Generously.” As it happens, we have been given everything. Christ gave us eternal life. He gave us everything we need to live godly lives by his Spirit.
What don’t we owe to him? Even the poor widow gave her tiny portion and “Jesus approved her giving. He honored her for bringing her small gift,” McKeever added. You will be honored by the Lord for giving what you can.
4. Imagine you are giving to Christ himself. “When we give, the Lord takes it personally. We are handing it to Him,” McKeever says. Tithes given to a responsible, Bible-believing church, are used for kingdom purposes; Christ’s purposes. They facilitate mission work domestically or abroad, or both.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. – Proverbs 19:17
Picture Jesus’ scarred hand outstretched, you putting your few dollars right into it. Suddenly, it seems like a really small thing to do in exchange for what he gave you. Isn’t it amazing that he is willing to take so little in exchange for so much?
5. Realize that giving can be fun. McKeever says that giving money can be fun once you get the hang of it. “You surprise yourself in the realization that giving money is far more fun than getting it.” At first, you’ll be practicing and it won’t feel good. Then one day something will change. You might witness the expression on someone’s face when he receives a kindness from you without knowing where it came from.
It might be the realization that your donation blessed someone to the point of joyful tears and even nudged that individual closer towards believing in Christ for salvation.
Wouldn’t that be worth the expense?
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4 Reasons Why God Loves Cheerful Giving
God isn’t only testing our obedience. He has plans for our money, facilitated through wise administrators. We are invited to be part of those plans; and he wants us to give cheerfully for several reasons.
1. Loving Jesus. When we give cheerfully, we demonstrate that we love Jesus more than our money. Matthew 6:21 quotes Jesus saying “wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The honest answer to that question might send you to your knees in repentance, but that’s a good thing. Ask God for more love, more faith, and he will help you to love your Messiah more than your money.
2. Releasing Bondage. When we give cheerfully, money doesn’t have a hold over us. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Does money mean too much to you? Christ is calling you to choose freedom in the Spirit.
3. Pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that it pleases God when we are faithful. In “How Do I Become a More Cheerful Giver?” Heather Adams writes, “I need to believe that God's grace takes whatever I give and increases the blessing. A new level of joyful anticipation will result.”
We need to expect God to multiply our gifts by making us more spiritually fruitful and increasing the usefulness of gifts in the way they are used. That takes faith because we don’t always see the results directly.
4. Remaining Grateful. Giving to those less fortunate helps us to appreciate “God's heart for the needy, and a desire for His people to join in the work” according to Adams. If we cheerfully share what we have to alleviate financial pressure or support a cause that lines up with biblical principles, this should feel good. God wants our hearts to expand. This is a sign of fruitfulness: happy, cheerful generosity.
Our perspective changes and we realize that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1) Our money was never ours to begin with. As for neediness, God never wants us to forget that we need him even if we are relatively well off.
A Prayer to Give Cheerfully
It’s not always easy to give, Lord. The more we have, the more we want, but it all belongs to you. Oh, Lord, help us to want to be generous: not merely because you command us to do so, but because it pleases us to obey you.
Father, enlarge our hearts; open our eyes to the needs of others; and show us how to be humble, to give without expectation of earthly reward, knowing that you will reward us in heaven.
Let me never forget that you have already rewarded me with your presence and have given the greatest and most sacrificial gift: your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.
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