This post is the fifth post in an 8 part series. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage ... Short Series: On Giving.
Sermons on money usually make congregations cringe. The guilt gun comes out. The shame shingle gets hung. The manipulation machine cranks into full gear.
But God loves a cheerful giver. At least, according to Paul (see 2 Corinthians 9). "Don't give reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" he says. Reluctantly, under compulsion. No. Cheerful. Yes.
I find the contrast stunning.
Paul encourages people to give. He isn't passive. But he doesn't twist arms.
Now, we might be tempted to think that Paul was just a nice and gentle person, that he had a laid-back personality, but that's not true. Paul was an in-your-face guy (see Galatians 2:11-14 and 5:11-12). There must be another reason. Why does cheerfulness in giving matter?
Perhaps we can find the answer earlier in the "God loves a cheerful giver" passage.
Cheerful giving is contrasted with reluctant and compulsatory giving. Digging into the Greek a little, cheerful giving is contrasted with giving out of sorrow, grudgingly, out of duty or custom. There's a sense of freedom and intentionality in cheerful giving.
And cheerfulness in giving is also linked to Paul's concept of sowing and reaping. And this isn't in a cut and dried, "claim the promise," contractual way. But more generally. Reluctant and compulsatory giving trends toward the minimum. Duty focuses on the expected. Real generosity focuses on opportunity. Not "What must I give?" but "What can I give?" (This concept of opportunity and privilege, as opposed to duty, is central to the Good Samaritan parable).
Bottom line: Paul was willing to accept smaller, cheerful gifts rather than large, reluctant gifts. Why is keeping us from going and doing likewise?
How and why we give connects intimately with our hearts and values. Jesus spoke insightfully into the connection between giving and the heart: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). No series on giving, even a short series, would be complete without exploring this theme. That's where I'm going next.