Cheerful Givers -- Part Two

Cheerful Givers
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Theme: Gratitude.
This week’s lessons teach us that we should give willingly, generously, and cheerfully.

The second characteristic of Christian giving is willingness. "Every man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion." Some years ago, I was preaching from Genesis chapter 22, about the obedience of Abraham. One of my points was that the obedience of Abraham was a willing obedience. I recall asking the question at that point - the same kind of question we might ask here: "How would it be possible for Abraham to obey and not be willing, because the argument would go: if he was not willing, he would not obey; and if he obeyed, he must be willing.

How can you talk about a willing obedience as if that is a special characteristic of obeying God? The point I made then is that there is such a thing as "unwilling obedience." In one sense, you have to be willing in order to do it. But in another sense, you can do it and still be grudging it every moment in your heart. You can say to yourself, "I suppose I have to do it. God is bigger than I am and if I do not do it, I will get in trouble. So, all right, I will do it and hate every moment of it." That is not the way Abraham obeyed, and that is not the way Paul, here, and the Bible in general encourage us to give.

A lot of people do give grudgingly, reluctantly, under compulsion. Fundraisers call people on the phone and they say they are trying to raise a particular amount. They say, "We are approaching all of the people who have good salaries. We know what business you are in and we know about what you make. We think you should give so much." Now, it is hard to say no to that. I do quite often say no to that sort of thing, but it is hard to do. There is a kind of arm-twisting that goes on there, and many people say, "Well, all right, put me down for ..." while they consider how little they can get away with promising. They have given under compulsion. Paul says, "That is not the way Christians should give. That is not what should characterize the Church."

This is one reason why I am so reluctant to speak about giving. At my church we talk about giving, because we have to. Stewardship is part of the counsel of God, so faithfulness to the Scriptures requires us to talk about it, as I am doing now. But I hate to do it at a time when we receive faith-promises, or when we are behind in the budget because it always has an aura of "arm-twisting" about it. It is sort of saying, "This is your church. If you do not give, we are going to have to cut back on the programs. You think over in your heart, which of the staff would you like to fire?" It is always a little bit like that.

That is not the way to talk about giving. I am convinced the Lord provides for us abundantly above all that we need. He does this spiritually and in material things as well, if our hearts are really responsive to him. If God’s people - in the church, in the cities, across the land - would simply give proportionately as God has given to them, the needs of the Lord’s work would be met in an abundant way. That is what Paul is talking of here. Giving should be done out of the gratitude we have for what God has done for us in salvation and how he has provided for us materially.

The third thing Paul mentions is cheerfulness in Christian giving. He says we should give cheerfully. But I notice that he does not express this in quite the same way he talks about generosity or willingness. Let us look carefully to see the difference. Cheerfulness is obviously a key characteristic, but notice that Paul is not commanding us to be cheerful. He says emphatically that we are to sow generously. He says that we should give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. He means by that we should give willingly. That is in the nature of a command. But as far as cheerfulness, Paul wrote, "God loves a cheerful giver." He does not say, "Give generously, give willingly, and give cheerfully." He says, "Give generously and give willingly because God loves a cheerful giver."

Do you see the difference? He is saying that if you are giving generously and if you are giving willfully, you are going to be cheerful because you cannot give generously and willingly and, at the same time, be grudging in your heart.

Study Questions

  • What characterizes both willing obedience and unwilling obedience?
  • What is compulsive giving? Why is it not true giving?

Further Study
Read the story of Abraham’s willing obedience in Genesis 22. Consider whether you would be willing to obey to that degree.