I think most of us will agree: giving to others almost always feels good! However, in our devotional on giving, I’d like to focus on a unique Biblical quality of Christian giving. More specifically, let’s take a look at what Paul means when he encourages each of us to be ‘cheerful givers’ (2 Corinthians 9).
What does Paul mean by ‘cheerful giving’?
This Bible verse is key to our devotional on giving.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains how giving to others (in a manner that pleases God) should never be done “reluctantly or under compulsion”.
But what does he mean exactly?
Well, at the heart of it, Paul is saying that true cheerful giving must be carried out with genuine sincerity – without feeling pressured or coerced by external factors.
To give context, many people – often without realization or ill-intent – have quietly fallen into a legalistic attitude of giving.
For example, have you ever caught yourself thinking along the lines of “I’ll give money to the Church… because I’m expected to do so”.
Or perhaps we may habitually guilt-trip ourselves with the idea that “If I don’t give, people might think I’m a bad Christian.”
Don’t get me wrong! I believe most acts of giving – whether legalistic or not – often result in receivers feeling blessed. That’s always wonderful to see.
However, in essence, Paul’s description of cheerful giving really comes down to an internal heart issue.
To put it simply, cheerful giving comes from first nurturing a God-aligned attitude of generosity from within ourselves. This is what Paul means when he asks believers to joyously give without hidden wariness, pressure, or self-interest.
But why should we be cheerful givers?
Our devotional on giving now begs the question: why should we be cheerful givers?
Let us look at what Paul says amid a broader clarifying context.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:2 Corinthians 9:7-11
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
I think it’s important to be careful here. Because, sadly, there are certain health-and-wealth preachers who often misconstrue this verse to mean what it does not. As Tony Evans clarifies:
In spite of what some health-and-wealth gospel advocates may say, Paul is not promising that giving generously to gospel ministry will result in earthly, material prosperity and the elimination of all your problems.
Anyone who says that doesn’t know what he’s talking about and is claiming biblical support for false teaching.The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1191
Instead, when Paul speaks of abundant blessings, he refers to moments where God takes delight when we give “with a glad heart in response to the goodness of God” (The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1191).
In other words, we choose to give cheerfully to others, out of our own gratitude for God’s gifts to us. Generosity thus emerges as a symbol of our appreciation for Him.
Consequently, cheerful giving brings us into a more intimate relationship with God as we better understand His character. For did God Himself not graciously give His own Son to suffer on the cross for our sins? (Romans 8:32).
This spiritual intimacy, birthed with cheerful giving, is an abundant blessing in and of itself! For starters, I believe it’s a far greater blessing than any self-interested desire for earthly ‘prosperity’ rewards.
Of course, there may be times when God sovereignly chooses to bless us with further gifts (material or otherwise) in response to our cheerful giving.
However, we should always regard such heavenly blessings as a testament to His abounding grace (which we didn’t earn). I think these blessings should never be taken as God’s ‘rightful’ reward for our generosity. Such prideful expectations would be extremely self-entitled.
Cheerful giving is giving thanks.
Moreover, cheerful giving to others is also a form of thanksgiving – for “there would be no possibility of giving if He hadn’t given to you first.” (The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1191).
When we willingly share what God gave to us with others, we in effect help to make His goodness known to more people, through our actions. Heartfelt generosity thus becomes a way for us to lovingly glorify our Father’s name – insofar as all thanks is given to Him, not ourselves.
At the same time, being sincerely generous to people is also a heartfelt way of making them feel truly seen, cared for, and appreciated.
To this degree, a cheerful giver keeps Jesus’ two greatest commandments close to his / her heart.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39
Let us all try our very best to give cheerfully!
Reflections from our devotional on giving
- How can we better ‘freely scatter our gifts to the poor’ (2 Corinthians 9:9)? Are such gifts limited to only monetary donations? Could there also be other ways we can joyously give to those in need?
- Are there any unresolved heart issues that have caused you to be ‘reluctant’ or ‘compulsive’ in your past giving? Pray to God, asking Him to reveal these things to you.
- How can we better discern the specific projects / people that God desires for us to give to?