By Heather Adams, Crosswalk.com
...God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
This well-known verse is often used as a way to teach about giving. It certainly contains truth...God is pleased when we give cheerfully. But what exactly does that mean? Well, the dictionary defines cheer as, "a state of gladness, gaiety or animation." So in the verse, there seems to be an inward emotion that connects to an outward action.
I've heard lots of sermons in the area of giving, and know the importance of this habit. But if I'm honest, I often fall short of the standard set in 2 Corinthians 9, especially during times of financial stress or busyness. I can see it's time for an attitude shift. How, then, can I see giving not as a duty but a delight?
I decided to start by looking at what Jesus had to say about giving and tithing. It turns out, accounts of His life and parables He told provide rich insights into what my heart position and mindset should be if I want God to be pleased. Here are 6 principles about giving that have already made a difference in my level of cheer.
Give With Trust (The Widow's Offering)
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)
This account shows the wonderful cycle of giving that God has designed: He provides abundantly for all my needs, so that I can then turn and help provide for others. When I feel the urge to hold on tight to what I have, I need to thank God for His goodness and open my hands. That will foster contentment in my heart, and a new enjoyment as I give.
Give With Quietness (Sermon on the Mount)
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4)
Jesus' teaching gives me a caution against my very human tendency to be a people pleaser. He also gives an effective antidote. If I ever feel a desire to be noticed as I give, I need to remember that I am noticed—by my Heavenly Father. Knowing He is pleased will replace my insecurities with a sense of deeper satisfaction as I give.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Zaikina
Give With Expectancy (Feeding the Crowds)
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children." (Matthew 14:15-21)
Reading about this wonderful miracle shows me that God puts every gift to a bigger use than I could imagine. When I'm inclined to judge my offering as "too small", I need to believe that God's grace takes whatever I give and increases the blessing. A new level of joyful anticipation will result.
Give With Purpose (the Sheep & the Goats)
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)
Scripture passages like this so clearly reveal God's heart for the needy, and a desire for His people to join in the work. In those times I hesitate to give, I need to focus on God's righteous mission, and the honor of being invited to participate. That will stir up excitement in my spirit.
Give With Compassion (The Good Samaritan)
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:33-35)
This famous story is a powerful illustration of the 'agape' love God calls me to: selfless, kind, and concerned with the best for others. When I question my own ability to love that way, I need to realize that the act of giving is already growing generosity in me. My heart will align with God's, and the sweetness of giving will lead to a desire to do more.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/ThitareeSarmkasat
Give With Devotion (Zacchaeus)
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-9)
The account of Zacchaeus is a great example of how giving is meant to be part of a full worship life. If I ever see putting in my regular offering as a burden, I need to view it instead as a way to lift up praise and literally pay tribute to the God who performs wonders each day. Giving then becomes a chance to celebrate.
Giving has been called a 'holy habit.' I've always known the importance of it and have tried to stay faithful. But through this study I've found a greater richness and meaning that giving my offering can have. Now I'm inspired to take what was just part of my church routine and experience it as a blessing for me as well as others.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Tero Vesalainen
Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby! You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com