Giving to others is an expression of love for them because giving money relieves material wants and needs. Giving money to those in need is an act of love, it is a good work. In St Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he is reminding the Corinthians to give to other Christians who are in need, to give as they had decided in their heart to give, not grudgingly, or under compulsion, but with eagerness and enthusiasm, in Chapter 9 Paul writes, “Let everyone give as their heart leads them to do, not reluctantly or because it is expected of them – for God loves a cheerful giver”.
God loves a cheerful giver. The contrast then is someone who gives reluctantly – perhaps from a sense of duty – and someone who gives cheerfully. Of course, it’s better to give reluctantly than not at all, but it’s even better to give cheerfully. Because we know it pleases God. And speaking personally, I’m not sure I like people doing things for me out of a sense of “duty” – better duty than not all, but better because of love or friendship. I suspect that we want people to respond to us not because they feel that they should but because they want to. I value the “Mother’s Day” card my son gave me, because I fondly believe he sat and made it wanting to please me and make me happy, and perhaps even believing that I was an OK mum – I don’t want to think that he sat reluctantly with a teacher bearing down on him, telling him that he must make it because it was expected of him.
And maybe God is the same. God loves a cheerful giver – God wants us to love him and serve him and worship him – not because we must, but because we may – it is a tremendous privilege. There might be times when we have to remind our selves that it is “meet and right to praise God at all times and in all places” – we might need that reminder – especially when life is tough and painful and has treated us unfairly. But it is always a privilege to be able to speak to the King of Kings, the creator of the universe – and to offer him our praise and worship and prayers, and to serve him and please him through our lives.
God loves a cheerful giver. We have the same understanding of God in Proverbs 22.9a “God blesses a cheerful and giving person”. And, of course, when Paul says “God loves” he’s not implying that God’s love is conditional – that we can buy God’s love – the idea is that God approves or esteems cheerful givers. God loves cheerful givers, above all, because God is a cheerful giver and we are made in his image.
In Paul’s day the people believed that the total wealth and resources available were unchanging. There was no thought of a “Growth economy” in which everyone’s’ standard of living could improve. The vast majority of people, including St Paul, had very little indeed, they had little surplus ands subsistence was the best that most people could hope for. Those who gave to other people expected a reciprocal act of equal value. But Paul paints the picture of the “divine economy”, lived out by Christians, which has constant in-put of grace from God, because God gives abundantly. God has the power to make every blessing abound, so that Christians may always have enough and be able to do plenty of good works. Such an economy works when all Christians become channels through which God’s abundance flows richly to others. Good Christians are those who abound in good works and who give to the poor. In such a community all of God’s people have enough and there is tremendous thanksgiving. The one who gives is a central part of this economy of grace and mercy and generosity, and God loves cheerful givers.
God wants us to love him and offer him our discipleship; he wants us to play our part in his will for his church – not because we should but because we can, it is our privilege and our joy.