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A friend recently shared with me that when he stopped to think about the often-quoted words of 2 Corinthians 9:7—“God loves a cheerful giver”—his initial response was, “So how much do I need to decrease my giving so that I can give joyfully?”
Maybe others of us, if we were honest about it, would need to admit to a similar feeling. The reality is that the subject of giving can be a sensitive one for many people, and talking about giving—even in the church—isn’t always warmly received. Just ask the pastor who chooses to spend an entire sermon on the subject. He is likely to hear, at minimum, a negative comment or two on his choice of topic.
But since the Bible has more to say about money than about any other subject, I’d suggest that we need more sermons about money, not fewer.
For my friend, further study of what the Bible teaches about money and giving had a dramatic impact on his life. As he reflected on the generosity of God, he was struck by the extent of God’s generosity in giving His only Son to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sins. My friend quickly realized that his own giving paled in comparison to God’s gift of love expressed through Christ’s sacrifice.
Far from his days of, “How low can I go?” that friend is now finding great joy in giving and is currently leading a giving initiative at his church that will result in ministry expansion focused on reaching more people with the Gospel.
What happened? His heart changed. Matthew 6:21 speaks volumes when it says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Generosity isn’t a money thing nearly so much as it is a heart thing.
Jeff Anderson, author of Divine Applause, makes that point well in this thought-provoking statement:
Money can be a powerful magnet that attracts our hearts away from Jesus—or it can be a tool of transformation in our lives. At its core, biblical giving is an act of willing—even enthusiastic—obedience. When the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he gave us an idea of what that kind of giving looks like when he said, “Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly”
(2 Corinthians 8:11b–12a, NLT).
God’s goal is the transformation of our hearts, and the first step in that process is our simple and joyful obedience.
HOW LOW CAN I GO?
If giving is a touchy subject for you, can I suggest that you might want to take the same mental journey as my friend? Start by asking yourself, How much do I need to decrease my giving so that I can be joyful about it? Then read some of the Scripture passages that talk about money and generosity, starting with Matthew 6:19–34. Be honest with God, and let His Word speak into your heart and mind.
Another great passage on what generosity looks like is found in 1 Chronicles 29, where we see into the heart of King David as he prays before his people, “O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!” (1 Chronicles 29:13–14, NLT).
Seeing our generosity as a heart condition—not a dollar amount—is an important first step in getting money right. Let’s ask God for hearts that are overwhelmed by gratefulness to Him for all He has done for us—hearts like the people in the Macedonian churches Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 8:1–4: “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to
the Lord’s people.”
I pray that we would not allow our giving to be influenced by the world’s view of money and wealth, but that our hearts will be overwhelmed and our giving transformed into unrestrained worship.