April 19, 2017

Cheerful Giving

God answers my questions in ways that surprise me. I’ve a great idea with His direction in how to make it happen, but still struggle with a sense of total inadequacy. While I know that God’s strength is perfected in weakness, this isn’t helping me take the next steps. I keep inventing ways to escape, but God keeps bringing me back.

This morning, He points to a passage on giving. While it talks about money, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that giving can include time, energy, and being generous with what I have. In other words, these verses are more about attitude and being willing to offer to God whatever He asks for considering my ‘five loaves and two fishes’ is enough for Him to use in ways that are beyond what I can ask or think. This is the Word of God (slightly shortened):  

“We want you to know . . .  about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means . . . and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part . . .  and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us . . . see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove . . .  that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich . . .  you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it . . . now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have . . .” (2 Corinthians 8:1–15)

God is saying to me that giving whatever I give in time, energy, and other resources is not about the quantity, but about loving others and about being like Jesus. He accepts what I give when my attitude is godly:

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work . . . He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:6–15)

Like the lad with the bread and fish, the Lord will receive all we offer and multiply it for His purposes. But first the lad had to give up his lunch. He made the sacrifice necessary for God to accomplish a far greater plan than the boy or anyone else expected.

In giving money, the law required a tenth, whether the giver wants to give it or not. The gospel does not toss out tithing, but it does add the concept of giving freely. This is a privilege, not a burden, yet never to be done carelessly or haphazardly. I am to give according to the decisions of my heart, not reluctantly or under pressure.

Regarding this proposal that has me hedging about doing, I could opt out because it seems too burdensome, or I can ask God to change my attitude and set me free from my fears of being too weak to do the job. That cheerful heart is vital. Without it, every setback or trial will kill its progress.

Also, giving requires planning and careful management so as not to hinder my ability to give. With time and energy, it requires the same. I cannot waste either with activities that rob me of both and take away what is needed to do this that God has put on my heart to do.

Jesus, I can see from these verses that You want me to give freely, cheerfully, abundantly and sacrificially, not because of any club raised over my head, but because I love You, because I have a willing heart and am eager to prove that my love is genuine. I know I can purpose in my hearts to do it, but not without Your grace and power. As I work this out, work in me to both will and do Your good pleasure.

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