Listen to Sermon Audio
II Corinthians 8:1-5, 9, 9:6-7
So, “God loves a cheerful giver” does He? Really, a cheerful giver? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Like awfully good, diet ice cream, fine mess, jumbo shrimp, Microsoft works, pretty ugly, small crowd; cheerful giver? At first glance, we’re only cheerful about giving when we fork over our hard-earned dough on ourselves.
On Sunday morning a father gave his son a couple of quarters and a dollar. “Put the dollar in the offering, and you can have the 50 cents for ice cream.” When the boy came home, he still had the dollar. “Why didn’t you put the dollar in the offering? his father asked. “Well, the preacher said that God loves a cheerful giver. I gave the 50 cents a whole lot more cheerfully than I could the dollar.”
On the other hand, author, philosopher, historian Thomas Carlyle tells how, when he was a boy, a beggar came to the door. His parents were out and he was alone in the house. On a boyish impulse, he broke into his own savings bank and gave the beggar all that was in it. And he tells us that never before or since did he know such sheer happiness as came to him in that moment.
Is it possible to give cheerfully? I think so. And I’ll tell you how it’s possible.
First, cheerful givers do not compartmentalize stewardship.
When I first became a Christian, I did just that. I was glad to accept that God loved me, that God forgave me; that He wanted me to love others, etc. But when it came to my finances, my wallet was going to firmly remain in my back pocket where no one, not even God, could disturb it.
Then my pastor invited me to attend a Conference on Evangelism in Pittsburgh. Just before an offering was received, a pastor prayed: “God, no matter what we say or what we do, this is what we think of You.”
It not only shocked me, it kind of ticked me off. But it also got me to thinking. And to make a long story short, a few weeks later I brought my wallet into the light of day where even God could see it (as if He wasn’t aware of my attitude).
The road to cheerful giving begins by opening our wallets and pocketbooks up to God. Cheerful givers do not separate Christian stewardship from other aspects of our Christian lives. For people who follow Christ, giving is just as important as worship, scripture study, prayer, serving and loving others.
Secondly, cheerful givers accept the principles of Christian stewardship taught in the Bible.
I don’t need to go into a lot of detail as we covered this last Sunday. But if you weren’t here, first; God is the Creator and Owner of everything. “Everything in the heavens and on earth is Yours, O Lord (I Chronicles 29:11).
If God owns it all; everything we have is a gift from God. So, we are what the Bible calls ‘stewards’ (managers) of what He has blessed us with.
God asks us to give a portion of income back to Him through His church. The Bible teaches that 10% is a starting point, as Christians under grace can do more than the Jews were required under Law.
Cheerful givers practice sacrificial giving.
Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem (II Corinthians 8:1-3).
The giving of the Macedonians involved sacrificial giving. I don’t know if they gave up going out to Chipotle or what, but they gave up something they wanted in order to help others. They followed in the footsteps of the widow Jesus commends, who didn’t put in much, but gave sacrificially for she put in all she had that day.
William Barclay writes:
There is the sacrifice which it involves. That which is a mere trifle to one man may be a vast sum to another. The gifts of the rich, as they flung their offerings into the Trumpets, did not really cost them much; but the two lepta of the widow woman cost her everything she had. They no doubt gave having nicely calculated how much they could afford; she gave with that utterly reckless generosity which could give no more. Giving does not begin to be real giving until it hurts. A gift shows our love only when we have had to do without something or have had to work doubly hard in order to give it. 1
I know of people who have given up smoking, ice cream, eating out, etc. to enable them to give sacrificially.
Cheerful givers can give sacrificially because they recognize that they are partners with Christ in His work in the world.
They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem (II Corinthians 8:4).
The word ‘sharing’ is the rich Greek word, ‘koinonia’ which means either sharing something with someone or sharing in something with someone. The Macedonians jumped at the chance to give sacrificially because they saw it as a chance to partner with Jesus in carrying on His work.
Church folk like you and I realize how joyful it is to give every time someone through the ministry of this church turns their heart toward the Lord. Jesus said that angels rejoice whenever that happens and so do we.
Cheerful givers make a decision about what they are to give.
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. (II Corinthians 9:7).
Making a decision and following through on it relieves us of feeling guilty about this, keeps us from the tension of pulling out our wallet or purse when the offering is announced and having to decide between a $50 or a $5, gives us peace in our heart knowing we have carefully considered the matter and decided this is the best I can do right now and therefore enables us to as Paul says it, ‘give cheerfully.’
To this end, we have an envelope to give you as you leave today that contains a review of these things and more importantly, a card that you can fill out after making a careful decision indicating two things: a place to indicate the amount of money you plan to give (week/month) and a place to put the percentages of a 10-10-80 or similar plan.
Remember last week, I encouraged everyone to carefully consider a 10-10-80 plan whereby we: give the first 10% to the Lord, the next 10% to an interest bearing savings account and learn to live on 80% of our income.
And as I said last week, although I am sure that everyone in this room would love to start a 10-10-80 plan, because of financial realities, not everyone is able. So I encouraged you to start with a 5-5-90 or 2-2-96 or whatever percent kind of plan works best for you at this time with the intention of moving incrementally toward the 10-10-80 as you are able.
Then, next Sunday, bring those cards to worship, and put them in the offering basket so that they may be dedicated as a Thanksgiving Offering for all that He has done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Then the first Sunday in December, after our Financial Secretaries have had a chance to review and tally everyone’s commitment, we will put up a Power Point presentation displaying your names and the commitments you made! Ha!!
Believe it or not I have heard of places where that happens. Someone told me this week about a friend he knows who attends a church in Middleburg Heights that requires a copy of your IRS 1040 so that they can make sure you give your 10%. Talk about giving ‘reluctantly or in response to pressure.’
No, listen carefully. This is between you and your Savior! Without anyone looking at them, the cards will be placed in a locked box and we will throw away the key. And that locked box will remain somewhere in this room as a visible reminder of the commitment we have made between us and our Lord as should be.
Cheerful givers realize a great satisfaction of their soul.
“I was just a child,” related a Baptist preacher, “when my father invited me to go with him to Russell’s blacksmith shop to pick up a repaired rake and a hoe. Father handed over a silver dollar for repairing them but Mr. Russell refused to take it. ‘No,’ he said, ‘there’s no charge for that little job.’ But father insisted. And if I live a thousand years,” said the preacher, “I’ll never forget that great blacksmith’s reply. ‘Sid,’ he said to my father, ‘Won’t you let a man do somethin’ just to stretch his soul?’”
We can give regularly, sacrificially, cheerfully, because we know that giving is the most noble thing a human being can do.
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich (II Corinthians 8:9).
An unknown author once wrote: “The happiest people on earth are the people who have discovered the joy of giving.”
One of my Chicken Soup for the Soul books recounts the story of a young man being taken to a circus by his father.
Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus. Finally, there was only one family between us and the ticket counter. That family made a big impression on me. There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. The way they were dressed indicated they didn’t have a lot of money, but their clothes were neat and clean. The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, animals, and all the acts they would be seeing that night. You could sense they had never been to the circus before. It was going to be a highlight of their lives. The mother was holding her husband’s hand, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re my knight in shining armor.” He was smiling and enjoying his family.
The ticket lady asked the man how many tickets he wanted. He proudly responded, “8 children’s tickets and 2 adult tickets, so I can take my family to the circus.” The ticket lady stated the price. The man leaned a little closer and asked, “How much did you say?” The ticket lady again stated the price. The man didn’t have enough money. How was he going to tell his kids he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus?
Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a $20 and then dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the $20 bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.” The man knew what was going on. He wasn’t begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking, embarrassing situation. He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering he said, “Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family.”
My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The $20 my dad gave away is what we were going to buy our tickets with. Although we went home, we didn’t go home empty. 2
1 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series; The Gospel of Luke. [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, © 1975] page 255.
2 Canfield, Jack and Hanson, Mark Victor. A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. [Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc., © 1993] page 3.