Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Does "God Love's a Cheerful Giver" Mean?

You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others - something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.
Albert Schweitzer

I've often thought about what a cheerful giver is and have many times thought I knew what it meant, "God wants me to be happy about giving, so I shouldn't give if I'm not willing to." The familiar verse in 2 Corinthians 9 verse 7 reads as this, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." I've always heard it meant you shouldn't give away anything if you don't want to or someone is pressuring you to. Seems fair enough but I looked into it a little further. The passage refers to an offering promised by the Corinthian church to a group of Macedonians who were in need. Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to keep their promise. The problem many of us have sometimes when reading the Bible is we fail to connect the entire passage for the sake of learning a few verses.

Later in the passage Paul writes, "11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." He is saying that God makes us rich "SO WE CAN BE GENEROUS." God provides wealth for believers almost as (and I say this cautiously) a resource so that we can freely practice the Spiritual gift of giving. Paul is not saying, "God only wants you to give if you are willing to give" he is saying "God loves that you like to give freely." This seemed to be more in line with the nature of Jesus to me. Paul isn't giving us a free pass to not give but he is praising those who do it because they love giving and therefore are loved by God.

This reminded me of the passage in Matthew 6:19-24 where Jesus says to store up treasures in Heaven. It reads like this: "19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Jesus tells us that there is no value in collecting things for ourselves because sooner or later they will lose their value or be destroyed or lost. Also, he says if we treasure our possessions here on Earth then our hearts will be Earthly.

So does God want to us to be rich or not? Yes, but not only for ourselves. Wealth is given to us so that we can have opportunities to be generous. In that way God will bless others through you and in this way you will be storing treasures in Heaven.

Curiously, the next two verses seem to be completely disconnected from the prior verses: 22"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" Seems like something is lost in translation....I mean seriously, who talks like that because the next verse is: 24"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Why would Jesus talk about storing treasures in Heaven then talk about someone needing an eye exam and then say we can't serve God and Money? Get your message straight Jesus :) Then I can across this interesting article about that very question.

Here is a section of the article by John Piper:

The key is found in Matthew 20:15. Jesus had just told the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some of them had agreed to work from 6 am to 6 pm for a denarius. Some the master hired at 9 am. Others at noon. Finally some he hired at 5 pm. When the day was done at 6 pm he paid all the workers the same thing—a denarius. In other words, he was lavishly generous to those who worked only one hour, and he paid the agreed amount to those who worked twelve hours.

Those who worked all day “grumbled at the master of the house” (Matthew 20:11). They were angry that those who worked so little were paid so much. Then the master used a phrase about “the bad eye” which is just like the one back in Matthew 6:23. He said, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15).

Unfortunately that last clause is a total paraphrase, not a translation. “Or do you begrudge my generosity” is a very loose paraphrase of “Or is your eye bad because I am good (ë ho ophthalmos sou ponëros estin hoti egö agathos eimi?)” The “bad eye” here parallels the “bad eye” in Matthew 6:23.

What does the bad eye refer to in Matthew 20:15? It refers to an eye that cannot see the beauty of grace. It cannot see the brightness of generosity. It cannot see unexpected blessing to others as a precious treasure. It is an eye that is blind to what is truly beautiful and bright and precious and God-like. It is a worldly eye. It sees money and material reward as more to be desired than a beautiful display of free, gracious, God-like generosity.

That is exactly what the bad eye means in chapter six of the Sermon on the Mount. And that meaning gives verses 22-23 a perfect fitness between a saying on true treasure (vv. 19-21) and the necessity of choosing between the mastery of God and the mastery of money (vv. 24). End quote.

So, now it makes a little more sense. I hope that you come to the same conclusion about what giving cheerfully means as I did. Store up treasures in Heaven by giving freely and cheerfully the gift of riches God has bestowed upon you however large or small that is whether it be money or talent or gifting. In that you will bless others, yourself and mostly be loved by God.

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