“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
What is it that makes a cheerful giver so much better than otherwise? Well, who wants a begrudging gift? I sure don’t. When someone gives something under compulsion, it tends to take all the joy out of receiving for the recipient.
What’s more, when someone is giving to God under compulsion, that person is treating giving like a religious exercise. You do a religious exercise not because you want to or because it’s the right thing to do, but because if you don’t, you will incur the wrath of the deity you are trying to appease. No one wants to do that. God makes abundantly clear in the Scriptures that He has absolutely no interest in that kind of thing. He’d rather people not even bothering trying if all they’re going to give Him is a half-hearted religiosity. He wants our hearts, not our wallets.
Speaking of that, this all points us to think for a minute about why we are called to give in the first place. Used to, religions taught that you needed to give because that was providing food for the gods. The gods created people to work the land and provide food for them. But, God makes clear in Psalm 50 that He already owns everything and doesn’t need anything from us. We are not here to somehow meet His needs. He is not dependent on us in any way, shape, or form.
Well, if He doesn’t need it, then why ask for it? Think about what He most wants from us. As I said a minute ago, He wants our hearts. That’s His first goal. We were created to be in a relationship with Him. He pursues that relationship with us above everything else save His own glory (and since we were created to be in a relationship with Him, our being in such a state increases His glory because His creation is operating as He designed it to operate so that this is a two-for-one deal).
The question then becomes, how can God get and stay in a relationship with us? What are the things that stand in the way of that? Well, part of being in a relationship with Him is being rightly related to Him. He is God and we are not. He is our source for everything and we are not. Part of the heart of sin is looking to things other than Him to furnish what only He can provide. Given the state of our world, there are few things that can leave us thinking we can find what we need for a full life in places other than God than our money; than our stuff.
Thus, if God is going to be in a relationship with us, His chief competition is our money. If we get in a place where our money owns us–which happens when we start looking to it to provide the things only God can–then we can’t be fully and rightly in a relationship with Him until we break the hold it has over us. The quickest way to break that hold is to begin intentionally and sacrificially giving it away. We can’t give away something that owns us. We can only give away things we own; things over which we have control. By calling us to give generously and cheerfully, God is not trying to institute some religious test by which we can get and stay right with Him; He’s giving us a pathway to be freed from the domineering control of our stuff and to be in a life-giving relationship with Him.
A cheerful giver is someone who is committed to not being owned by her stuff, but is instead in a dogged pursuit of a relationship with her heavenly Father. When he gives sacrificially he is committed to trusting in Him to meet his needs, a move that deepens his relationship with Him. If you want to be in the kind of relationship with God that sees Him honored and you moving in the direction of the abundant life Christ offers, cheerful, sacrificial giving is the pathway that will get you there.