2 Corinthians 9:7 says this. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
So how can we become cheerful givers? To begin with we need to recognise one important truth.
EVERYTHING WE HAVE BELONGS TO GOD
Psalm 24 1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Everything that exists belongs to God. Because He made it! He made everything and He made human beings. We belong to God. And absolutely everything which we say belongs to us actually belongs to God.
Everything we have belongs to God because He created it. And that is true for every human being on the earth. But as Christians God has another claim on our lives. Not only did He create us but He has also redeemed us through Jesus Christ. Out of the generosity of His amazing grace, God has forgiven our sins and given us a brand new life. Eternal life which not even death can take away from us. God has saved Christians and made us to be his children. So God has this double claim on our lives and on all our possessions – not only as Creator but also as Saviour!
Everything we have comes from God. God has an absolute right to decide what we should do with anything and everything which we say belongs to us but in fact belongs to God. And this transforms our giving. There is a prayer I often use to dedicate our offerings.
Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Everything we have comes from you,
And of your own do we give you.
In other words, whenever we give anything to God we are only giving back to Him things he gave us in the first place. We are only giving back to God things which belong to Him anyway.
We may think we own a house. But in reality God owns the house and lets us live in it. We may think we own a car. But the truth is that God owns the car and He just lets us drive it. All our money, all our possessions, belong to God. He entrusts them into our care to look after and to use and to enjoy. But if God wants us to give any of these possessions back to Him, that is His right. And if God wants us to give any of these possessions away to somebody else, then it is God’s right to tell us to do so.
Jesus told a number of parables to remind people that there is more to life than money and possessions and that ultimately everything that we have comes from God.
Luke 12 …. “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Everything we have comes from God. God gives. And God takes away. That is a lesson we all need to learn. Hopefully we do not have to go through dreadful experiences of losing everything to recognise that truth. Hopefully we can learn from the experiences of others. Job was very successful and very rich. But God allowed the devil to take absolutely everything he had away from Job. As an example for us all, Job did not blame God. Instead he responded with these words.
Job 1:21 ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’
Sometimes we only give grudgingly or reluctantly. The first step in becoming a joyful giver is to recognise that everything we have belongs to God anyway. So we aren’t giving away anything which is ours to keep. We are just giving back to God what we have been borrowing from Him all along. All things come from you and of your own do we give you. Then there is another truth which will help us to become joyful givers.
ALL OUR GIVING IS GIVING TO GOD
To show you what I mean, let’s think about our giving to the church. Running the church costs money. The building needs maintaining. The gas and electricity and water bills need paying. You kindly and generously choose to spend money supporting your minister. The activities we run cost money. And some of the money we give is just passed on directly to other very worthwhile causes like Baptist Home Mission and Baptist World Mission.
But it is important to recognise that when we give money to support the church, that is actually giving money to God. God gave us the money in the first place and we are simply handing it on where He directs us, so that God’s work can be done and His Kingdom come. So the question to ask should not be, how much does the church need? Rather we should be asking, how much does God want us to give? Can you see the difference? Not – how much does the church need? But – how much does God want me to give? Because we are not so much giving to the church as we are giving to God.
That is why for our Thankoffering today we are not talking about how much extra giving the church will need to balance our books this year. We are not talking about building projects, although we continue to prayerfully consider ways to improve the toilet facilities and the kitchen here. The focus of our giving is on God Himself. We are giving to God. All our giving is giving to God!
The same principle applies to other good causes we support. They might be Christian works like CHESS or Food Bank or some specific missionaries we are linked with. They might be other worthy causes like charity appeals following all kinds of disasters or wars, or towards research to cure illnesses, or long-term development projects. In everything we give, we should not just be responding to the needs of the good cause we are giving to support. We should be focusing on God and giving to God. There is a danger that how much we give or which good causes we give to is swayed by emotional appeals for particular needs. But instead of that, for Christians, what we really need to think and pray about is which good causes God wants us to give to. Because ultimately all our giving is giving to God.
And the reason we give to God is out of gratitude for all He has given us. The Old Testament gives us some guidelines about giving to God. How much should we give? The simple principle is that we should give in proportion to what we have received.
Deut 16:10, 16-17 10 Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you. ….
16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.
Giving in proportion to the blessings God has given us is a very important and helpful principle. It encourages us to consider just how much God actually has given us. “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” The more grateful we are, the more we will express that gratitude in giving to God. And God has blessed each one of us in SO MANY ways. We can start by listing the material blessings we enjoy but so easily take for granted. Our food. Our clothing. Our warm and comfortable homes. All the luxuries of life we enjoy while millions are dying without the necessities. We sometimes forget that these things only come to us as gifts of God’s grace. God is Creator AND Sustainer of the world Without the continuing activity of Almighty God, upholding His creation in love, we would all instantly cease to exist.
1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. NIV
God gives us so many material blessings, so many good things so richly to enjoy, but on top of all that, so many spiritual blessings as well. God is our Saviour. He has bought us back to Himself at the cost of His only Son Jesus Christ. The first chapter of Ephesians gives us a catalogue of so many blessings we should be grateful for.
We have received EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING EPH 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
We have been ADOPTED AS GOD’S CHILDREN In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
God has REDEEMED us – He has BOUGHT US BACK 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. RICHES of GOD’s GRACE LAVISHED on us!
All these blessings are guaranteed by the HOLY SPIRIT Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
What a wonderful inheritance! So many blessings now, and the certainty that this is only a foretaste, the appetiser of all the blessings waiting for us in heaven!
God has done so much for us! And God continues to do so much for us! But if we don’t make an effort to show God how grateful we are, we can end up taking His love and grace for granted. How can we show our love and appreciation and gratitude for all God’s blessings? If we really understand how much God loves us, we will want to show our love for him! And one way of showing how grateful we are to God is by what we give back to Him. As Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” We give to the church and to Christian work because that helps us to remember just how much God has done for us!
So how much we give is not a response to the needs of the church or the good causes. How much we give is a response to how much God has blessed us. How much we are grateful to God!
The prophet Malachi gives a solemn warning to those who are stingy in their giving. To people who are not grateful to God and hold back what God wants them to give,
MALACHI 3 6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.
So Malachi is saying that people who do not give what they should to God are actually robbing God of what He is worthy of and what He is entitled too and what is rightfully his. God will withdraw his blessing from those who do not give as generously as they should. But then comes a wonderful promise for those who do honour God in their offerings.
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
So if we hold back in our offerings we can lose God’s blessing. But if we do honour God in our offerings his blessings will be overflowing!
And this brings us to the heart of the matter.
GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER
When we stop to think about all that God has done for us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, we will want to give cheerfully and generously. When we really appreciate all the good things God has given us so richly to enjoy we will be truly thankful and that will make us into cheerful givers.
2 Corinthians 9 talks about a collection which Paul is taking up to relieve the poverty of the church in Jerusalem. He is urging the Corinthian Christians to have their offering ready when he arrives. But will you notice, he doesn’t say anything at all about the sufferings of the Jerusalem Christians, although they were starving. The focus is not on the good cause. The focus is entirely on God. And all of their giving is an expression of thanksgiving to God Himself. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
There is another important principle which Paul wants the Corinthians to remember.
6 Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
This is not some health wealth and prosperity gospel. Paul is not suggesting that the way to be successful is to give generously. But he is reminding us that we should not expect God to bless us if we are too selfish to bless other people. And on the other hand, God will always give us what we need to do His will. Not necessarily everything we might want, but certainly what we will need! God will bless us – but nor for our own benefit but he will bless us to enable us to be generous to others.
8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures for ever.’
It is good to be generous. Especially to give generously to meet the needs of the poor. Everything we have comes from God. It is God who gives us what we need to enable us not to be selfish but to be generous.
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Everything we have comes from God. Everything we have belongs to God. And all our giving is giving to God. So for our ThankOffering Gift Day today.
7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.