Thoughts disentangle themselves...over the lips and through the fingertips. I learned that saying over 30 years ago, and just about every time I put it to the test, it works! Whenever I have difficulty comprehending the complicated or clarifying the complex, I talk it out or write it out. This is especially helpful when it comes to scriptural truth. For some strange reason the human brain seems reluctant to retain divine information simply by hearing it.
Take the importance of joy, for example—or, more specifically, giving joyfully to God. Second Corinthians 9:7 says: “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.’”
Look again at those final words: “God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” The original meaning of the word translated here as “cheerful” is hilarious, and this is the only time it’s found in the New Testament. It’s the hilarious giver God prizes.
I can think of a couple more examples of hilarious givers in the New Testament: a man named Onesiphorus who “often refreshed” Paul (2 Timothy 1:16-18 NASB); and a church—the Philippians—who contributed generously to Paul’s needs (Philippians 4:14-16).
Now, how does all this translate into daily life? How do these thoughts disentangle themselves to become meaningful parts of our lives? I’d like to make the following four suggestions for ways we can bring joy into our giving.
1. Reflect on God’s gifts to you
Hasn’t He been good? He certainly has to me. Better than I deserve! My list includes good health, harmonious family, sufficient food, clothing, and shelter. Friends. Great job. In light of God’s magnificent grace, a cheerful heart and openhanded generosity seem the most natural responses.
2. Remind yourself of His promises regarding generosity
Call to mind a few biblical principles that promise a bountiful harvest to those who sow bountifully. Jesus Himself spoke of how much more blessed it is to give than to receive. Bumper crops are God’s specialties, so we have nothing to restrain us from dropping maximum seed. He’s honoured by such faith.
3. Examine your heart
This is something no one else can do for you. Nobody knows the combination to your private vault. Only you can probe its contents by asking the hard questions: Do I really believe God’s promises on giving generously? Am I responding as I do because I care or because I feel guilty? Is my giving proportionate to my income? Have I prayed, or is my giving impulsive? Am I a consistent giver or more hot and cold?
4. Glorify God by becoming generous
He prizes generosity, especially joyful generosity. Perhaps we need to break the habit of being so conservative, so careful. Maybe we even need to “scare” ourselves with acts of generosity...going out on a limb, as it were, and genuinely trusting God to honour our financial faith.
Well, that’s it. Just a little lips-and-fingertips clarification. It has helped me to review this. I hope it’s helped you, too. Goodness knows, all of us would be wise to address our reluctance to sacrifice financially for the cause of Christ. After all, our goal is joyful generosity, isn’t it?
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “Joyful Generosity,” in The Finishing Touch: Becoming God’s Masterpiece (Dallas: Word, 1994), 100-101. Copyright © 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.