Overcoming Darkness

Being a Cheerful Giver

Do you think more about transactions or relationships? More about material blessings or spiritual blessings? Are you selfish? Or are you generous? Do you live as if you believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive?

The Bible tells us: “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

In the past, I associated being a “cheerful giver” with the warm feelings that come from helping someone who I want to help. That is one way we are blessed. And it is certainly part of why it is good to be a cheerful giver.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and to all the holy people of God in Achaia (2 Corinthians 9:6,8-9), Paul himself linked being a cheerful giver with receiving blessings. He wrote:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

. . . God loves a cheerful giver. 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. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;

their righteousness endures forever.” (Psalm 112:9).

Notice, however, that the deceitfulness of wealth makes us think about material blessings instead of about spiritual blessings. (Matthew 13:22).

The quote from Paul includes material blessings. But only to the extent that cheerful givers have all that they need. Paul did not say that God would abundantly bless cheerful givers so that they have all that they desire.

As Jesus taught us, we should pray for daily bread, not for abundant bread. (Matthew 6:11).

The quote from Paul says that God abundantly blesses cheerful givers “in all things at all times” so that they “abound in every good work”. (2 Corinthians 9:8).

What kinds of good works?

The kinds of good works that are an answer to the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray to our Father in heaven: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).

This Way of praying that Jesus taught us makes us think about spiritual blessings instead of about material blessings.

In this sense, the word “spiritual” does not mean something non-material, spooky or invisible. Spiritual means anything (including giving physical things such as food, shelter, and healthcare to the poor) that helps the Father’s will to be done wherever we are.

We should seek such spiritual blessings instead of material blessings because, as Jesus taught us:

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and despise the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money! (Matthew 6:24 (emphasis added)).

Furthermore, spiritual blessings are superior to material blessings because spiritual blessings cannot be destroyed by moths and vermin, nor be stolen by thieves.

And so, Jesus wisely commanded us:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20).

Recently, I wondered whether we make the mistake of thinking about blessings from transactions instead of about blessings from relationships.

For example, how can it be generosity if we decide whether to transfer something to someone else based on what we expect they will transfer to us?

How can it be generosity if we decide whether to do something for someone else based on what we expect they will do for us?

Jesus denounced such hypocritical “generosity”.

He told us not to invite people to a banquet based on whether we expect they can invite us back. (Luke 14:12-14).

He told us to help others anonymously—without the right hand knowing what the left hand was doing. (Matthew 6:3-4).

We should not “give” because we want to receive something in return—something such as praise, prestige, power or money. (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18).

Recently, I’ve pondered an even deeper importance to being a generous person.

I’ve noticed a common thread in my friends and family who backslide in their faith in Jesus—or who even reject their faith in Jesus explicitly. Many of these friends and family are not generous.

Indeed, they may believe that people who give things to help others and who do things to help others are “losers” and “suckers”.

In the mind of a person who is not generous, Jesus must be the biggest loser and sucker of all. Otherwise, why would he die on a cross to save others?

Such selfish people are like the “grudging host” described in Proverbs 23:6. The proverb warns:

Do not eat the food of a grudging host,

     do not crave his delicacies;

for he is the kind of person

     who is always thinking about the cost.

“Eat and drink,” he says to you,

     but his heart is not with you.

(Proverbs 23:6-7).

I have come to realize that if you’re not a generous person, you project your selfish character onto God’s generous character. You create an image of God that is as selfish as you are!

Therefore, a person who is not generous has trouble believing that God displays his Amazing Grace in the same Way as the shepherd described in the 23rd Psalm—in the Way of a compassionate and gracious God who pursues us with goodness and mercy throughout our life! (Psalm 23:6; see also the stories of the tireless shepherd in Luke 15:1-7; the diligent housewife in Luke 15:9-10; and the compassionate father in Luke 15:11-32.)

Furthermore, a person who is not generous backslides or falls away because they have trouble treating other people in generous ways that fill their lives to overflowing with goodness and mercy.

A person who is not generous finds it hard to believe that God is so generous that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace [we] have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Such a person who is not generous finds it hard to believe that:

in the coming ages, [God wants to] show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:7-9).

A person who is not generous finds it hard to believe that they should leave behind their old ways of living:

—Why follow Jesus even though it means not having a place to sleep? (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58)

—Why follow Jesus even though it means upsetting your family? (Matthew 8:21-22; Luke 9:59-60; Mark 3:20-21,31-34; Luke 14:25-27).

—Why follow Jesus even though it means saying good-bye to people who you care about? (Luke 9:61-62).

—Why follow Jesus even though it means denying yourself and taking up your cross daily to follow Jesus, sacrificing everything (even your own life), as Jesus did? (Luke 9:23).

These don’t sound like good transactions. Indeed, to a person who is not generous, these sound like transactions that are only fit for losers and suckers.

And so, if a person is not generous, there is a “crack” in the shield of their faith (Ephesians 6:16). And through this crack in their faith (caused by their lack of generosity), the Enemy of their Souls attacks them. And all too often overcomes them.

As followers of the generous Way of the Amazing Grace of Jesus, we need to stop conforming to the selfish ways of the world. Instead, we need to transform ourselves and the Creation by renewing our minds—by becoming as generous as Christ did when he died on the Cross to renew us and all Creation. (Romans 12:2).

As followers of this generous Way of the Amazing Grace of Jesus, we receive the generous gift of the generous mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16).

And so, Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (1 Corinthians 2:3-4; Luke 15:10-37).

So much for entering into transactions that benefit you more than others!

What about entering into relationships?

Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5).

To explain what he meant by the mindset of Christ Jesus, Paul quoted from what is believed to be an early hymn of the Church Universal:

[Christ Jesus], being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God

     something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

     by taking the very nature of a servant,

     being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a [human],

     he humbled himself

     by becoming obedient unto death—

     even death on a cross!

     (Philippians 2:6-8; see Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant at Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

If you have the mindset of Jesus, you’ll find the wisdom to realize that what looks like a lousy transaction—exchanging heaven for a cross—is actually the best relationship in all Creation!

The Cross enables us to enter into an eternal, perfect relationship among us and the one LORD God (the Father-Son-Holy Spirit).

 In the Garden of Gethsemane during the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed that we would enter into this eternal, perfect relationship.

Jesus prayed to the Father for all those who follow the Way of Jesus:

“My prayer is . . . that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . . . . I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. . . . . (John 17:20-23).

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:25-26).

No wonder that Paul stressed generosity.

Paul knew from his own life that our works cannot purchase our salvation—our relationship with the LORD. Indeed, he considered all such transactions as “garbage” compared to the “surpassing worth” of his relationship with Christ Jesus his Lord (Philippians 3:7-9)—the surpassing worth of such an intimate, daily Way of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.

Through this relationship with Christ Jesus, Paul experienced “the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11).

At the Cross, Jesus paid the total “purchase price” for our salvation. (Ephesians 1:7).

No other transaction than the Work of Christ on the Cross is necessary or desirable for our salvation—for our relationship with the LORD. (Galatians 3:3,6-9).

Therefore, forgetting whatever sins and failures are behind us “and straining toward what is ahead, [we] press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).

And so, we should live generously in the Way of Jesus, who taught us: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).


In your life, when have you focused on transactions that will be favorable to you? How? Why?

What are the differences between seeking transactions that are favorable for you, insisting on transactions that are fair to you, and opposing transactions that are unfair to you and others?

In your life, when have you focused on building relationships even if it means not making transactions that favor you? How? Why?

What makes a relationship harmful? Toxic? Manipulative? Manipulative? Exploitive? Abusive? How do you recognize that a relationship is harmful? How do you change or terminate a harmful relationship? Why?


For related thoughts, please read my blogs “Grace and Peace—Titus”, “Jesus Climbs the Temple Mount”, and “Building Houses on Rock: Mission Impossible?”.