Scott Hovater, PhD, grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent 16 years as a college professor in Taiwan before becoming the manager of online faculty for the College of Theology. He has a degree in TESOL, an MA in intercultural studies, an MA in educational psychology and a PhD in educational studies. He and his wife, Jenny, have 2 children.
Spiritual Growth Challenge: How to Be a Cheerful Giver
“God loves a cheerful giver” – 2 Colossians 9:7
If you have been a Christian for any length of time you are familiar with this verse. We hear it from our pastor when giving dips too low. We hear it when there is a new church building project in the works. We hear it when a missionary comes to share about their ministry. We hear it on Christian radio and television when we are asked to support so many worthy causes. As the offering plate is passed and we grudgingly pull out our wallet, we even hear a sweet, internal voice in our head saying, “Now remember, God loves a cheerful giver!”
My Money, My Time, My Attitude
Now my wife has always been a cheerful giver. Hers is that sweet, internal voice I hear in my head each Sunday morning as I grudgingly pull out my wallet. I, on the other hand, have attitudinal adjustment problems when it comes to giving my money and my time. Often my attitude is more reflective of the Nike slogan, “Just Do It!” I rationalize that as long as I am still giving my time and my money then I am being obedient, right? Another strategy I have employed is the “Fake it till you make it” strategy. You would be amazed at how good I have become at outwardly displaying the proper cheerful attitude when serving and giving. At times I feel I deserve an academy award!
Why Do We Sometimes Struggle to Give Cheerfully?
Like my wife, I am sure there are many of you who give of your time and money cheerfully. I envy you. However, I am also sure there are others who struggle to be cheerful just as I do. Why can’t we always be happy when we give our time and money to the Lord? Is there something wrong with us? Are we less Christian? Perhaps we are missing something.
These are thoughtful questions that I do not have easy answers for. However, I do know that our theology, and thus our Christian faith, should not be led by our emotions. Joe Thorn, who writes articles for Ligonier Ministries, writes, “While it is true that our emotions should not lead our theology, it is vital to our faith that theology leads to a deep experience of our triune God” (Thorn, 2017, p.2). We should be seeking a deeper and deeper relationship with God, but we should not count ourselves out of the game just because we are not always that cheerful when we give.
Perhaps there is a moment in your past that has caused you to become less than cheerful when giving of your time and resources. As I reflect on my own past, I know there were times when people have abused my generosity. These people include pastors, missionaries, friends and even family members. Over time perhaps these “injustices” have caused me to become calloused, which in turn has deprived me of my cheerful attitude. Perhaps you have had similar experiences.
God’s Money, God’s Time, God’s Attitude
So, what should we do? How can we actually be cheerful when serving and giving? Well, I do not have a magic cure for this, but I do know that it is important for us to remember that what we have been given is not our money or our time. Instead, it is 100 percent God’s money and God’s time. Thus if we have been abused in the past, we should learn from those experiences (so that we can be better stewards of God’s money and God’s time) but we should not let those bad experiences cause us to become bitter. Instead, let us prayerfully rejoice that we actually lost nothing since all we have belongs to the Lord anyway.
Finally, let us also prayerfully seek to have God’s attitude rather than our own. We get a beautiful picture of what that attitude looks like in Philippians 2:1-11, where we see how Jesus took on the very form of a servant and humbled himself by being obedient even unto death on a cross(v.7-8). These verses start with the Apostle Paul encouraging us that we are united with Christ, comforted with Christ’s love and share in the Holy Spirit (v. 1).
He goes on to say that we should be like-minded towards others and “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather, in humility value others above yourself” (v.3). This is the attitude our Lord Jesus had and if we have the same attitude when we give our money and our time, then perhaps a sense of cheerfulness will come our way. Besides, it is not our money or our time anyway. It is God’s money and God’s time that we are using. Let’s learn to use God’s attitude of generosity when we use them. Be cheerful givers!
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- Thorn, J. “Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ.” Ligonier Ministries. May 29, 2017. Retrieved on July 2, 2019 from https://www.ligonier.org/blog/dont-pursue-feelings-pursue-christ/