Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Read this chapter from Your Finances God’s Way to learn how you can become a cheerful giver God loves.
Table of Contents
- God Gives to Us So We Can Give to Others
- What Do the Scriptures on Sowing Money Mean?
- God Gives Us Grace So We Can Give More
- Give Cheerfully Because God Loves a Cheerful Giver (2 Corinthians 9:7)
- Give with the Right Heart
- God Loves a Cheerful Giver and Here Are Three Encouragements to Help You Become One
Our God is a giver. He “gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). He gives us abundant life: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He gives us wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). He gives us gifts: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). The greatest gift God gave us is His Son: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with him freely give us all things?”
Ephesians 5:1 commands us to “be imitators of God,” which means we should give too. Proverbs 21:26 says, “The righteous gives and does not spare.” Why is giving righteous? God’s actions define righteousness. Because God gives, giving is righteous and makes us imitators of Him.
God Gives to Us So We Can Give to Others
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the master rebuked the man: “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33). The wicked servant was condemned because he wouldn’t forgive as God had forgiven him. This reveals an important principle in Scripture: We should do for others what God has done for us. For example, we should love others because God loved us: “As I have loved you…you also love one another” (John 13:34). We should forgive others because God forgave us: “Forgive one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Regarding giving, because God is a giver who has given so much to us, we should give to others.
Some spiritual gifts, such as teaching and leadership, seem like gifts because there’s a benefit to the person receiving the gift. But other gifts, such as mercy and serving, don’t seem like gifts because they seem to benefit others more than they benefit the people who received the gifts. This gives us insight into why God gives us gifts, which we must consider because God’s reason for giving gifts can be different than our reason.
We typically give gifts to bless the recipient, but God gives gifts to bless the recipient and so the recipient can bless others: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). We can enjoy the gifts God has given us—for example, God has given me the gift of teaching, which I enjoy—but being good stewards of our gifts means using them for others’ benefit. This applies to all God has given us, including our wealth.
Let’s return to two of the parables we looked at earlier. First, in the parable of the talents, the third servant buried his talent (gift) in the ground and was severely punished in response (Matthew 25:18, 30). The financial application is that when we keep our wealth to ourselves, we’re acting like the third servant—we’re taking what God has given us and, in a sense, burying it in the ground. Second, the parable of the rich fool reveals we aren’t given wealth to keep it for our ourselves. When we hoard our wealth, we’re acting like the rich fool.
In both parables, the men failed to use God’s generosity the way it is intended: for others. God is generous with us so we can be generous with others.
What Do the Scriptures on Sowing Money Mean?
Many people, even those who have never opened the Bible, are familiar with the phrase “You reap what you sow.” These words are taken from two passages in the New Testament. The first, and most well-known, is Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” The second is in Paul’s words about the Macedonian believers’ sacrificial giving, which served as an example to the Corinthians (and to us): “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). The amount of the harvest is directly proportionate to the amount sown. The farmer who sows much seed will have a bigger harvest than the farmer who sows sparingly.
Paul leaned on this agricultural principle to encourage generosity. Although this can be applied to other areas of life—for example, we typically get out of relationships what we put into them—the context is giving. The blessing received for giving is directly proportionate to the amount given. The Christian who gives generously will have a bigger harvest than the Christian who gives sparingly.
When a farmer sows seed, he might feel like he’s losing something as the seed he purchased falls from his hand to the ground. Similarly, we might feel like we’re losing something when the money we earned leaves our hand and goes toward the offering. But just as the farmer gives in anticipation of receiving more in the future, we can give with the same expectation. On the other hand, if a farmer planted only a few seeds because he wanted to retain as much as possible, he would have more seed in his sacks, but at harvest time, he would have less grain in his barn.
We know this principle is important—it’s one God doesn’t want us to miss because it’s repeated throughout Scripture:
- “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake” (Deuteronomy 15:10).
- “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10; see also Proverbs 19:17; 22:9; 28:27).
- “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it” (Proverbs 11:24-26).
- “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).
In King Hezekiah’s day, the people gave generously to support the priests and Levites (2 Chronicles 31:5-7). When the chief priest described the situation, he said, “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the LORD has blessed his people; and what is left is this great abundance” (2 Chronicles 31:10). The people sowed generously, and God ensured they reaped bountifully.
Jesus loosely communicated the same principle: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). This imagery is uncommon to us, but it comes from the marketplace and would be familiar to Jesus’ hearers. When people purchase grain in those days, it was given to them in a container. Consider these descriptive terms for a full picture of God’s generosity:
- “good measure” means God gives generously versus meagerly
- “pressed down, shaken together” means God fills the empty spaces so the container holds as much as possible
- “running over” means God fills the container beyond its capacity
Although the imagery is from the marketplace, Jesus isn’t giving us shopping advice. Instead, the word parable is related to our word parallel because parables put physical stories alongside spiritual truths. Luke 6:38 illustrates God’s generosity to the generous, and God’s repeated use of the words “you” and “your” make it personal. Jesus wants us thinking about this happening to us. John Bunyan wrote, “A man there was, though some did count him mad. The more he cast away the more he had”1
If We Give Enough Will God Make Us Rich?
God provides a return on the amount invested with Him: invest a little, receive a little; invest a lot, and receive a lot. Does this mean if we give a certain amount, God will give us more in return? For example, if we give the church $1,000 per month, will God then ensure our boss gives us a raise of $1,200 per month? That’s not how it works.
Consider the situation with the Philippian believers, who resided in Macedonia and were among those who gave sacrificially to Paul. The apostle mentioned their generosity in Philippians 4:15-18, and then wrote in verse 19, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” They were generous, and God would be generous to them. They would have, every need met versus every want supplied. What are our needs? In 1 Timothy 6:8, Paul wrote, “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Our needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Fancy clothes, exotic food, and expensive mansions are wants. We don’t give to receive, but God wants us to know that He doesn’t ask that we give ourselves into poverty.
Do We Reap in This Life or the Next?
What do we reap from what we sow: is it physical, or spiritual, or both? Does the reaping occur in this life, the next, or both? John Calvin said we reap in this life and the next: “This harvest should be understood both in terms of the spiritual reward of eternal life and also referring to the earthly blessings with which God honors the [generous]. Not only in heaven does God reward the well-doing of the godly, but in this world as well” 2
Consider this interaction between Peter and Jesus. Peter knew he and the disciples had “sown much” to follow Jesus, so he wondered what he would “reap” in the future:
Peter said, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.Matthew 19:27-29
Receiving eternal life would be enough, but Jesus said we’ll receive eternal life and “a hundredfold.” I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I do know God is going to reward us with far more than what we have done for Him. He will ensure we don’t outgive Him. With God, we will not be on the losing end. Because He tells us to avoid debt (Proverbs 22:7; Romans 13:8), we can be confident He won’t be in debt to anyone.
There are short- and long-term benefits to giving. We give now and experience God’s blessings in this life and we receive rewards in heaven that we get to enjoy for eternity.
God Gives Us Grace So We Can Give More
Paul said, “In a great trial of affliction, the [Macedonians’] abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2). For them, the formula was affliction and poverty equals joy and generosity—the opposite of what we would expect. It’s reminiscent of the paradox two chapters earlier: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich” (2 Corinthians 6:10). When we’re sorrowful, we don’t rejoice, and when we’re poor, we don’t make others rich. But this was the case for the Macedonians.
How could the Macedonians give so much when they were in extreme poverty? There’s no natural answer, but the supernatural answer is in the previous verse: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 8:1). In context, the word “grace” does not refer to spiritual graces, but to money and material needs. God supernaturally provided the Macedonians with what they needed. Their generosity is a good example, but God still receives the credit because His grace did it through them. Paul said something similar in the following chapter:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.2 Corinthians 9:7-8
The universals, or “alls,” are truly staggering: “…all grace…all sufficiency in all things at all times…in every [or all] good work.” Our resources are restricted. We have limited amounts of time, money, and energy, but God is unlimited. His infinite amount of grace allows Him to dispense it lavishly. He can “make all grace abound to [us], so that having all sufficiency [we] may abound in every good work.”
The Greek word translated “sufficiency” is autarkeia and it means, “a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed.” Because the context is giving, the idea is God supplies everything we need (no other support is needed) if we’re generous. We can be confident that if we give, God gives us more so we can continue to give.
Think back to the principle of sowing and reaping. When it comes to sowing, we know it takes time to reap. We throw the seed into the ground and wait for it to grow. But Paul says that God replenishes while we give so we can give even more. We reap even while we’re sowing. Farmers must wait for their harvests, but generous believers begin to reap immediately. One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is that we gain as we give. If we honor God with what He has given us, He will bless us with more so that we can give even more. We are blessed by God so we can be more of a blessing to others.
Give Cheerfully Because God Loves a Cheerful Giver (2 Corinthians 9:7)
I used to coach junior high wrestling. After one season, some of my wrestlers decided to buy me a gift. They pooled their money and purchased a nice plaque, which they planned to give me at the end-of-the-year banquet. While they were riding their bikes with the plaque, one of them accidentally dropped it in the road. They were so happy to give me the plaque that at first nobody told me why it was damaged. Finally, someone apologized and explained what had happened. But there was no need for apologies because I was blessed by how cheerfully they had given it to me. A gift, regardless of what it is, means so much more when given cheerfully.
I know what you’re thinking: Scott, in the last chapter, you said to give sacrificially, and now you’re saying to give cheerfully. These don’t go together! I can give sacrificially, or I can give cheerfully, but I can’t do both! The more sacrifice that’s involved, the less cheerful I am. The less sacrifice involved, the more cheerful I am. But we can give sacrificially and cheerfully, and hopefully the Macedonians’ example is evidence that we can do so!
The Macedonians gave sacrificially, and they gave with an “abundance of joy.” Despite their difficult circumstances, they didn’t merely have some joy when giving. They had an abundance of it! It’s like they had so much joy they gave and had some joy left over!
How cheerfully did they give? They were “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:4-5). That’s cheerful giving! How many times have you heard of Christians begging to be able to give? The words “not as we expected” mean the Macedonians gave even more than Paul and his companions anticipated!
They called being able to give a “favor.” The Greek word translated “favor” is charis, which is related to our English word charity. The same word is translated “grace” elsewhere in Scripture. It was “the grace of God” that allowed them to give. For the Macedonians, giving was such a joy that it’s as though they asked for more grace to be able to give more.
The Greek word translated “taking part” is koinonia, which is often translated as “fellowship.” The word means “strong association, community, or participation.” The Macedonians wanted such strong fellowship with the Jerusalem believers they “[took] part in [their] relief,” and associated with them in their suffering through their giving. When we give, we also associate with those who are suffering, and “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
Putting God First
Paul said the Macedonians “gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:4-5). The word “first” isn’t referring to time or chronology, but priority. They gave themselves first to the Lord, and that led to their generosity. As we discussed earlier, the way we handle our finances is an outpouring of our relationships with the Lord. The Macedonians demonstrate that if we put God first, not only will we give the amount He wants, we will give the way He wants—cheerfully.
Think about the Sermon on the Mount to understand how putting God first allows us to give cheerfully. Jesus preached on laying up treasures in heaven in Matthew 6:19-24. Immediately after that, in verses 25-34, He preached on not being anxious (or, in the NKJV, NIV, and NASB, not worrying) about our food, drink, bodies, clothing, or even the length of our lives. The word “anxious” (or “worry”) occurs six times in ten verses.
Why would Jesus preach about not worrying immediately after preaching about laying up treasures in heaven? When we lay up treasures in heaven, which is to say when we give as God desires, it is tempting to wonder if we will have enough to eat, drink, clothe ourselves, and even keep ourselves alive. Jesus concluded by saying, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). If we put God first (as the Macedonians did), then we can give cheerfully because we trust Him to give us what we need.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver Among Other Things
As Christians we should be familiar with what God loves, and there are quite a few examples in Scripture:
- God loves those who keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9).
- God loves righteous deeds (Psalm 11:7).
- God loves those who seek refuge from their adversaries at [His] right hand (Psalm 17:7).
- God loves righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5).
- God loves those who love Him (Proverbs 8:17).
- God loves those who pursue righteousness (Proverbs 15:9).
- God loves the world (John 3:16).
- God the Father loves those who love His Son (John 16:27).
- God loves us while we are still sinners (Romans 5:8).
- God loves those He disciplines (Hebrews 12:6; quoting Proverbs 3:12).
Second Corinthians 9:7 reveals one more thing God loves: “Each one gives as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” It doesn’t just say God loves cheerful giving. Instead, it says He loves people who give cheerfully. The Amplified Bible says, “God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift].” God loves everyone, but He has a special, unique love for cheerful givers. The Greek word translated “cheerful” is hilaros, which is related to our word, hilarious, and this is the only place it occurs in Scripture. The idea is God wants giving from hearts that find it enjoyable and entertaining.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver Like Parents Do
If you’re a parent, think about your child giving you a gift. If we’re honest, unless your child is very talented, the gift probably isn’t something we would normally purchase if we saw it in a store. My point is the gift isn’t valuable to us because of its quality. The gift is valuable because of the heart behind it—think again about the iceberg or roots below the surface. Our children want to bless us. We take pleasure in their gifts because they’re signs of their love for us.
The Greek word translated “reluctantly” is lypē and it means “with grief, sorrow, or sadness.” Picture people who give through clenched teeth with the gift (figuratively speaking) having to be pried from their hands. Imagine your child gives you a gift and says,
- “I hope this makes you happy, but I bet you would never give me something like this.”
- “You better appreciate this because you wouldn’t believe how difficult it was for me to get it.”
- “I don’t really want to give this to you, but I know it’s your birthday, so I hope you enjoy it.”
See the application? We wouldn’t want our children giving us gifts with terrible attitudes, and our heavenly Father doesn’t want His children giving Him gifts with terrible attitudes. God wants glad givers, not sad or mad givers. Robert Rodenmeyer said, “There are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving. Grudge giving says, ‘I have to’; duty giving says, ‘I ought to’; thanksgiving says, ‘I want to.’”3 God loves a cheerful giver who gives the third way.
Give with the Right Heart
If we take our minds back to the principle of reaping and sowing, when a farmer sows seed, his heart doesn’t matter. If he has good soil, sows good seed, and is the beneficiary of good weather, he can experience a good harvest regardless of his heart. The farmer in the parable of the rich fool is a perfect example. He was a selfish man who thought only about himself, yet he still experienced a great harvest. But this couldn’t be further from the case for Christians because our motive for doing almost anything is vitally important.
Paul didn’t just say we should give. He said we should give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). Giving is a heart issue, for “the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemned things we would expect Him to, including murder, adultery, lying, and retaliation (Matthew 5:21- 41). In the next chapter, He condemned things we would not expect Him to, such as praying, fasting, and giving. Why? When the right things are done with the wrong heart, they become the wrong things. Jesus said,
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward (Matthew 6:1-2).
Wanting to be seen by others reveals a heart that is giving wrongly. So serious is this offense that regardless of the amount given, it results in loss of reward. In case we missed this warning the first time Jesus said it, He repeated it a second time in the following verse. He really wanted to help us avoid losing our reward! He again gave instructions about giving with the right heart:
When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:3-4).
Of course, hands don’t have minds of their own. We can’t hide from one hand what the other hand is doing. The point is we should give in a way that nobody knows what we are doing except the Lord. Giving secretly is admirable because it’s not being done to impress others. Instead, it’s being done to please our heavenly Father. We are giving with the right heart when it’s enough to know that He sees and will reward us.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver and Here Are Three Encouragements to Help You Become One
The Corinthians were rich compared to the Macedonians, so it seems strange that they needed to be encouraged to give when God had given them so much. But consider how strange it is that we need to be encouraged to give when God has given us even more.
Maybe you find it difficult (as I do) to give the way we should: willingly, sacrificially, cheerfully, generously, and with the right heart. If this is you (as it is me), let me give you three encouragements that I also give myself.
Confession and Prayer Can Help You Become a Cheerful Giver
Confess your struggle with giving and pray that God helps you to grow. Ask Him to replace your unwillingness with willingness, your joylessness with joyfulness, your cheerlessness with cheerfulness, your stinginess with generosity, and your wrong heart with a right heart.
Scripture Memorization and Meditation Can Help You Become a Cheerful Giver
Go to Scripture to grow in the area of giving. Read the verses that apply, meditate on them, and memorize them. Write them on notecards and put them in places where you will see them regularly, such as on your refrigerator, mirror, or car dashboard. A great place to start is the verses we covered on the Macedonians, and in especially 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.
Reflection on God’s Greatest Gift Can Help You Become a Cheerful Giver
We looked at many verses in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 because they’re the clearest chapters in the New Testament on giving. Second Corinthians 9:15, which is the last verse of the chapter, reads: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” Why did Paul conclude his teaching on giving with these words? He knew that encouraging us to reflect on God’s greatest gift would motivate us to give. C.H. Spurgeon said,
Christ is the ultimate example of giving. He is the great Giver. Because of Him we give freely and generously. Our Lord Jesus is ever giving, and does not for a solitary instant withdraw His hand… the rain of His grace is always dropping, the river of His bounty is ever-flowing, and the wellspring of His love is constantly overflowing. As the King can never die, so His grace can never fail.4
Giving is the appropriate response from people who realize how much they’ve been given. We should view giving as a privilege because of all that has been done for us. Consider this: Is there a higher, better reason we can have for giving? No.
I’m not going to tell you that God is going to suffer if you don’t give, because He doesn’t need our money. I’m also not going to tell you that giving earns (or improves) your salvation, because nothing can do that; we can’t give to earn favor with God. Instead, we give because of the favor that’s been given to us through Christ. The greatest reason to be a cheerful giver is: Giving is a way to worship the God who has given us so much, including His own Son.
- John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (Abbotsford, WI; Aneko Press, 2015), 289.
- John Calvin, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 10: 2 Corinthians and Timothy, Titus, & Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI; Wm. B. Eerdmans-Lightning Source, 1996), 121.
- Robert Rodenmeyer, as quoted in John Blanchard, comp., Gathered Gold: A Treasury of Quotations for Christians (Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1984), 113.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Devotional Classics of C. H. Spurgeon (Shallotte, NC: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2000), 16.