The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
II Corinthians 9:6-8
First published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol, has never been out of print. This annual holiday favorite about the transformation of bitter old miser Ebenezer Scrooge has been adapted countless times to film, stage, and opera. Scrooge has entered our vocabulary for a grudging, penny-pinching, miserly, miserable person. He exemplifies how a miser becomes a “miser-able” person. Here is how Dickens paints Scrooge:
Oh, but he was a tight fisted hand at the grindstone. Scrooge, a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner. Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire. Secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
What a contrast is pitiable Scrooge to the “cheerful giver” through whom God’s inexhaustible grace flows to others!
In today’s Scripture the apostle Paul reasons with every believer: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind”. In calling for each of us to make up our minds how to give, Paul uses a rare Greek word (proaireo) not used any other place in the Bible. The word means “to predetermine”, or “to beforehand give careful thought”. The word suggests deliberate, considered calculation not influenced by outside pressure or manipulation. It is the kind of reckoning a farmer does in considering how large a harvest he wants to reap. Decisions as to how we will give our time, resources, and talents are not to be made “reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. William Barclay renders this as giving when a “need wakens a desire that cannot be stilled”. (Letter to the Corinthians)
That God loves the cheerful giver tells a lot about the way God gives, and the way He wants us to receive. God is the ultimate cheerful giver who gives solely because He delights in giving. God’s delight is seen in the way that He gave: He gave His own Son. Not grudgingly, not reluctantly, but God gave because He delights in you and me. The size of our gift matters little to God in weighing the greatness of the giver. What matters to God is that we give as He gives, for “God loves a cheerful giver”.
I like the way The Message paraphrases and challenges us with Paul’s words: “I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.”
I also like the way Scrooge’s story ends; it is, after all, a story of transformation. A miserly, miserable man becomes a cheerful giver. He wakes up Christmas morning and sees the bright sunshine and the world through different eyes. He even goes to church to worship with God’s people. He determines to give of himself and to give of his goods to others.
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh….His own heart laughed, and that was enough for him…And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, ‘God Bless Us, Every One.’
Yes, God bless us every one!
- William Barclay writes about godly, cheerful giving as coming when a “need wakens a desire that cannot be stilled.” Thank about a need in your family, community, or world that wakens a desire in you to participate in God’s giving.
- God loves a cheerful giver because God is cheerful when He gives. Take a few moments to reflect on God’s delight in giving Himself for you at the manger and the cross. Talk to Him about your thoughts and feelings.