In his fourth letter to the church in Corinth, Paul wrote the above verse to remind them of the commitment they promised to the Christians in Jerusalem, who were in great need at that point of time because of a famine in Judea. The Corinthians failed to finish collecting their contribution and so Paul engaged in a lengthy discussion regarding the value of their sacrifice for the sake of others.
In this letter, the hint of sarcasm in Paul’s writings can only be discerned by those who understood Paul’s mind. He was citing the exemplary giving of the Macedonian believers in Christ, who gave even more than they could afford to give, to motivate the Corinthians in fulfilling their commitment. He further quoted the example of Christ, who gave up His very life, to motivate the Corinthians to be generous in giving.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:7
In the beginning of his letter to Corinthians, Paul dealt with the divisions that were prevailing among believers because of the different approaches of their leaders. The situation cited in 2 Corinthians chapter 9 to some extent could be attributed to these divisions but also because of the attitude of human mind – committing big and doing less.
To overcome this situation, Paul applied some managerial techniques, which is still followed by many of our present-day Churches and Organisations. Firstly, he compared the Corinthian believers with the Macedonian believers to ignite a spirit of competition.
An organisation was struggling to collect funds for spreading the Gospel to the un-reached. In this endeavour, they encouraged people to give their donations in the form of commodities instead of money. Some people gave the surplus gifts stacked in their houses while some others gave many unbranded local appliances purchased from the local market.
After a considerable amount of collection, they gathered people together and auctioned the things collected. In a competitive spirit, people bid thousand times over the actual price of a commodity and preserved it to place it back for auction in the coming year. The organisation was able to collect excess of their estimated budget for the FY from one mega event.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.Matthew 6:1
Surprisingly, while Ananias and Sapphira were killed for this very act – transforming the noble act of giving as a tool for earning fame – how is this kind of managerial technique still surviving? It may be because of the withdrawal of Holy Spirit and today we are being killed spiritually for these blunders.
In the Old Testament “Temple” was meant for every human and God promised to hear their prayers and answer them too. In the present scenario, ‘the Church’ is restricted for the regular subscribers – the cheerful givers. To prove this, we can see some churches during this pandemic restrictions organized make-shift services during Sundays and asked their congregants to attend these services according to their membership numbers in order to restrict the gathering within the prescribed limit. Membership No. 1 to 100, first service, 101 to 200 second service and so on. In this juncture, what about the common people who might want to come and pray in the God’s sanctuary?
Moreover, Churches are closed during weekdays while temples and shrines are open to the public all days of the week. When the entry into the Church is prohibited during weekdays, a common person who had prayed at a temple or shrine would mistake the God who is answering his prayers for the various beliefs that are prevailing there. If the churches were open, more people could have recognized the true God who had answered their prayers.
… He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.Matthew 5:45
We try our level best to keep people outside the premises of our churches by denying them pattern of worship understandable by a common man and then we actively organize outreach programmes.
Giving Denotes Money
Today, every church is motivating their members to give tithes and offering by quoting the wordings of Paul to the Corinthians ‘… God loves a cheerful giver’. In this exercise every church is misleading its people to understand the act of giving only in terms of money.
People derive a tremendous level of satisfaction when they give their offerings and they tend to give promptly, especially when they come across sickness or troubles in their lives. They think that any lapse in their donations may draw the anger of God and He will send some sickness or problems in order to collect His dues.
With this narrow mindedness, people mistake their generosity for a good deed that Jesus mentioned in His sermon on the Mount.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:16
Trading Prayers and Blessings
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.2 Corinthians 9:11
In the above verse, Paul expressed his overwhelming expectations for witnessing the grateful hearts giving thanks to God, as the outcome of the generosity of the believers in Corinth. In due time, Paul’s genuine expectation is diluted to such an extent that people start praying for the sick expecting an offering for themselves.
And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.2 Corinthians 9:14
Paul was educating the Corinthian churches that their gesture of generosity is the outcome of the grace of God and the recipients will remember the grace of God bestowed on them in their prayers.
In today’s context, prayers are lifted only for the generous donors or for the registered members leaving aside the grace of God bestowed on them. This has become possible because believers do not know that Jesus is praying for them always to guard their faith till they attain eternity.
In the absence of such knowledge, they expect God-men to pray for their problems. These middlemen are keeping the believers away from God on the pretext of connecting them with God. Healing, blessings and deliverance are traded for donations and the grace of God is totally ignored.
Teachings on Giving
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:2-4
Jesus is keen on keeping our relationship with Him as personal and He is eager to reward us personally. If we expose His intimate relation to earn riches and fame, then Jesus warns us that we have already been ‘rewarded’ with riches and fame. If we keep it personal between ourselves and Him, He is assuring us a reward from our heavenly Father.
We always expect our rewards in a materialistic ways and not in a spiritual way. A farmer who sows seeds will expect a harvest of finest fruits and then he will preserve a portion of it for seeds. Unfortunately we expect returns in the seed form itself, the same as we sowed and not in a fruit form. While we give, we anticipate multiple times of blessings in return and reject the act of Holy Spirit, transforming our hearts with the attitude of giving in God’s perspective.
The rich young ruler could not get this transformation in his heart and went away sadly to retain his material blessings. The amount of love and trust we have on God should outclass our love towards our possessions. In other words, if we put our trust on our wealth, we will lose the wealth giver.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.Matthew 19:21-22
God did not send Elijah to the richest but to the poorest widow who had just a handful of flour in the jar and a little oil in the jug, because God knew her attitude of giving. God chose Abraham because He shaped him and found him capable to carry forward the glory of God to his generations (Genesis 18:19). If we allow God to mould our attitudes, not only will He do so but He will also use us mightily for spreading His word among the gentiles.
“Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”1 Kings 17:9
Jesus appreciated a widow who put two small silver coins in the offering box because He does not need our money, but a heart with an attitude of giving in God’s perspective.
All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.Luke 21:4
God’s Love and Righteousness
God loves everyone and He sent His Son to die for our sins as a ransom. His arms are wide open to embrace anyone who comes to Him. Paul’s writings of ‘… God loves a cheerful giver’ is an encouraging message given to a sect of people who were not comfortable in giving. It does not mean that God loves us only if we give our tithes and offerings cheerfully. It does convey that God loves us so much so that we should give to Him cheerfully.
As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”2 Corinthians 9:9
This does not mean that generous giving makes a person righteous but it is an outcome of being a righteous person. May God give us the grace to bring forth all the good deeds of righteousness for the glory of His name.
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 2:8-9