Summary: Many people wonder why Paul ever wrote “God loves a cheerful giver.” Is there really such a thing?
The Rewards of Giving
David Yarborough tells the story of a church in the deep South where the preaching style was “talk back” as the congregation responded to and encouraged the pastor in their preaching. The pastor was excited about their prospective future and said, “This church is like a crippled man who needs to get up and walk under the power of Jesus.” The congregation replied, “let it walk preacher, let it walk.” Then the preacher said, “This church like Elijah on Mount Carmel and has got to run.” The congregation replied, “let it run preacher, let it run.” Then he said, “This church has got to mount up on wings like eagles and fly.” The congregation replied with great enthusiasm, “let it fly, preacher, let it fly.” Then the preacher added, “Now if this church is going to fly, it’s going to take MONEY.” With a lack of enthusiasm, the congregation responded, “Let it walk preacher, let it walk.” And then he writes, “Isn’t it amazing how one word can change the whole direction of a mood. Yes preacher, we want it! But not if it’s going to cost us, not if it’s going to take sacrifice.”
Many people wonder why Paul ever wrote “God loves a cheerful giver.” Is there really such a thing? You may have met plenty of cheerful spenders but ask, “Where are all of the cheerful givers?” When I was at Gretna, our Worship Planning team, which met weekly to plan each week’s services, began wrestling with the Offering in worship. Our ushers looked more like pallbearers than those assisting in the worship of the Savior of the world for whom we gathered to give thanks. We knew they were trying to be respectful and reverent but it came off more as a dead act of worship. So we decided to change the Offering. Instead of reflective or meditative music, we decided to have upbeat and praiseworthy music. Instead of a special solo or song being sung, we chose songs that the congregation could sing with great joy as they made their offering to God. And for the first time in my life I saw and experienced joyful giving and it changed the act of giving for us.
Today, we’re going to be looking at four rewards of giving from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. First is the principle of sowing. Leonard Sweet writes, “Gardening is not just a vocation reserved for those who work the dirt but instead is a universal vocation. God calls us to be gardeners, to tend the garden and grow things. When you kneel, you are gardening with your soul. When you serve God, you are gardening with your spiritual gifts. And when you give to God, you are gardening with your finances. Money is not a debt you owe but a seed you sow.” People who view money they give to God as another debt they owe or an obligation rarely ever find joy and cheerfulness in their giving. But in case you’re wondering, the Bible doesn’t teach that the tithe or the money you give back to God is a debt you owe but a seed you sow. And just that much of a change in perspective can make an enormous difference in your giving. Our Scripture today speaks of sowing seed, an image that brings to mind of a farmer with a satchel around his body, going out into the field and reaching in, grabbing a handful of seed and casting it out on the field. Now the sower has purchased his seed and doesn’t look at the cost of the seed as a burden or even a debt but as an investment in the future. And so Paul is saying that our giving is not a debt you owe but a seed you sow and that seed can change lives and eternities.
A little girl loved Jesus and longed to share the message of Christ to those on the mission field. She contributed a penny to a missionary to help in the work of evangelizing the people of Burma. The missionary was so touched by the little girl’s response that he decided to do the most he could with that little penny. After careful thought, he bought a gospel tract and personally gave it to a young chieftain. The chieftain would not admit that he couldn’t read, yet he burned with a desire to know the contents of the leaflet. He traveled 250 miles to find someone who would read it to him. After hearing the Gospel message, the young chief made a profession of faith in Christ. Returning to his people, he told them what the Lord had done for him. Later he invited missionaries to come and share Jesus with the village and his tribe accepted the good news and was converted. All this and more resulted from one dedicated penny given in Christ’s name by a little girl who gave from her heart and sowed a seed with a single penny.