The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). That is, God loves it when we give our tithes and offerings with a glad heart.
To tithe means to give a tenth of our increase (our income) to God by supporting his work (the local church). Offerings are the contributions we make in addition to our tithe.
What if our heart is not cheerful? Should we give when we can’t be happy about it? If we think of giving as a duty, should we stop giving?
The great missionary Paul spent a couple of years gathering an offering from various churches in Gentile cities. The money was meant to provide relief for poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were struggling to survive.
When the time approached for him to deliver the offering, Paul wrote to believers in Rome and shared his plans with them. He asked them to pray that things would go well in Jerusalem.
Paul saw the threat of a division in the church between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. He hoped a generous offering from Gentile churches to Jewish believers would not only provide for their needs, but also create goodwill and promote unity between the two groups.
As he wrote about the offering, the apostle noted that the Gentile churches were pleased to contribute to this project. Then he wrote that they were obligated to give material assistance because the Gentile believers had enjoyed spiritual blessings from the Jewish Christians (see Romans 15:26-27).
His remarks seem to be contradictory. Did the Gentiles give financially to the work of the church because they were pleased to do so or because they were obligated to do so? Did they give as an expression of delight or from a sense of duty?
Giving to God’s work is a joyful responsibility. Joy and responsibility, delight and duty, they can stand together. They need not cancel each other out. A duty can be an act of discipline and an act of discipline can bring deep satisfaction.
Think about parents and their kids. We believe parents have a responsibility to provide loving care to their sons and daughters. Those of us who are parents and grandparents agree. We accept the notion that we have an obligation to our children. We are responsible.
But we also have a desire to care for our children. It pleases us. Knowing that it is a responsibility does not rob us of our desire to do so, nor does it erase our joy in caring for them. In fact, knowing that we are fulfilling our God-given responsibility only adds to our pleasure.
Giving to God’s work is a duty, but it can also be a delight, a joy. Duty and desire combine without diminishing one another.
The apostle also believed that the offering he gathered would have a spiritual benefit not only on the individual givers, but also on the larger community of Christians. He wanted the gift from Gentiles to Jews to inspire unity among believers, to remind them that they were part of an eternal family with a shared mission.
The spiritual discipline of giving binds us together in our common Christian faith. We can accomplish more when we combine our efforts. And, we share the joy of a job well done when our Lord uses our gifts to advance his kingdom.
May the Lord inspire us to honor him with our giving,