The Joy of Hilarious Giving
The Joy of Hilarious Giving
There are two ways to give gifts. Chances are you’ve tried them both.
The first method goes something like this. You received a wedding invitation from a fellow employee with whom you have no dealing outside of work. And you like it that way, since you get an ample dose of him at the office. Any social involvement would be bad medicine. Simply put, you just don’t like the guy.
Suddenly, however, you’re obligated to commit a chunk of your discretionary income to purchase a wedding gift for him and the woman you wish you knew well enough to ask, “What were you thinking?” No only that, the wedding’s in December, right around Christmas.
That’s when your budget, if it could make noise, would resemble that empty sucking sound at the bottom of a McDonald’s milk shake. Not only do you have to shell out a small fortune for Christmas gift, you have two birthdays coming up, a baby shower, the church Christmas party, and your neighbors’ “we just bought a parakeet” gala. Even bird toys cost money!
At this point, it’s probably safe to say that giving would rank down there with Novocain-free dental surgery on your list of desired activities. So about an hour before the wedding, you swing by Target, snatch a cheap toaster from the housewares’ department and ask them to gift wrap it for you-FAST! Not the most thoughtful gift, perhaps, but at least you give him something.
Contrast that scenario with this one. Your spouse is planning to retire this year. Besides the usual company farewell party, he’s not expecting anything special to mark the occasion. But, because you know how many people have enjoyed working with him, you decide to throw him a surprise appreciation party. You want to acknowledge that his life’s work has meant much more than just picking up a paycheck.
You start planning months ahead of time, contacting family member, friends, neighbors, and past and present coworkers. They send you letters of appreciation, funny stories, and even video clips for you to compile and present on that special night. You commission two of his musically inclined coworkers to compose a retirement song, which the whole group will sing at the event to salute his years of services. And his favorite restaurant will cater the affair.
Now, how would you feel about giving that gift? You would hardly be able to wait for the night to arrive.
What does the second scenario have that the first one doesn’t? In a word, joy! There’s a big difference between giving because you have to and giving because you want to. You might be surprised to discover that, though many Christians give grudgingly out of rote obligation, God wants His people to give joyfully from the heart.
We find God’s attitude about giving, expressed beautifully in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
“Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
In other words, God delights in the generosity of His children. What is a cheerful give? Someone who gives from the heart, whose giving flows from the inside out. This desire is not manufactured by coercion or guilt. It isn’t forced on someone. The works grudgingly and under compulsion suggest someone who would rather hold on to his or her possessions but feels pressured to turn them loose.
Conversely, a “cheerful” giver considers the opportunity, makes his or her own decision, and gives accordingly. Hilaros, the Greek word for cheerful, does not appear anywhere else in Scripture. How interesting that of all the places it could appear, it turns up here in a passage about giving.
Perhaps that’s because God knew we needed some joy in that area of life. Maybe He wants to see us smile more often when we drop the check in the offering plate. Maybe we need to see tithing and missions and feeding the hungry as more than obligations. Could it be that, by giving with such long faces (or not giving at all), we Christians are missing a wonderful opportunity to express our love to God…and sense His love for us?
We can certainly extend this principal beyond the financial realm to anything we give – time, talent service, advice. These can be pulled from us like stubborn weeds, or we can let them blossom naturally from a joyful heart.
God is calling us to joyful, sacrificial, hilarious giving. Jesus is our inspiration.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich…Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 8:9, 9:15