Not too long ago, I volunteered to help someone who needed assistance in straightening up. When I got there, I was overwhelmed at what had to be done. It took several hours and was more difficult than I realized it would be. By the time I got home, I was hot, dirty and very upset. So, after taking a shower, I sat quietly and asked God for guidance. Being resentful and upset certainly was not the way to be helpful.
Then the thought occurred to me, “God loveth a cheerful giver.” I wondered, “Why is this so important?” After all, I had stayed with the job and it certainly had made a difference to the person I was helping. Wasn’t that enough? I stopped fussing and became very quiet.
I looked up the full quotation. It’s from 2 Corinthians 9, “But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: For God loveth a cheerful giver.” Eugene Peterson in “The Message” puts it this way, “God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.”
I found that Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, has a lot to say about giving in “Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures.” On page 79, she says, for example, “Mind-science teaches that mortals need ‘not be weary in well doing.’ It dissipates fatigue in doing good. Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us.”
Later, Eddy says on page 385, “It is proverbial that Florence Nightingale and other philanthropists engaged in humane labors have been able to undergo without sinking fatigues and exposures, which ordinary people could not endure.”
Again I asked why it is so important to give freely and cheerfully. Isn’t it enough just to give? The answer must be “no,” it is not enough just to give. We must give as our Master, Christ Jesus, taught us. By example, he was constantly giving voluntarily and, I believe, joyfully. He could not have healed if he were not graciously giving of God’s love all the time.
We give cheerfully because God gives to us generously, abundantly, unstintingly. In Matthew 10:18, Jesus is recorded as saying, “freely ye have received, freely give.” If I say that I don’t have much materially to give, what can I do? I can give time to listen to someone in need. I can be quietly prayerful. I can help someone. I can give encouragement. This includes giving cheerfully in the workplace, at home, in church work, and as we go about our activities. This giving must be genuine, heartfelt, God-inspired. The source of the giving is God who gives infinite love.
Thinking back to the day I was helping someone, I am very glad that I took the time to regroup when I got home. All resentment disappeared. It was replaced with joy, a genuine cheerfulness, a happy giving.
As we come into a season where the focus is sometimes on material giving, it might be a good idea to assess what we have to give that has lasting value: time, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, listening, prayer. The key here is to do this voluntarily and with God-given cheerfulness.
Celia Nygard is a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in State College.