In his much-loved classic, A Christmas Carol, author Charles Dickens portrayed his leading character, Ebenezer Scrooge, as a miserly and uncompassionate old man who focused exclusively on the prosperity of his own business. Permitting his sole employee to add an additional piece of coal for just an ounce of warmth in his office he considered to be an excessive waste of resources. And any request for charitable contributions, no matter what the reason or how desperate the situation, he regarded with utter contempt and complete rejection. He needed to learn that if he did not change his ways, and willingly and joyfully share from the abundance of his heart and his accumulated wealth, he would die without having been of any real benefit to society, or really to anyone at all. Therefore, all of his hard work and penny-pinching for gain would have been for nothing. He didn’t benefit from it and neither did anyone else while he lived. Most who have read this book, or watched a rendition of it in some visual form, will likely relate this tightfisted individual to someone they know. Yet how many of us have been guilty of treating God this way in our hearts regarding our giving to Him?
We may not go to the extreme of Mr. Scrooge, yet, in our coldness we still tend to lean toward the idea that giving to God is an unfortunate necessity. Our contributions to Him are primarily given because we feel it is required of us. But we have other things we want to use our money for that we find to be more enjoyable and important. Then, as time goes by, we wonder why problems and calamities occur in our lives. It seems like the more we try to get ahead, the more we fall behind. Sometimes success comes our way, but as a whole, we just don’t seem to find the satisfaction we ought to have as a child of God. Our prayers are rarely answered, and talking to God is like communicating with a stone wall.
God told the Israelites shortly after they had crossed the Red Sea following their bondage in Egypt, “Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it…” (Exodus 35:5 emphasis added). When we give to God reluctantly, we clearly demonstrate to Him that our desire is really to please ourselves and not Him. This principle is further illustrated in the New Testament through the Apostle Paul, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7 emphasis added).
The word ‘cheerful’ here is better translated as ‘hilarious,’ although not in the modern sense of being very amusing. In its archaic form, it means being extremely lively or boisterous and merry. Let’s rephrase this verse for now in that context: “…for God loves an extremely lively or boisterous and merry giver.” While these verses express giving in a financial sense, the same idea applies to the contributing of ourselves to Him. He is looking for us to offer ourselves up to Him without grudging or complaining. God does not want what we offer to Him if it is accompanied with griping and hesitancy. If we are giving because we feel we have to, or we don’t want to part with all that we promised to give, then it is best that we do not make a pledge in the first place. With that motive, God is never going to be pleased to accept anything from us.
Paul warns us, “…He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). When we do work for the Lord or give to him, then afterwards grumble about it, we “soweth sparingly” and therefore “shall reap also sparingly.” God does not take kindly to complaining. Look at what happened to the Israelites: “…when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1). When we don’t cooperate with God’s plan and actions, we are basically saying that we know more than God, and that we refuse to have faith in Him.
So how do we change this attitude toward our giving to Him? By improving our relationship with Him. When we no longer spend time alone with God and begin to let the pleasures of this world increase in our life, then our closeness to Him fades away. The more we commune with Him, the more we will desire to do the things that please Him, and we will want to do these with joyful eagerness. Nobody will need to ask us to contribute ourselves or to give to the work of the Lord.
As a result, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Even as it was once with the Israelites: “…all the wise men, who are doing all the work of the sanctuary, come each from his work which they are doing, and speak unto Moses, saying, ‘The people are multiplying to bring in more than sufficient for the service of the work which Jehovah commanded to make” (Exodus 36:4,5). The people were so willing to give to God’s work that there was an overabundance. Moses eventually had to tell them to stop making their contributions!
When we plant with grumbling and reluctance, we will harvest the same. God desires greatly that we give back to Him generously and willingly, without any griping, reservation, or uneasiness. The only way that will occur is when our relationship with Him is strong and intimate. Our attitude toward the contribution of time, effort, money, etc. to Him and His work are proportional to our nearness with Him. Therefore, let us spend more time with the Lord so that we will give freely, cheerful and abundant.
[Additional image credits: Featured image (when applicable) by Arthur Rackham on Wikimedia Commons through Picryl (Public Domain Mark PDM); Opening image by L’Avaro PIccinni from British Museum and Wikimedia on Picryl]