God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Reading that verse, our eyes naturally fall on the word “cheerful.” Paul, writing to the Corinthians, teaches that God delights in those who give gladly; he isn’t pleased if we do so grudgingly. Christian offerings aren’t meant to be a tax levied on citizens of the kingdom. They’re meant to be the overflow of gratitude for God’s grace to us in his Son, who became poor that we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
But what if we shifted our focus to talk about how cheerful generosity results in God’s love for the giver? That sounds wrong. After all, the Bible—in this very text—seems to teach the opposite. We give because of God’s initiating love. We sacrifice with generosity in happy response to the sacrifice of our Savior. This is the heart of gospel-centered living and giving.
Yet Paul supplies us with more than just one reason to give. He urges the Corinthians, and us, toward glad-hearted generosity by employing multiple motivations. Therefore, we do ourselves a disservice by not considering, with Paul’s help, our many reasons to give.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul spends two chapters persuading the churches of Achaia to participate in his offering for suffering saints in Jerusalem. He does so, at least in part, because the Corinthians were having second thoughts about their giving. The Corinthian congregation had been infiltrated by those undermining Paul’s ministry, criticizing him for vacillating on his prior plans to visit. Some challenged him on his references and qualifications. They even questioned his refusal to receive support in the past and now wondered whether he might be skimming off the top of his so-called collection.
In other words, Paul had reason for concern. He was anything but certain the Corinthians would follow through on their previous pledge. So he set out to sway them, using a full arsenal of motivators.
Christian offerings aren’t meant to be a tax levied on citizens of the kingdom. They’re meant to be the overflow of gratitude for God’s grace to us in his Son, in Christ who became poor that we might become rich.
First, Paul encourages them with the sacrificial giving of the churches in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1–5). Though stretched by severe poverty, they had given abundantly with joy. Clearly, Paul wants the Corinthians to follow their example and thereby prove—to themselves and those around them—the sincerity of…