During stewardship season, churches like to remind members of St. Paul’s observation in 2 Cor. 9:7, that “God loves a cheerful giver.” Quoting Paul is meant to inspire members to give cheerfully, but instead it has the effect of making un-cheerful givers feel guilty, and thus wring more from their pocketbooks.
But Paul’s interesting phrasing reveals something important — that it’s not the gift that God loves, but rather the one who gives with cheerfulness. Many stewardship campaigns focus on getting the gift regardless of the attitude of the giver. In doing so, most of them aim at the wrong objective.
For it’s not the magical act of giving that makes people cheerful. People who give grudgingly tend to wind up more sour as a result. But people who are cheerful in their faith tend to give generously. In Galatians 5:26, St. Paul identifies joy (along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness) as gifts of the spirit.
There’s a tool that transforms grudging people into cheerful givers. It’s called the Gospel. Those whose lives have been transformed by the power of the Gospel not only give cheerfully, but they also exhibit all those counterintuitive behaviors we read about in the New Testament. Fishermen are able to leave their jobs to follow a penniless, wandering rabbi. Transformed by the Gospel, people can pray for their enemies — not by force of will through clenched teeth, but with really joyful spirits. They can turn the other cheek when harm strikes them. Rich men sell all they have and give it to the poor. The greatest among us is servant to all, and the first is last.
The Gospel enables Christians to do these things because it changes us and transforms our perspective to give us a Gospel worldview. The Gospel worldview is exemplified in Jesus’ life and ministry, and spoken of again and again in Jesus’ teaching. The Gospel worldview overturns all the world’s notions of what it means to live a successful life under God. Possessions really don’t matter, and neither do power, prestige, revenge and all the other motivations of the world.
So pastors, preach the Gospel that will set your members free. Preach with truth and clarity, and God’s Word will break their stony hearts and transform them into people with a Gospel worldview. Thus, let every sermon be a stewardship sermon. Gospeled people are cheerful people whom God loves. And they give.
(Published on May 19, 2008)
Copyright (c) 2008, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.
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