The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2Co 9:6-7)
God rewards the generous giver, but he loves the cheerful giver.
I was musing on this distinction during my holiday. Not that I think there is a conflict here, but there is a distinction: the cheerful giver will always be a generous giver, but a generous giver need not always be a cheerful giver.
Whilst there is an inviolable spiritual principle concerning sowing and reaping that applies to all men regardless of faith or motives, God is concerned with the heart. What matters to him is not the amount given, but the heart that was stirred to give.
It strikes to me that there are not one, but two wonderful cycles of blessing here.
On the one hand, as we sow we know that we will reap. We sow generously and we reap generously. God provides for us so that on every occasion we have enough and to spare, so that we can be generous in every occasion. We are blessed because we sow; we sow because we are blessed.
Parallel to this there is another, and to my mind, an even more wonderful principle. We give cheerfully because we have received the Father's love; we receive the Father's love as we give cheerfully.
Now, I have to be careful here, because I don't want to imply that somehow the love of God can be earned. That we receive God's love from works rather than through the grace that is ours in Jesus. But I do want to emphasise what the Scriptures say: God loves a cheerful giver.
God loves all that is good, that is, all that is aligned with his own nature. He is by nature the ultimate giver, and his giving is motivated by love. The most famous verse in the Bible begins, "God so loved the world that he gave..." And he continues to give, not because he has not already given us enough in Christ, but because it is an inseparable part of the essence of his nature to give.
If the love of the Father is in us we will be givers. Not reluctant givers who have to be coerced or hyped up from the pulpit to give. Not calculating givers, who are already looking for what they will get back in return. But cheerful givers. Those who give freely, without thought of return, generously and motivated by love.
Those who give this way have discovered the truth of the Lord's words: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." The generous giver will receive his blessing in due course, but the cheerful giver is already abundantly blessed by the extravagant love of our heavenly Father.
This post is not just theory. Here is a practical opportunity to give. The Disasters and Emergency Committee have recently launched a fresh appeal for the 4.5 million people dependant on aid in Darfur and Chad in the light of the imminent rains and the risk of a pandemic of diarrhoea and malaria this could cause. Darfur has been described as "one of the greatest concentrations of human suffering in the world at the present time." The oncoming rainy season is only going to make a bad situation worse.
Please consider if you wish to give to this appeal. Give a little, give a lot. Whatever you give - give cheerfully.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Pr 19:17)