Should You Give Only When You Have a Cheerful Heart?

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While reading the book Prayer by Richard Foster, I realized that my approach to giving is much like his approach to prayer.

Regarding prayer Foster writes:

The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives – altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter.

He then goes on to encourage readers to pray where they are (emotionally and spiritually).  Start the discipline somewhere.  He calls this first type of prayer Simple Prayer.  It is an elementary form of prayer that may be inward focused. 

There is a temptation, especially by the “sophisticated”, to despise this most elementary way of praying.  They seek to skip over Simple Prayer in the hopes of advancing to more “mature” expressions of prayer.  … The only way we move beyond “self-centered prayer” (if indeed we ever do) is by going through it, not by making a detour around it.

In a similar way, we have something I’ll call Simple Giving.  It is giving in its elementary stages.  It is the initial battle against the selfish self that says, “get, keep, and take.”  Those deep-seeded desires and emotions do not just superficially flee away.  They must be slaughtered.  At first, I think giving may require determination, obligation, and even the gritting of teeth.

While we never hope giving will remain such, I think it is OK for you start where you are.

  • Perhaps you give because someone said that you should give. 
  • Perhaps you give because you feel guilty when you don’t.
  • Perhaps you give because a spouse is forcing you.
  • Perhaps you give because of fear.

Then the advice I have for you is simple.  Give.  Start where you are, and let God form you through the act of giving.

There are those who write about the topic of Christian giving and say you must give only if you have a joyful heart.  The question becomes – what if my heart is not joyful?  Will I be more likely to experience that joy in giving by doing it against my stubborn heart or by submitting to my stubborn heart and refusing to give?

I believe we develop a cheerful heart by giving – not by abstaining from giving.

Just last night (as I wrote this article) I got a call from someone asking me to pick he and his daughter up from the hospital.  I honestly didn’t want to go.  My wife was just finishing up a very long day, and we were just starting to bathe our three kids.  I wanted to stay and serve my family.  But, I went against my will.  I went with a stubborn heart. 

Still, something amazing happened.  I was touched by the love the father showed his daughter.  I was humbled by the opportunity to help them get something to eat.  My desire to give grew ten times that day.

I don’t want you to finish your life still giving against your will or begrudgingly.  But I do think God is honored when we give even if we don’t want to.  It shows you are willing to put your obedience to God above your feelings. 

Don’t make your feelings your god.

Unfortunately, I see a growing trend where Christians are subject to their wishes, wills, and whims.  If you don’t like it or you don’t want to do it, that must be God leading you away from something.

While God influences our emotions, our emotions are not solely the compass God wants us to use in order to determine his will.

There is nothing wrong with doing something out of obligation.  There is nothing wrong with doing something you don’t feel like doing when you know it is the right thing to do.

Jesus did that when he went to the cross.  We say he went with love in his heart, but he also went with an equal measure of obligation.  He went to Jerusalem because “it is necessary”.  He prayed in the garden to be released of his duty unless there was no other way.

True love is a willingness to do what is right for others even when your emotions don’t back you up.

Jesus was mastered by his Father, not his emotions.  He did what was right regardless of how he felt about it. 

My conclusion

I like the following quote by William Paulsell:

Athletes, musicians, writers, scientists, and others progress in their fields because they are well-disciplined people. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to think that in matters of faith we should pray, meditate, and engage in other spiritual disciplines only when we feel like it.

I think we can give even when we don’t feel like it.  We can acknowledge when we are grumpy givers, and then give anyway.  When we do that, we make room for God to show his faithfulness to us and to touch our hearts with a deep reward from sharing in the grace of giving. 

Does the fact that God loves a cheerful giver then inversely mean that God hates those who don’t give cheerfully?  Do you think God also loves a person and the action done by one who gives with a calloused heart?

Comments

  1. Brad Harmon says

    My pastor used to say before each offering that the Lord loves a cheerful giver, but He’ll also take money from a grump. In any relationship there are going to be times when we don’t feel like doing what we know needs to be done. In marriage, for example, there are days that I don’t feel especially enamored towards my wife (many more for her I’m sure) but I still tell her that I love her because despite how I feel at that moment I know I still do. I think this same concept applies in our relationship with God. Great post.

    • says

      Brad,
      I love the parallel with marriage. We do what is right sometimes despite how we feel. Love is deeper than feelings. The same is true of our relationship with God.

  2. says

    I think as you mentioned that the act of giving itself can make us more cheerful people. So if you’re abstaining from giving because you don’t feel that great about it, you’re only hurting yourself -and your own happiness!

  3. Mercy says

    Thanks for the encouragment of giving with a cheerful heart, & putting our obedience towards God ABOVE our own feelings!

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