2 Corinthians 9:7 – Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
This is one of the most quoted Bible verses during a worship service during the offering segment. God loves a cheerful giver. Usually when people hear this, they try to act more cheerful when giving to their church. I mean, who doesn’t want to be loved by God? But let’s not forget the preceding verse. It reads each one MUST give as he has decided in his heart. You MUST do this. You MUST give this way. You MUST give as you decided to give.
Apostle Paul goes into further detail when he says you must not give reluctantly. The Greek word used here for “reluctantly” comes from the Greek word “lype” which means:
- sorrow, pain, grief, annoyance, affliction
- of persons mourning
In other words, let’s say that when the church requested $50, you felt annoyed, angered, bothered, grieved, worried, anxious or any other negative emotion. You should not give with those feelings. If giving it would bother you, you shouldn’t give it. How many times have you been in a church service and they ask for a “small amount of $200” and your eyes roll or you elbow your friend beside you or you raise your eyebrows or drop your jaw in unbelief. That is NOT the attitude you should have behind giving cheerfully. If it doesn’t bother you and if you want to, by all means GIVE IT! But if you do not, DO NOT! This is not the gospel according to me, it is BIBLE. Paul used this Greek word for a reason.
And if we use the English dictionary definition of the word “reluctant” it would mean that you thought twice about giving what you’re giving because you did not want to give it for whatever reason. That means with your pen paused a centimeter above the check you were writing, you reconsidered giving that higher or lower amount of money. Let’s say you are asked to give $50, but as you pull out your checkbook you write the date, sign your name, put the name of the church, and put the intentions of the check on the “For ___” line. And then as you go over to the dollar amount side of the check to the right, you wonder if you really want to give the $50. You decide that you would rather give $20 because you won’t have enough money to put gas in your car after church. Or you decide that your account only has $50 dollars in it and you are yet waiting for an earlier $5 check to clear. Or you just decide you don’t trust what this particular church is going to do with the $50. If you are reluctant to give the $50, but have no problem giving $25, $35, or even $49.99, then you should give as the Bible says, as Apostle Paul says which is as you decide in your heart.
Or let’s say on your way to church, you decided that you would love to give $100 to the church. If you decided that in your heart, then give that. BUT if you feel reluctant, you shouldn’t give it. It doesn’t say God loves a reluctant yet generous giver, but rather that God loves a cheerful giver. And listen, this is not saying that you should give an amount reluctantly, but paste a fake smile on your face and pretend you are enjoying giving it. If you give $20 with joy in your heart, but the $50 with resentment and regret, then God will not honor that gift above the $20. Now the pastor or church might appreciate it for bills’ sake, but not God. And we are giving as God would have us to give which is cheerfully, as we decided in our heart, and not reluctantly.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He also says that we are not to give out of compulsion. The King James Version uses the word “of necessity”. Whichever version you prefer, the Greek word they all used is “anagke” which according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance means:
- necessity, imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty regarding to one’s advantage, custom, argument
- calamity, distress, straits
In other words, you must not give just because there is a necessity imposed because by the circumstances or because you have it to give or because it’s just custom. Let’s say a particular church needs $100 more after they raise the initial offering. And then they come back saying they need $100 more. Let’s say you are the richest one in the service and they all look to you to make up the lack. You don’t have to give just because they need it or because they have it IF YOU DON’T WANT TO. Now if you want to, by all means, go ahead. But don’t do it because there’s a need or because you have it especially if you do not purpose in your heart to do so and if you will regret it and if you will not give it cheerfully. That is not how God wants you to give. It’s not my opinion – IT’S BIBLE! Paul used this Greek word for a reason.
But I believe that just as important as these two verses is the verses above in verse one that give the CONTEXT for this instruction on giving. This passage in 2 Corinthians 9 is referring to Apostle Paul asking the church in Corinth to give donations or contributions to the Christians of a poorer church. Here are verses 1 and 2 which give us the background information for verse 7:
For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.
These verses are referring to how Paul wants the Corinthian Christians to minister to the Saints financially. He knew how great givers were in Corinthians, so he even bragged about them to the Saints in Macedonia how that the Saints in Achaia were ready to give a year ago. He even says that their zeal for giving provoked many more others to want to give like them.
See even here in the previous letter what Paul wrote to the same church at Corinth about giving to the poorer Saints:
I Corinthians 16: 1-3 – Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
Here we read that Apostle Paul had not only told the church at Corinth how to give, but he had also given orders to the churches in Galatia how to give. And the directions were as follows: On the first day of the week, he wanted them to have some donations ready according to how God had blessed them. He would come once a week to get the donations. This did not have to be money because God might have prospered them with animals or crops. He wanted them already laid up in storage so that he did not have to wait around for them to bring all the things to him when he got there; he wanted the things already gathered. And when he would come, he would have whoever they selected – whose names would be written within their letters – would be sent by Paul to bring their liberality to Jerusalem. So either it was the Saints in Jerusalem who needed the donations or perhaps Jerusalem was to be the “distribution center” for the donations. Either way, we know from verse 1 that the collection was for the Saints. It was not to be stored up for the pastor or the church to just have. It was to be immediately distributed to the Saints in need. Interestingly, it did not say it was for poor Jews or poor pagans, just for Saints.
Now let’s go forward into Paul’s second letter again, but let’s go to verses 3-5 of 2 Corinthians 9:
But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.
These verses seem to confirm that perhaps the church at Corinth had an issue with being READY with their collections. Verse 3 says “be ready”. Verse 4 says “not ready”.
David Guzik says in his commentary about verse 5:
“Paul was very concerned that giving be a matter of generosity and not a matter of grudging obligation. God Himself never gives out of an attitude of grudging obligation, and neither should we. To be generous, in the Biblical idea of the word, has more to do with our attitude in giving than with the amount that we give.”
That is why he kept telling them to have it ready because he felt that if what they had purposed was already set aside beforehand, he wouldn’t have to worry about the brethren begging for them to give a certain amount or for them to give more than they would have given had they not asked. Imagine this. Let’s say that an hour before church service begins, the pastor asks each member to pray about and to decide what they will give beforehand and write it on a check or on the envelope. Then when offering time comes, he does not ask for a particular amount; he simply passes an offering basket around wherein people put their previously filled-out offering envelopes. This beforehand preparation will not leave room for he pastor to beg for more or to tell them how much he needs. So he will not come across as greedy. All he has to do at this point is RECEIVE. He does not have to auction out blessings or employ scare tactics or give a 30-minute rant about the importance of giving to the church. So the people leave trusting their pastor is not money-hungry and the pastor is doing offering God’s way and encouraging his members to be cheerful givers whom God loves. (However, I understand that this can be anxiety-provoking for a pastor who has a high mortgage note and who knows how much he needs to raise each week in order to pay the bills.) There may be other bible verses that speak to giving to pay the church bills, but this is not one of them.
So pastors and church members, when we hear these two passages from 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 9, remember that they refer to giving to poor Christians. The principles still can apply to giving of any contexts, but we should not forget these passages in their original contexts. We should not manipulate others to give more than they purpose. If they want to give 2 pennies, don’t beg for more. If they give sparingly, they’ll reap sparingly, but that has nothing to do with you. That’s between them and their pocketbook and God. Yes, you may prefer more offerings because the mortgage or utility company needs it regardless of cheerful giving, but spiritual giving has nothing to do with a high mortgage that you chose or with the utilities. It has to do with giving to needy Christians. And if your offerings aren’t even been giving to the poor Christians, you need to consider giving more to the poor anyways.