By Doug Inglish…It’s a phrase we have all heard, and most of us have used it from time to time. When you pull into a service station just as they lower the price of gas, or your teenager remembers to mow the lawn without being asked, or some other pleasant surprise comes along, you let a smile brighten your face and exclaim, “I love it when that happens!”
Of course, something can ruin that happy feeling. Suppose your beloved teenager storms in from the garage, and on his way to the shower, he declares, “There, I mowed your stupid lawn. Happy?”
Well, the lawn is still mowed, so that’s good, but I would guess that you would not be happy. Your relationship with your child is far more important than the lawn, which you could do yourself. After all, you took care of it before he came along and you will be mowing it long after he leaves. Besides, the main reason you want him to do it is to teach responsibility, and his foul mood indicates that the lesson is not quite taking hold as you wished.
But, at least the lawn is done.
This specific scenario may never have happened to you. It didn’t’ happen to me. I taught my son to mow, and while he didn’t particularly enjoy it, things never got ugly. But something similar, in which somebody did something nice for you, but ruined it by having a bad attitude, has happened to everyone.
It happens to God, too.
I think that’s the key to understanding the phrase, “God loves a cheerful giver.” It comes from 2 Corinthians 9:7, but none of you need look it up because we’ve heard it over and over. Unfortunately, you may have heard it in the context of getting hit over the head with it in an over-the-top guilt trip of a stewardship sermon. It is possible that a few unfortunate ones among us may have even heard it from me, because I have to admit that early in my ministry, I was not above trying to guilt my members into giving.
But time, experience, and raising teenagers has taught me that while guilt works, it also damages relationships. And it turns out that relationships are not only more important than mowed lawns, they are more important than church budgets. And no relationship is more important than the one you have with God.
That’s why He makes a point of saying that He loves a cheerful giver. Of course, He loves you even if you fire off an electronic payment to the Conference with the phrase, “Here’s your stupid tithe. Happy?” But it doesn’t make Him sit back and say, “I love it when that happens!”
Whether your attitude is good or bad when you tithe your income, the tithe still comes into the storehouse. And whether you give anything or nothing, God still loves you. The only thing that suffers if you have a bad attitude about giving is your relationship to the One who cheerfully gave His life.
So, how much is that relationship worth to you? Hopefully, enough to be cheerful. Because He loves it when that happens.
–Doug Inglish is RMC director for planned giving and trust services