“Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
The original Greek word for cheerful is hilarios, which is translated into the English word hilarious. I don’t know about your parish, but at our parish nobody looks particularly cheerful when the collection basket is passed down the pew. They almost look they are sitting in the dentist chair waiting for a root canal, rather than a parish family worshipping the living God.
Then there are those people who seem surprised by the basket coming toward them. You see husband and wife frantically scrambling for money or the checkbook and looking at each other as if to say “When did they start doing a collection at Mass?”
We can learn two important facts about giving from 2 Corinthians 9:7.
First of all, it is important to determine in advance how much we plan to give. “Each must do as already determined …” The amount we give is part of our spending plan and it comes off the top – from our gross salary before any other expenses.
In the Old Testament, there are several references to the tithe, which was the amount given to the Temple. The tithe was paid from the first fruits – before the grain, harvest or young animals were used for any other purpose. We should also give our offering from our first fruits – before all those other expenses that will consume our entire income.
The second lesson from 2 Corinthians 9:7 is to give with a heart of joy “… without compulsion or sadness, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We should never feel forced to give, rather our giving needs to be from a heart filled with joy, as a way to thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us.
We’ve often heard people say they do not want to give money to the church because they do not agree with how the church is spending it. They don’t realize that Offertory at Mass is always an act of worship. Our gift is given to the Lord himself. It’s a way to express love and gratitude to our Creator, not a way to pay the priest.
“How much do I have to give?” is another question we are asked often. The answer is that you don’t have to give anything. As a good steward, you should be asking the question, “How much do I want to give?” The blessing that we have as good stewards is that we are free to give as much as we want. The whole question of giving shouldn’t revolve around the “minimum” gift, but on the “maximum” gift. Our gifts should come from our heart and should be an indication of our faith. (Cf. USCCB, “Stewardship – A Disciple’s Response; A Pastoral Letter on Stewardship,” p 67.)
If you are not giving, or if you do not give regularly or if you give grudgingly, try meditating on this verse from Malachi 3:10: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure!”
Try giving a generous amount with an open heart. You can’t out give God – just try!