I love the movie Chariots of Fire. Now over twenty-five years old, the movie remains a compelling testimony of God blessing the faithful use of our gifts and talents. The film chronicles the life of Eric Liddell, a Scottish missionary who was an Olympic-caliber sprinter. At one point in the movie Eric discusses his love of running with his sister Jennie. She is concerned that running is interfering with his call to the mission field. Juxtaposing his own sense of purpose to serve with his love of running, he says to Jennie: “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” When we use the gifts God gives us for the purpose He intends, we do indeed feel His pleasure. Eric Liddell was made to run. We have been made — made new in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) — to give. When we use our money as God intends, giving a generous portion to His kingdom work regularly, we will feel God’s pleasure because we are doing what we are made to do. When we feel pleasure in giving, we will be cheerful givers. Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. The beauty of the gospel is that God supplies the grace to achieve in us the very thing that He loves. God provides grace to us that we might give cheerfully, feeling His pleasure.
God’s grace abounds to us in every good work of giving (2 Cor. 9:8). Our Father’s ultimate goal for us is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Jesus is the supreme example of a cheerful giver. So when Paul urges the Corinthian church to support their impoverished brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, he turns to Jesus’ example: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
God loves a cheerful giver because those who feel pleasure in giving display the glorious grace of His Son. His grace abounds to us in giving because in the act of giving we are being moved toward the image of Christ. Every time we give to a kingdom work, we can know a joy and peace in entrusting ourselves to the grace of our Father and being moved by grace toward the image of His Son. We shall not trade this joy for all the riches in the world.
God’s grace alleviates our fear of loss of value and dignity. Our flesh and our culture demand that we find our value and dignity in our material wealth. But we are freed from this bondage and are now being conformed to the image of Christ. Once again, Jesus is our example. In His incarnation Jesus was “born in a low condition.” In His life on earth He underwent “the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross” (WSC 27). Jesus voluntarily assumed a lower status. So, in following Him we do the same. We give that which we possess even when it requires that we assume a lower station in the eyes of the world (Phil. 2:6). We trade bigger cars, homes, and bank accounts for the work of God’s kingdom. The riches we possess we give away as needed for the kingdom because Christ’s goals have become our own — His gracious giving has become the pattern for our lives, and His everlasting inheritance has become our reward (1 Peter 1:4).
God’s grace blesses our giving with righteousness. Christ calls us to see our giving in terms of “sowing” and “reaping” (2 Cor. 9:6). We are to view our money as “seed” entrusted to us from God. He intends a portion of this seed to be sown in the service of His kingdom to generate gracious spiritual fruit — a “harvest of your righteousness” (v. 10). We sow money at the grocery store to reap an immediate harvest of food. We sow money to provide for our children’s needs. We sow money in investment accounts to reap (so we thought) future gains. Paul says that we are to sow money for the kingdom of God as well. And, just as in every other type of sowing, we will reap according to what we sow (v. 6). In contrast to so many of our other financial investments, our investments in God’s kingdom always bear fruit. God grants a harvest of righteousness when we give. He conforms us to Christ, the ultimate giver. Our giving results in praise to God for those who receive the gift, either directly or through the ministry of another. This harvest of righteousness is part of an enduring righteousness (v. 9), which lasts forever. We have a cheerful satisfaction in knowing that our investment in God’s kingdom will bear fruit according to His promise.
God’s grace is able to meet our future needs. We fear that if we give to the kingdom of God we will jeopardize our future (or our children’s future). We need not fear because God is sovereign. Paul reminds us that God is the one who supplies bread for food. He knows our need for daily sustenance. He will provide for us to have enough for our own needs and still have something to share with others (vv. 9–10). We need not fear the future. God’s grace abounds to provide for us.
We are made in Christ to give. As Calvin says, “For as we are not born for ourselves merely, so a Christian man ought neither to live to himself, nor lay out what he has, merely for his own use.” Start giving regularly and bountifully to the kingdom of God. When you give you will feel His pleasure, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (v. 7).