Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Generating Thanks

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

                        2 Corinthians 9.12

It’s Beyond Me!

God showers us with gifts so we can give to others, serving as channels for His goodness and love. His blessings cascade, flowing through us to those around us. When selfishness and insecurity convince us to cling to what we’ve received, we create bottlenecks. Our lives become less dynamic; our spirits sink into stagnation. More over, we impede the flow of His loving-kindness. It’s imperative we acknowledge God’s investment, involvement, and intervention in our circumstances. And it’s vital to our wellbeing that we always return to say “thank you.” Yet we can’t assume anything we’ve been given was meant for us alone. When we consider the richness He pours into us, our proper response is, “It’s beyond me!” Not only is His unfailing generosity more than we could ask or imagine, it’s more than we can contain. It goes beyond us, meeting others’ needs and generating thanks from them. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD,” Psalm 92.1 (KJV) says. Hoarding our blessings instead of passing them on deprives other people’s chances to experience the goodness of God and the goodness of gratitude.

A Cheerful Giver

This concept arises in a bit of housekeeping Paul undertakes in 2 Corinthians 9. He writes ahead that he’s arriving with several Macedonians, whom he’s regaled about the Corinthians’ generosity. Yet he’s also wary of things going awry when he shows up. So he informs them he’s sending an advance team to ensure their gift is ready and befits their reputation. In verse 7, he stresses they should give what they’re willing and able, “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” But if they give gladly, he says in verse 11, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Put another way, he tells them, “Happily pass your blessings to me and I’ll happily pass them along to others, who will benefit and be grateful by receiving them.” If you do this, he says, God will increase your abundance, enabling you to give all the more.

Paul’s transparency leaves no doubt he’s teaching, rather than issuing an ordinance that demands compliance. He’s capitalizing on the moment to offer useful information. To be sure, he’s basing his advice on Jesus’s sowing-reaping principle. But his objective is explaining the principle and what it produces in practice so the Corinthians will give gladly. Our takeaway from his lesson is straightforward. It’s as much about the giving as the gift. Should we pass our blessings along reluctantly or obligingly, their value to us erodes. If we give cheerfully, however, we please God and He returns our favor by entrusting us with more to give.

Repay It Forward

“How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?” asks Psalm 116.12. Paul’s lesson answers the question beautifully. God grants us His goodness so we can repay it forward. We receive His blessings, take what we need from them, express our gratitude, and then keep our hearts, eyes, and ears open to find another who needs what we’ve been given. There are always—and always will be—more blessings for us to enjoy. Lamentations 3.22-23 tells us God’s mercies are new every morning. The more pleased we are to share all that we have with others—not just out of our pockets and off our shelves, but out of our hearts—the more He’s pleased. The more we pass along, the more He provides us to pass long. The more blessings we give, the more thanks He receives. Today and tomorrow, as we contemplate all we’ve been given, it’s not a bad idea to scan our list of blessings for those we cheerfully can pass along. What has God given us that someone else can be thankful for?

God's blessings cascade from us to others, meeting their needs and generating thanks.

(Tomorrow: Thank God for You)


Anonymous said...

God loves a Cheerful Giver! You may want to visit for more ideas on giving cheerfully.

Tim said...

Anon, welcome--and thanks for the tip.

What a great idea, providing food pantries and shelters with birthday gift bags for kids! My parents ministered to inner city Chicago neighborhoods. I know from first-hand experience that everyone swarms in on the holidays and then the rest of the year these families struggle to keep food on the table. Birthdays are often meager celebrations for their kids. As I looked at the site, I thought, why hasn't somebody thought of this sooner.

Thanks again, and have a blessed holiday.