“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET YOU TO DO THE RIGHT THING? Do you coast along neglectfully disregarding certain priorities until a crisis makes action imperative? Does life have to hold a gun to your head before you get busy and do what’s right?

Most of us would have to say that we’re guilty of habitual neglect when it comes to putting first things first. We don’t act until the threat of some unpleasantness forces us to act. But if so, doesn’t that mean we’ve become, at least in one sense, grudging givers? If it’s only under constraint or necessity that we finally step up to our responsibilities, is that the kind of free and cheerful giving that our great and loving God deserves?

The people of Israel in the Old Testament certainly illustrate the fact that human beings have a tendency to forget God when things are going well. Over and over again the cycle repeated itself: (1) Enjoying the Lord’s blessings, they would lapse into ingratitude and unfaithfulness. (2) God would threaten punishment, or actually bring it to pass, and Israel would repent. (3) God’s blessings would return, and it would only be a matter of time before another period of ingratitude and unfaithfulness began.

Take an honest look at the pattern of your own life. Do you consistently give of yourself to God cheerfully — that is, without having to be made to? During times of ease and comfort, do you continue to pour yourself out to God in prayerful reverence and loving thankfulness? Do you delight in the worship of God, or do you only do it to avoid the consequences of not doing it?

Fortunately, God loves us and is patient with us. For the time being, He will continue to goad us, if necessary. But He’s looking for us to grow beyond the need for goads and threats and negative incentives. He desires the free, cheerful love of a grateful people.

“There are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving. Grudge giving says, ‘I hate to,’ duty giving says, ‘I ought to,’ thanksgiving says, ‘I want to.’ The first comes from constraint, the second from a sense of obligation, the third from a full heart. Nothing much is conveyed in grudge giving since ‘the gift without the giver is bare.’ Something more happens in duty giving, but there is no song in it. Thanksgiving is an open gate into the love of God” (Robert N. Rodenmayer).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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