The Importance of Vision
For the follower of Jesus generosity is not a burden that is laid on an unwilling follower. The attitude can never be, ‘I am a Christian now and while it is a pain I find I must be generous’. Generosity is not something to be adopted through gritted teeth. Generosity is a virtue to be pursued joyously.
It would be better to tell people ‘don’t give’ if they can’t contribute with open hearts. The bible is quite consistent in teaching that giving must never be grudging, never be like squeezing the last drop out of an unwilling lemon.
In preparing the people for life in the Promised Land, Moses commanded ungrudging generosity and open heartedness in caring for the needy.
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. Deut 15:10
The apostle Paul takes up the same idea as he urges the Corinthians to complete preparations to give generously for the collection to the Jerusalem church.
So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. 2 Cor 9:5
Effectively, the apostle is saying, ‘Please don’t make me hassle you for this. I certainly don’t want to be badgering you because I want you to give with a happy heart.’
Two verses later he writes:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Cor 9:6
The word ‘cheerful’ is the Greek word hilaros, from which comes our English word ‘hilarious’. This derivation should not be pressed too far as there is not a one to one correlation in the meaning of hilaros and hilarious[i]. However I have always had fun imagining a collection being taken up in church and a chorus of voices crying out, ‘Pass the plate around again, we are having such a good time’. That would be an exhilarating[ii] experience. Perhaps I am dreaming but if believers absorbed the attitude of the bible, maybe it is not such a far-fetched idea.
All this merely reinforces the idea that Christians should never be embarrassed to encourage generosity. In fact just as Paul desires our love, faith, speech and knowledge to grow and increase, he also wants us to excel in generosity.
But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us, see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2 Cor 8:7
It is not as if faith and love are the supremely important character virtues and we can limp along with a little bit of generosity. Excelling means we need to strive to be as generous as we can possibly be. This again underlines the fact that preachers should not be reluctant to speak on generosity .Not only should the topic be addressed, it should also be urged as a virtue to be pursued.
For further ideas about Generosity see my book : Giving Generously, Resourcing Local Church Ministry https://givinggenerously.com/
Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Wm.B.Eerdmans1997), p438, n14 notes that exhilarating is derived from hilaros.