“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7)
Last summer I flew with my choir to Seattle, Washington.
One of the most memorable moments was on a farm miles away from the city (on an island, I believe), where our choir director took us to pick fresh strawberries that the farmer had for sale.
Normally, the farmer would have required his customers to, of course, pay for the strawberries, and we fully expected to do just that. But when we had finished picking the berries, the farmer and his daughter gladly gave the strawberries to us for free.
Not only that, but they also allowed us in their house to wash our red-stained fingers, they gave us a tour of the farm, and they let us hand feed their adorable sheep. After that, we got to sing for all those sheep; but, really, of course, to the farmer and his daughter out of appreciation for their immense generosity.
It was a simple thing, but every one of the girls in my choir felt their kindness, and I knew for a fact that this family believed and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
They gave not reluctantly, but cheerfully, and while they were rewarded with meeting a bunch of human beings—which they seemed to be so far away from—I am thankful that their truest reward awaits them in heaven.
Those strawberries were the sweetest, juiciest, most irresistible berries I’d ever tasted. Because they were real, not some hormone-showered ones at the store. They were real—just as the planter is real, just like the God who grew them is real.
In fact, the real seeds that the farmer placed into the ground are like the good seeds we place in our hearts when we choose to love Him and those around us. Good seeds sprout and grow into flourishing berries that nourish and delight our senses, just as our choice to simply love God and people matures us into kind, caring people, who draw into a more fulfilling and sweeter relationship with Christ.
But what’s the point of loving even when it’s hard? And how can we do it gladly? How do we do the hard thing of loving and giving all that we are to God without being reluctant about it?
I used to have a lot of trouble understanding what it meant to give joyfully, to love relentlessly, and to do the hard yet right things in life without a speck of guilt or reluctance. I still have trouble at times, but I’ve also learned a lot about how to give gladly.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (1 Cor. 5:14-15)
Are we really to keep on living for ourselves after believing in the One who died so we could live for Him?
Jesus said that those who love Him are the ones who keep his commandments (John 14:21). There are millions of hurting, starving, thirsty, longing people in the world. And there are billions of sinners—yes, all of us.
The Israelites waited 400 years for the Messiah to save his people from their sins, to put a new heart and a new spirit in them, so they could have the honor of serving God without shame and with a divine power from the Holy Spirit. We as Christians have that honor.
We are the ones the world must see as pure and noble and profoundly generous—not because of any greatness we possess, but because of Christ’s goodness overflowing through us out of the abiding relationship we have with Him.
Not only should they see us this way, but God calls us to let our light shine so brightly that the pagans can’t ignore it.
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)
Sure, we fail. But God’s love overcomes that. Our acknowledgement that Jesus’ sacrifice has the power to cover our sin sets us free from every polluted thing we used to hold onto so dearly.
Simply put: Our sin, replaced with God’s love. And, with that love abiding in us, we can do hard things with such fervor and excitement that it won’t matter how many strawberries we have, for in Christ we have everything we need.
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Cor. 9:10-11)