The first reading for today poses an ever important question asking what kind of giver we are. St. Paul writes: “Brothers and sisters: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” God loves a cheerful giver? But then God loves a grumpy giver under the rubric that God loves us all. But parents love all their children equally but on any given day probably like some more than others. As children we all have the experience that we are so sure our parents love one of our siblings more than they love us. It is probably one of those days that, as children, we are not at the topic of the “like list,” even as we are unaware we are ever at the top of their love list. It is those days that are probably more revealing about ourselves on that day when we are (a) forgetful about all that our parents have done/are doing for us and are (b) operating in the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” mode. Kids are that way. People are that way.
And as it often pointed out, the thoughts we harbor become the actions we take, the habits we develop, leading to the people we become. But now that you are all grown up, are you a cheerful giver? Were you a cheerful giver along the way to this point in life?
Cain, the Son of Adam and Eve, was not a cheerful giver. “Abel became a herder of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the ground, while Abel, for his part, brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and dejected. Then the LORD said to Cain: Why are you angry? Why are you dejected?” (Genesis 4:2-6) We all know how this story ends.
What about the Book of the Prophet Malachi? I suspect it is not one of the Old Testament books with which you are most familiar. It is an overarching story of a nation of not-cheerful givers who are (a) forgetful about all that God has done/is doing for them and are (b) operating in the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” mode.
The Book is situated about 100 years after the people of Israel have returned to Jerusalem from the Bablylonian Exile. The actions of the generations before led them to exile, but it was the Lord who returned them to Zion and turned the King of Persia into a very cheerful giver who helped them rebuild the Temple. But that is in the past. The generation of Malachi’s time has forgotten the whole salvific history of the good things God has done for the people. When they question why they have to tithed to support the Temple, and wonder “what’s in it for me?” God responds: “Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure!” (Mal 3:10)
God is willing to do that and those people are definitely not cheerful givers.
But that is their problem. What about you? Are you a cheerful giver?
If you are interested in the Book of Malachi, take 8 minutes and watch this video from the good people at The Bible Project. As always, consider cheerfully giving to support their not-for-profit ministry and their great evangelical work.
…and if you are not a cheerful giver, are you just living proof that money can’t buy happiness? Maybe, but take 10 minutes to consider the work of Dr. Michael Norton: How to Buy Happiness.