It was a typical morning in our home. We were all rushing to get ready for the day—kids getting ready for school, breakfast to be made, spaces to be tidied, and me trying to get dinner in the crock pot, makeup on, and so on. My youngest was trying to get herself a glass of milk and not quite mastering it, so I asked her older sister to help her. For some reason helping did not come easy for her that morning. She rolled her eyes, grabbed the cup, hastily poured the milk, and harshly put it down. This set off a grouchy reaction from the younger sister, which progressed into an argument between the two of them. Not cool.
And so I was tempted to lose my cool … again. Instead, I decided to turn this into a learning moment. “Honey,” I said. “Do you know that there’s a difference between giving and giving cheerfully? Or serving and serving cheerfully?” It turned out the idea was kind of novel to her.
This brings to mind a story I once heard about a wealthy—but stingy—man. He didn’t like to hear about any of the monetary needs in the village, and whenever he gave, it was entirely out of duty. One Sunday morning he went to church, and when the offering plate was passed around, he reached into his coin purse, fished around for the smallest coin he could feel, and then tossed the coin in the plate. But, as he watched it fall from his fingers, he was horrified to see that it was actually a gold coin.
He reached his hand to grab that coin back, but the usher put his hand over the plate and said, “Once in, forever in!”
The rich man comforted himself out loud: “At least I’ll get credit for it in heaven.”
“Oh no, you won’t,” the quick-witted usher replied. “You’ll only get credit for what you intended to give!”
The Bible says that “God loves a cheerful giver.”1 I think He values us helping one another with love and goodwill, because that’s how He treats us. But why would we actually be happy to give something or serve someone? Isn’t it kind of hard to give, even just to pour a cup of milk? What would make you do that cheerfully?
Jesus explained it when He said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”2 In serving others, we are being channels for the love that God cannot give in person, and it’s as if we’re doing such good deeds to Jesus Himself. It’s not always easy to remember that when I’m going through my day. Sometimes I don’t even want to remember it!
I don’t like to be interrupted when I’m busy. I guess my daughter didn’t like to be interrupted to pour milk for her little sister either. But she did it anyway, so why not do it cheerfully? That way, you not only bless others, but you also bless yourself.
As you and I practice responding cheerfully to the needs of others, we might begin to notice a change in ourselves. It might not bother us as much when we have to stop what we’re doing to help someone else. We might even like this cheerier, more generous version of ourselves. I have to say that when I’m a cheerful giver, my whole world opens up. My kids respond better to me and to each other. My friends are happier to visit us. My husband is more fun to be around. It’s all better because of cheerfulness.
Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.—Gandalf, in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros., 2012)
1. 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
2. Matthew 25:40 NIV