We are told very emphatically in the Scriptures what God loves and what He hates.

He hates idolatry (Deut 16:22). He hates those who love violence (Psa 11:5). He hates hypocrisy and untruthful worship (Isa 1:11-15; Amos 5:21). He hates it when we imagine evil in our hearts against our neighbour and utter false oaths (Zech 8:17). He hates treachery in marriage (Mal 2:15- 16). And in a startling passage He tells us precisely what is abhorrent to Him:

“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Prov 6:16-19).

On the opposite side of the coin God informs us what He loves.

He loved the patriarchs of Israel (Deut 4:37, 10:15). In Psalm 11:7 we are told that “the righteous Yahweh loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright” and in Psalm 146:8, God “loveth the righteous.” We also learn that those whom He loves He chastens (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6) and that He delights in a broken and contrite spirit (Psa 51:16-17). He also delights in those who deal truly (Prov 12:22) and who pray in uprightness (Prov 15:8).

And of course, there is the profound love He has for His only begotten Son (Matt 3:17; John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9, 17:24).

All of these thoughts are expressed in very definitive terms. They are clear and unambiguous, and it should be noted that the Lord Jesus Christ has the same disposition. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psa 45:7). He loved the earnestness of the young man who sought to find out the way to life (Mark 10:21). He loved his disciples ( John 13:1). But he was very emphatic about how he viewed false brethren who undermined the practice and purity of the Truth within the ecclesia. He wrote to the ecclesia at Ephesus, “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate” (Rev 2:6) and condemned Smryna, “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate” (Rev 2:15).

In considering all of this, there is one phrase that catches our attention and it is expressed in 2 Corinthians 9:7—“God loveth a cheerful giver”. In other words, He has an especially strong affection for brothers and sisters who give with a sense of joyful willingness. The Greek word is ‘hilaron’ and you can probably guess which English word we get from this.

Paul’s statement is remarkable in that it focuses our attention on how God views our contributions to His work. It is different from the Old Testament quotes we have examined earlier, where God expresses His love for righteousness and justice. Here is a love for those who willingly and cheerfully give up their resources and wealth to assist other brothers and sisters in need. The context explains what Paul meant by a cheerful giver.

In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul has been speaking to the Corinthians about following through on their commitment to assist the poor saints in Jerusalem. In his first epistle he had given them clear instructions about how to go about donating their resources (1 Cor 16:1-4), but it would appear that they had been rather tardy in progressing this. It was now time to encourage them to remember their brethren in a practical way.

He cites the example of the ecclesias in Macedonia—Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and the surrounding districts—“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Cor 8:1-4).

This is what Paul was talking about—the example of cheerful giving. Mercy had been shown to these ecclesias during intense affliction and the fires of that trial had revealed a rich refinement of precious ore—joy and generosity. They had a super-abundance of joy and cheerfulness, says Paul, and even though they were desperately poor they super-abounded in their open-hearted generosity. In affliction there was joy; in deep poverty there was single-minded kindness. They were willing and it was more than the apostle ever expected. What an incredible response! In the middle of great trial it is easy to wallow in self-pity and focus on one’s own woes; but not these ecclesias. They saw a need outside their own needs. They showed a disregard for their own monetary well-being and gave. What a wonderful trust they had in their heavenly Father’s ability to provide!

“And”, writes Paul,“they begged me to take their contribution”. This implies that Paul had been reluctant to take their gift knowing that they were so poverty-stricken, but they insisted! Indeed the brethren and sisters at Philippi were particularly noted for their spontaneous generosity (Phil 4:10,15-16,18). To them it wasn’t just donating money, it was “a fellowship of service”, a sharing of the work. If only we could have a willing and generous spirit like that.

The Old Testament abounds with examples and exhortations extolling a willing and generous spirit. In Exodus 35:5, God commanded Israel: “Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, and silver, and brass”. The response was overwhelming. Verse 21 states: “And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing”. Despite the nation’s faithlessness, they were commended for this willing spirit.

Proverbs 11:24 describes the paradox of giving in service to God: “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty”. The poverty alluded to here is spiritual poverty. Proverbs 19:17 states, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again”. That reward will be dispensed at the judgment seat.

Paul emphasised this to the elders at Ephesus: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Back in Corinthians, Paul continues his exhortation on giving by pointing out that God will respond to the cheerful giver. “God is able,” he writes in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”. God is not bound to respond to our generosity, but He can choose to do so based on undeserved mercy. Look at the repetition of the words “all” and “every” in Paul’s words. God has the power to provide “all sufficiency” in “all things” so that we can continue to abound in generosity. This undeserved goodness is styled “sufficiency” or, as the Greek word means, “contentment”. It is the same word used in 1 Timothy 6:6: “godliness with contentment is great gain”.

He will not allow us to descend into penury if we are a cheerful giver. Instead, He will ensure that we have enough to be content so that we can continue to abound in every good work.

The apostle also made the point that, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). Giving is likened to sowing seed. It isn’t wasted. It falls into the ground and soon a harvest springs up in its place. So, what is the harvest we reap? The subsequent verses explain Paul’s analogy. It is a harvest of praise and thanksgiving from those who are recipients of our generosity.

The ESV gives a more readable explanation of what Paul is driving at: “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also over overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission owing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you” (2 Cor 9:11-14).

In the end, our generosity results in glory and honour and thanksgiving to God. This is as it should be. The giver doesn’t receive personal glory for his gift. That gift meets the needs of others and at the same time evokes heartfelt thanks from the recipients themselves. The cheerful giver is simply the means by which a harvest of thanksgiving ascends to God.

No wonder God loves a cheerful giver and no wonder Paul could conclude his exhortation with these delightful words: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15 ESV ).