Paul continues his discussion on the collection for the poor in Jerusalem and in the process lays down some important principles on giving. I have come to believe that seeking to enforce the Old Testament standard of giving 10% of one's income -- the tithe -- is not compatable with New Testament teaching. Paul lays down the principle of generosity rather than legalistic giving. In the life under grace we do not follow laws expecting to receive a return or somehow earn favor with God. In the life in Grace we are free to give generously and, I believe, the standard of 10% becomes a low water bench mark rather than a legal requirement (that is to say I cannot imagine giving less than 10%)..
Verse 7 is vital: "Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." I believe it is my responsibility as a pastoral leader to give people opportunities to give. It is their responsibility to respond or not respond -- no compulsion involved. Here is an opportunity to help flood victims (help if you can). Here is an opportunity to help Ugandan seminary students (help if you can). And when the Lord speaks to our hearts to give then we should give generously, freely and without feeling compelled to do so (we choose). The phrase "cheerful giver" is fun in the Greek. In Greek the word for "cheerful" is "hilaros" which is the same root as our word hilarious. God loves an hilarious giver? When was the last time you laughed, giggled and roared your way through an offering? There is no mistake that the word miserable has as its root the word miser -- when we cling and hoard it does not create joy in our lives it creates anxiousness, worry and fear; that is to say it makes us miserable. God loves an hilarious giver.
I believe when we choose to live life with open hands and we choose (notice the use of the word "choose") to live generous lives it changes us from the inside out. Instead of grasping and clinging and trying to hold and hoard we are giving, sharing and using the resources God has placed in our lives to help others -- and when we choose to do this we experience a deep and satisfying joy!