Choose Joy

2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

A few weeks ago, I came to a realization: I’ve spent way too much time recently feeling sorry for myself. While there are most definitely difficult seasons in life (Ecclesiastes 3:4), I realized that it was time for me choose to be content. In short, I realized the necessity of choosing joy.

I think it’s important to distinguish here between “happiness” and “joy.” I believe happiness is a fickle state of being contingent upon life circumstances. Christian joy, as defined by pastor and theologian John Piper, is “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.” Christians aren’t called to be perpetually happy, but I believe finding joy to be a continual process in the Christian life.

I believe this joy is a choice. Choosing joy looks like finding things to be grateful for when my alarm goes off for my morning class. Choosing joy looks like acknowledging the supremacy of God in less-than-ideal circumstances. Choosing joy looks like cheerfully giving—my time, my heart, and my money.

If you’re like me, giving financially is the most difficult. “I’m a broke college student,” I tell myself. “When I have a job, when I have money of my own, then I’ll give God some of it.”

Yet, giving financially is a lifestyle, a measure of where the heart’s at. And it starts now.

I’ve gotten to the place where I understand the importance of giving, and do it now. Still though, I struggle with a legalistic view of the action. This view of giving says that God loves me more because I give money to the church. It emphasizes giving as a chore I must complete, not as the act of worship that it is. It places my salvation on me, instead of on God where it belongs.

Simply stated: legalism is guilt from obligation when I don’t give, instead of joy from freedom when I do.

In an effort to avoid legalism, I sometimes find myself not wanting to financially give at all. In thinking this, I realize that I am completely missing the point:

We are called to give not because we have to earn God’s love, but because cheerfully giving is a result of understanding that we are loved by God (2 Corinthians 9:7).

If you, like me, have been giving out of obligation or guilt, I encourage you to talk to God about it. Tell Him that your heart isn’t in the right place, and ask Him to show you how to choose joy—in your life and in your giving. Cover your gifts in prayer. Most importantly, thank Him for the gift of giving.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Paul ends his description of the cheerful giver with this: “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (v. 15). This sentence serves as a perfect reminder that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

In short, we give because God has gifted us so much more than we could ever hope to give to anyone else. Just look at Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And that’s something to be joyful about.

— Leah Singleton

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