I Guess I’ll Do It, If I Have To
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
While applying to medical school, I was told that a reference from a specific college professor would look good for me. I didn’t feel great about asking him. Honestly, I remember not taking his class very seriously. I got a decent grade, but I was immature and screwed around a lot during labs. I went to him though, asking for that reference. I should have known better. He felt obligated but he didn’t really want to do it. I guess I’ll do it. I never saw the letter, but someone who did later told me it wasn’t good and that it certainly didn’t improve my chances of getting into medical school. I don’t hold it against the professor. He was probably truthful about his experience with me. His obligation though, did neither of us any good.
Paul spoke of obligation in today’s passage. In his instruction of giving, he said that we’re not to give begrudgingly, out of obligation. Rather, we’re supposed to give out of joy, recognizing that we get to give back to God something of what he’s given to us. In giving, we have the opportunity to participate in his kingdom work. Doing something out of obligation is legalism, which means we do what we believe to be right, but we do it from the wrong motives. Paul taught that when we do something from the wrong motives, that thing becomes wrong itself.
When I read this, I’m tempted to think that the passage lets me off the hook for giving. Paul said that I shouldn’t give if I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like it, so I guess I don’t have to give. Indulging in selfishness is hardly the answer to my problem of obligation though. One sin doesn’t fix another. My begrudging outlook doesn’t excuse my greed.
The answer rather, is to adjust my attitude. When I know that I should give of my time, love, and money, but I don’t feel like it, I need a change of heart. I likely need to spend some time thinking about what God has given me. In embracing gratitude instead of selfishness, I can begin to give out of joy instead of obligation.
As God has given so much to me, I can and must help my neighbor, volunteer at the jail, and give to my church. If I give out of obligation, it leads to bitterness and resentment. If I give out of gratitude, it leads to joy and peace.