Authored by Mara Hodler
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 crockpot, makeup on, yada, yada, yada. My youngest was trying to get herself a glass of milk and not quite mastering it. I asked her older sister to help. 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.
I was tempted to lose my cool … again. Instead I decided to turn this into a learning moment. (Don’t you just love it when your mom sits down for one of those?) “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.
Sometimes we think that just putting in the time or getting the job done absolves us of any duty involved. So I used this example to explain the difference: What if I cooked your dinner; boiled some pasta, stuck the chicken in the oven with no sauce, and plopped a pile of raw carrots on your plate? Sure, it would be dinner, but would it feel like a good dinner? Would you feel like I was cooking for you because I love you or because I had to?
This brings to mind a story I once heard. Many years ago, in a little town in Scotland, there was a rich and grumpy 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. On Sunday morning he went to church, and when the offering plate was passed around he reached into his coin purse, fishing around for the smallest coin he could find. Grabbing what he was sure was the least he could give, he tossed the coin in the plate. But, as he watched the coin fall from his fingers, he was horrified to see that it was actually the largest. He reached his hand out to grab that coin back, but the usher put his hand over the plate. “Once in, forever in!” To that the rich man comforted himself out loud with the thought of “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!”
Back to my daughter. When she started to think through the concept of giving cheerfully, she understood that the attitude in which you give or serve almost counts for more than what you’re giving or where you’re serving. Giving someone a glass of water with a smile on your face and a friendly word can be worth more than begrudgingly making them a sandwich. Helping her sister cheerfully and graciously gets a totally different reaction than helping out of frustration or, worse yet, anger.
The Bible says that “God loves a cheerful giver.”1 I think the Lord values us helping each other with love and goodwill because that’s how He treats us. But why would we actually be happy to give something or to serve someone? Isn’t it kind of hard to give? You have to stop what you’re doing and get involved in someone else’s needs or problems, even if it’s just pouring them a cup of milk. What would make you do that cheerfully?
I think I know the spiritual principle behind the idea. 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 the physical representation of God’s love, the love that He cannot give in person. 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 sister either. But, she did it anyway, so why not do it cheerfully? Why not make the habit to respond cheerfully? That way you not only bless others but you also bless yourself. Win-win.
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 to have to stop what we’re doing to help someone else. In fact, we may even begin to enjoy caring for others. We might even like our cheerier, more generous self. I have to say that when I am a cheerful giver (and let me tell you that when you’re a mom, you are doing a lot of giving!), my whole world opens up in a different way. My kids respond better to me and to each other. My friends come around happier. My husband is more fun to be around. It’s just all better because of cheerfulness.
I wish I could tell you that after our conversation that morning my daughter has only displayed a generous, cheerful attitude. I wish I could tell you that I have always shown her an example of being a generous, cheerful giver. As it turns out, after that morning we are still the same as we always were. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. But we’re learning.
As a take-away from this: a cheerful response can make all the difference in the world.—A difference to you and a difference to someone else.
1 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
2 Matthew 25:40 NIV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2016 by The Family International