A growing number of people in North America and Europe are hostile to religion these days. Surveys show larger percentages of the population identifying Christianity with words like “judgmental,” “smug,” “mean-spirited,” or “closed-minded.” Other religions, especially Islam, have an even worse reputation.
What about the idea of Christians as “cheerful” and “giving”?
Studies also suggest, after all, that people who go to church regularly tend to be happier than those who do not. And it is a well-established fact that people who practice their faith are far more generous than atheists and those who say they are “spiritual but not religious” (i.e., don’t belong to an organized religious body). Research shows that actively “religious” people give far more to charity annually, on average, than those who shun religious belief or affiliation. They also volunteer many more hours a week in their communities than nonbelievers and the religiously unaffiliated.
Happiness and generosity go together. They are also intimately connected with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christian faith is the good news that God created us, loves us, provides for us, redeems us, and welcomes us into a life that is abundant and eternal. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul links happiness and generosity with “the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.” We respond, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians. 9:14-15).
One of the Bible’s most famous verses is in this same chapter: “God loves a cheerful giver.” The “cheerful” part comes from the freedom of life in Christ. Liberated from the world’s standards, we are free to engage the world with love. When it comes to sharing our financial resources, Paul teaches: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7).
As we share the good news, I propose a toast: Cheers!