Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Grateful Heart (part 5)

I was invited to write one week of devotionals for the 2011 edition of the "Upper Room Disciplines." The devotionals are based on the lectionary scriptures for a week in October. Here is the fifth one.

Friday – Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

I can’t remember exactly when my blessing changed.

I have had a wonderful twenty-one years with my wife and children. We share table blessings as part of our daily time to eat together. I don’t always lead them. But I have fallen into a certain pattern when I do. It’s not a rhyme, but it flows from a simple, predictable outline.

A few years ago, however, I suddenly changed my typical prayer. Not only did I thank God for the food, our time together, and our many blessings, I began to pray that God would help us to be truly grateful people.

One of the most often quoted scriptures is “for God loves a cheerful giver.” (vs. 7) It has taken me years to understand that this is not some banal reminder to smile and be happy when you write a check. The translation of the Greek hilaros as “cheerful” doesn’t quite do it justice. One can guess, and quite accurately, that this is the root of the word “hilarious.” Paul is talking about more than rosy cheeks. Becoming people of gratitude is about cultivating a joy as deep as your last belly laugh.

The context of Paul’s phrase is that he is making arrangements to receive a generous gift from the church in Corinth for other Christians in need. He reminds them not to give out of some sense of obligation but to give what is on their hearts.

Paul promises that the one who “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” will provide not only the gifts but a new spirit within, which he calls the “harvest of your righteousness.” (vs. 10) Then he says “the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.” (vs. 12)

Giving doesn’t just reflect our gratitude. It deepens it.

In prayer, imagine yourself lifting your own heart before God. Let it be your gift. Ask God to make it new.