God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. … You will be enriched in every way for the sake of generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:8–11
The motto on God’s wall reads, “Happiness increases more through giving than receiving!” So God’s grace is all about his efforts to incorporate us into his joy. Indeed, this is why the gospel is about the glory of the happy God. So it’s no wonder that he loves cheerful givers. He loves cheerful givers so much that he does everything he can to make it possible for us to involve ourselves in his joy. Because God is infinitely happy with how he has wisely and powerfully organized his own life, he can’t contain himself. Nor does he fear running out of resources for doing good to us. He even reminds us that he rejoiced to do good for his people in the past and promises he will rejoice to do us good in the future. Regardless of how imaginative we are, we will not be able to devise or design a diversity of good deeds that will come close to draining his sufficiency. Thus the prospect of increasing our own joy through generosity remains unhindered. Then as we cheerfully recirculate the riches of God’s grace into the lives of others, we can anticipate an explosion of joy in the form of exuberant thanksgiving to God and appreciation of us.
Lord Jesus, may I be like you, so delighted in the riches of your grace that I pour them out for others.
Let’s talk some time about how Joel should respond to Adriana when she wants to do things her own way at a direct cost to Joel. (E.g. she wants the only red marker at the same time he does. She wants a smaller fort when he wants a bigger one.) Should his default response be to surrender his claim to these resources in order to make her happy? At any point is he right in insisting on his own way?
Morgan, thanks for your question. While there is much that could be said in response, I’ll limit myself to addressing three aspects of the problem you pose.
1. Since the essence of grace is about the effort to enable someone else to enjoy with me what gives me joy, the initiative for such an effort rests in me. I always have the prerogative to be gracious or not. A potential recipient of grace from me has no prior claim to anything of mine. This reality shows up in Scripture in a couple of places. In Exodus 33:19 Yahweh declares, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” Israel received his grace; Pharaoh did not. Conversely, in Romans 4:4 (cf. 11:6) Paul asserts, “Wages are not accounted according to grace but according to obligation.” Indeed, God pronounces judgment on those who do not fulfill the obligation to pay wages (e.g., Jeremiah 22:13; Malachi 3:5). With this principle in view, it seems clear that Joel is not obligated to let Adriana have her way; nor is she free to demand he surrender his resources to her.
2. Another aspect to the problem here regards resources. Where God is concerned, resources are not a problem. His resources are infinite. So he would always have what he needed, even if he were to give us everything we thought we might want. This is not true for human beings. We do not have unlimited resources. Therefore, we must make choices as to how to allocate those we do have. While God does promise to make enough resources available to us so we can generously do good deeds, this availability does not mean that we never use those resources for ourselves. By stressing God’s promise, Paul intends to allay the fear that we won’t have enough to make ourselves and others happy. The trick, of course, is learning how to decide what to do in each situation.
3. This brings us to another aspect of the problem: learning. Because Joel and Adriana are young children, they are intensely involved in a complex learning process. As a three year old, Adriana is learning to express her desires, but she also needs to learn that she can’t always have whatever she wants exactly when she wants it, particularly if the fulfillment of her desire will make someone else unhappy. Joel, on the other hand, as the older brother, has a better grasp on this truth, but also knows that he might be happier—both in the short run and the long run—giving Adrian what she wants, even if the gift comes with some conditions. But he also needs to learn that he has a choice. And this is not easy to teach because of the complicated motivations available to him. He might misunderstand why it would be good to honor her request, giving her what she wants just because you told him this is how he should act. If so, he hasn’t learned to be gracious, just reluctantly obedient.
So, I think, a default response of giving in to Adriana’s demands would not be a wise paradigm to construct.