God Loves a Grouchy Giver
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NRSV)
Please do not show up at my house with a scented candle in a decorative gift bag, unless you want me to rewrap it and bring it back to your house the next time I come over. I have no patience for useless gifts, giving them or receiving them. In December, my worst nightmare is an office, social or family situation where everyone is expected to buy something useless for everyone else.
If I invite you over for dinner, it’s because I want to treat you to something. I cheerfully signed up to feed you and care for you. It’s not transactional. Other people have cheerfully cooked and cared for me.
I truly don’t want you stressing out to bring me a last-minute present. I picture you, after a long day at work, rooting around for the last useless gift someone gave you, just praying you are not giving it back to that same person. Yes, I’ve been there.
Here’s an alternative idea, a new agreement among friends. Don’t buy a scented candle for me and I promise I won’t buy any potholders for you. Let’s extend the contract to apply to all hand towels, tiny bars of soap, drink coasters, and yes, even bouquets of flowers.
Because even something as nice as flowers can stress out your host, when your host is me. Suddenly, I’m hunting around in the basement for a vase to put those flowers in. Next thing you know, I’ve burned the gravy. And that’s your fault, you bouquet-bearing brute!
Here’s my confession. Cheerful giving comes easier to me than grateful receiving. So when ribbons and bows and bouquets are presented, I pray for more patience with presents.
God, I can see why you love a cheerful giver. What’s amazing is that you love the grouchy givers too. You love the people who show up with teeny tiny soaps in the shape of seashells, and you love the grouchy people who grudgingly re-gift them. Amen.
Lillian Daniel is Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church in Dubuque, Iowa. She is the author of Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To and When “Spiritual but not Religious” is Not Enough.