“Brothers and sisters, consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.”
(2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
For many of us, growing up Catholic may have led to some confusing conclusions when it comes to our emotions. Prevailing wisdom was often this: If you do something good that you really don’t want to do, but do it anyway, there is more merit in that.
Hmmmm…does this square with Scripture? It sounds almost good on the surface. After all, shouldn’t we be overcoming our fallen nature through will power? Well, yes, sometimes. But that’s only a starting point.
St Thomas Aquinas taught that it is a more perfect human act, when your emotions are working in concert with your will. In other words, to desire to do a good thing and to do it, will ultimately yield joy. Think of the opposite: It is a more perfectly wicked act to do something evil and enjoy doing it. And a less evil act to do something evil without actually desiring to do it. For example, even civil law prosecutes crimes differently based on that standard. A crime of passion carries less weight than those premeditated with malice.
Let’s face it, it’s not only God who loves a cheerful giver. Imagine the difference between a husband rushing to help his wife with the groceries out of love and a desire to serve her, vs. the guy who grudgingly gets off the couch grunting and groaning and making clear that his wife is interrupting his football game. Which wife do you think will be the happier one? And which husband do you think will ultimately be the happier?
God designed us. We are programmed to be “cheerful givers”. The greatest joys in life are in giving…giving birth, giving alms, giving gifts to our children. When understood from that perspective, life is a continuous opportunity for joy as it is always in our power to serve and give, if even only a smile, a short “I love you” text or an encouraging word. We can’t ultimately control what we receive, but we have full control over what we give.
Where our fallen human nature kicks in is in the distorted belief that by serving oneself and withholding love and charity that we will find happiness. It’s a fool’s game. Our modern depression epidemic is fueled in large part by this “Me” mentality that focuses on what we believe we deserve and in constantly seeking to serve ourselves and be served. Sure, some fall into depression because of hereditary factors; others because of hurts and bad things that have happened in their lives that have overwhelmed their ability to cope. But a good amount of people today suffer simply because they don’t understand and embrace this basic truth.
The folly of human nature is that we learn so late what really matters…and some never learn at all. In the end, when we stand before God, our hands will either be full with the things we have given, or empty with those things we sought to receive. It’s our choice. The road to true and lasting happiness begins with being a cheerful giver.