I abominate commercials for the lottery. Though there are thousands of variations of such ads, they all play off a common theme: Money brings joy. One recent ad showed people practicing the happy dance they would do when they found out they had won millions of dollars. Another had people describing the things they would buy for themselves when they finally came into great wealth. In one way or another, all these commercials express the same idea: more money equals more happiness.
Of course there really is some connection between money and joy. Christians can sometimes speak as if more money only ever brings more difficulties, but that tends to be expressed by people who have never struggled with true poverty. There really is joy to be had in the kinds of possessions and experiences that money can earn us. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” Agur said it well when he prayed, “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
But we do not need to be Christians for long before we learn that the greatest joy connected to wealth does not come from gaining but from giving. Hoarding wealth for ourselves gives far less lasting satisfaction than contributing wealth to God’s causes. Where we tend to associate joy with how much we get, higher joy comes from how freely we give.
We see this in various places in the Bible, but perhaps never more clearly than in the closing verses of 1 Chronicles. Here King David stands before the people of Israel to tell them about the temple his son will soon build and to ask them to provide for it. After describing how he has diligently set aside the best of his own wealth for the temple, he asks, “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?” David is blessed and encouraged to see the people give with extreme generosity so that soon there are great piles of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and precious stones—all they could ever want or need to build a magnificent temple to the Lord.
It is in this context that we find words that stand in sharp contrast to every lottery commercial ever filmed. “Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.” At the end of this great outpouring of generosity, the hearts of the people and their ruler are overflowing with joy, overwhelmed with love for God. This love is generated not by getting, but by giving. The joy has flowed directly from their generosity.
David is so moved that he leads the people in prayer and asks “Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly?” In humility he marvels that God has allowed them to experience such joy. Who are they that God should grant them the blessing of so great a pleasure? This is more than God owes them, more than they deserve.
The lottery commercials have it all wrong. They have it all backward. The truest joy and the most lasting joy—the joy that bridges earth to heaven—is the joy of giving. And so I ask, could you use some joy today? Are you downcast or discouraged? Then perhaps the best thing would be to stop scrolling through Amazon and to stop wishing that you would receive all those things you long for. Instead, consider what God has given you, whether wealth, time, talents, or gifts, and consider how you can use them to express generosity to someone else. Consider how you can give to others what God has given you, for as David acknowledged, “all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” Consecrate it to his cause and experience his blessing. Give it back to him and experience his joy.