Today, “cheerful” usually refers to someone who is openly happy and optimistic. “God loves a cheerful giver” usually implies that “You’re not being cheerful enough.”
But the Greek word translated as “cheerful” in 2 Corinthians 9:7 is hilaron. In the society in which Paul wrote, the word hilaria was used to designate festival days. The idea of amusement resonates with our contemporary understanding of cheerful.
But if we read the in its entirety, we see another dynamic. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Paul contrasts “cheerful” with “reluctant” and “under compulsion.” A cheerful giver, then, is one who gives willingly and eagerly.
So we can change the slogan to “God loves a willing and eager giver.” And, no, Paul was not trying to write a catchy slogan.
This excerpt is from “God Loves a Cheerful Giver: No Catchy Slogans” by Emma Crossen, the Bible study the July/August 2015 issue of Gather magazine.