Giving is good, right?
Deciding if something is good or not cannot be measured by externals.
Instead, it must be measured by motives.
The ‘what are you doing’ question doesn’t get to the real heart of the issue.
However, when we start to ask ‘why are you doing it’, we’ll start making progress.
Four Wrong Motives to Give
1. Giving Our of Fear or Guilt
Have you ever seen that game where mechanical groundhogs come out of their hole and the player of the game has to bop them on the head?
I think too many Christians feel like they are the game and God is player.
They think that God is waiting for them to make a mistake, and he is going to bop them.
When we look at the heart of our giving, if all we see is fear and guilt, it is time to start praying that God would allow us the opportunity to grow in the grace of giving.
2. Giving to Earn God’s Attention
If you’ve grown up in a Christian home, you may have some psychological baggage when it comes to how God views your life.
At times in my life, I’ve felt like when I do good things, I make God smile. The obvious inverse assumption is that when I do wrong, I make God frown.
Wouldn’t we all like to make God smile?
So we work at making God smile by doing everything he told us to do.
We give so that God will give us a spiritual pat on the head and say ‘great job’.
However, God smiles at us for who we are. He made us and he loves what he made. We don’t need to earn his love or affection.
That doesn’t mean God isn’t disappointed when we sin, but it does mean giving to get God’s positive attention isn’t necessary.
3. Giving to Attract the Attention of Others
If we are tempted to give to earn God’s attention, I think we could also face the temptation to give so that others will give us an ‘atta boy’.
Who doesn’t want to be accepted, if not praised, by her peers?
We’ve all been in social settings where someone talks about how Mr. and Mrs. Y just gave xyz dollars to the ministry at the church. We see how those people respect that couple, and a small light bulb illuminates in our hearts.
If I give and people see it, then they’ll talk about me with the same level of admiration.
That certainly seems to be the issue that lead to the demise of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).
Matthew 6 encourages us to be sure that our giving is not done to attract the attention of others. In fact, our giving is best done in secret.
4. Giving to Get
Part A: Giving to Get an Earthly Reward
Some health and wealth preachers tell us to give so that we’ll get even more money. If you open up the clip on your wallet, then God will open up the store room of heaven.
If you dish God a spoon full of money, then he’ll give it to you by the cupful. If you dish God a cupful of money, he’ll give it to you by the bucketful.
God does reward us for our giving. However, God doesn’t promise us that it will be in the same currency as what we give.
Part B: Giving to Get an Eternal Reward
I’ve been struggling with this one lately, so if I’m off base here, could someone please correct me?
In the book Money, Possessions, and Eternity, Randy Alcorn suggests giving to get an eternal reward should be the primary motivation of our giving.
While it is inarguably true that we will get an eternal reward for what we give, I’m not very comfortable making this the primary motive for giving.
The Self remains the center of every action or choice.
The Gospel call is to give up self. To die. To deny. To sacrifice.
Giving to get eternal rewards seems like it is simply serving the Enlightened Self. The Self that realizes the better way to get is to get later. It is the Educated Self that knows how to play the game.
I do believe we will be rewarded (in some form or fashion) for what we give, I just don’t know if that should be the primary motive to give.
What Should be our Primary Giving Motivation?
- Living a life worth of the calling
When we think about all that Christ has done for us, how he, for our sakes, became poor, it should stir up something within us: a desire to live in response to the generosity we have experienced.
What other wrong giving motives have you encountered? What do you think about giving to get? What should be our proper giving motivation?