Are You Motivated by these 4 Wrong Motives to Give?

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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 reason?

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
  • Thanksgiving
  • Reciprocity

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?


  1. Pam McCraw says

    What about channeling your giving in order to receive a tax deduction. That is one aspect of giving I really struggle with, especially if the amount of money is significant. While my heart’s desire is to give, I know that it hurts my family financially if we give larger amounts without receiving a tax deduction for it. But not all worthwhile giving opportunities come with a letter from a non-profit organization that the IRS will accept. Does anyone else wrestle with this?

  2. Roger says

    I think you’ve made some interesting comments Craig. I think part of the problem is what is often taught in churches (In Australia at least), particularly for Points 1 and 4. The tithing and prosperity doctines have alot to answer for, when they are used to influence people to use/give money for the wrong reasons. It makes me angry when gullible people are targetted to empty their wallets for the promise of another reward. I think in all aspects of our walk including giving we need to be lead/motivated by the Spirit. One book that I found useful in my understanding of giving was “Tithing and Still Broke” by Niral Burnett.

  3. says

    I quite agree with you Craig. However, I don’t feel there is anything wrong with keeping an eye on reward, so far as you are depending on God, not flesh for the reward. We are enjoined to keep our treasure house in heaven where thieves cannot break in. That is a reward. Jesus, because of the reward that was set before him (the crown) endured the cross and despised the shame. You have to sow with the expectation of reaping, otherwise you may sow carelessly. Profit motive is not evil. If it was, all christian businesses will have to shut down and run on charity mode

  4. becky lamb says

    I dont like people giving me to much because it makes me feel belittled. I think when some people give they want you to bow down to them. so I hate this giving thing. ive broke away from friendships on the count of it. so im not for it.

  5. joel says

    jesus said to the rich young ruler give your possessions to the poor and you will have riches in heaven how is that not giving to get?

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