As far as I can tell, people usually give for one of five reasons:
- Giving for earthly praise
- Giving as a duty
- Giving as commanded
- Giving for a reward
- Giving as a spiritual discipline
In this post, we’ll evaluate the merits of each of these giving motives.
1. Giving for Earthly Praise
The Bible clearly does not support giving just for the attention of others.
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:1-3 NIV)
2. Giving as a Duty
Understandably, this one gets a lot of bad press.
Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given (2 Cor 9:5b)
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)
Still, there is some value in giving out of a sense of duty.
When Jesus died on the cross, he was motivated out of love, but there was also another motivating factor – necessity or duty. He was obligated to do the will of his Father.
In Mark 8:31, Jesus describes his journey to Jerusalem by saying, ‘it is necessary’. He goes to Jerusalem out of necessity. We know that when he prayed in the Garden he didn’t WANT to go to the cross, but he went because he submitted to his Father.
Sometimes we need to act first and the emotions will follow us later. Many married couples have a hard time loving their spouse because they don’t feel love. However, sometimes the feelings of love follow loving acts.
While this is not the most mature way to give, it is often in duty that we start to learn to give.
3. Giving as Commanded
Similarly to giving as duty, some give as they believe they are commanded.
Giving as commanded is not necessarily bad either. We often compare giving out of joy to giving as commanded. When those are the only two options, then of course, we should give out of joy. But, which is best between giving nothing, giving out of commandment, and giving out of joy. Is giving, even just because you feel commanded better than nothing?
I’ll be honest, my five year old daughter gives either out of duty or commandment (not God’s, but mine). I do hope in 10 years she’ll better understand why she gives and have a more refined theology. But, for now, I’m happy to instill the giving habit.
And yes, we could debate about the question – is tithing commanded, but that is beyond the scope of this article. All I’ll say is that some do think it is, and they give in response to that commandment. Here is more about tithing in the NT.
4. Giving for Rewards
There are Bible verses that suggest we will get a reward for giving:
At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, (2 Corinthians 8:14 NIV)
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV)
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4 NIV)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV)
Giving for a reward seems to have a lot of support in the Scriptures, but I don’t think it is the healthiest reason to give.
The problem with giving for reward is that you, me, I become the epicenter of giving – instead of God.
When love is described in the Bible, (1 Cor 13) it is hailed as a virtuous thing because it is selfless. When Jesus is described, (Phil 2) his character is seen in his humility and putting others first. When the throne of God is introduced, (Rev 4) we recognize that everything in the throne room revolves around God.
God is the center.
I believe that if we are motivated to give for rewards we put ourselves in the center instead of God. Yes, rewards may come, but that is not our prime motive or objective.
5. Giving as a Spiritual Discipline
I believe Christians give because giving mirrors the nature of God who gave his Son. It mirrors the nature of Jesus Christ who gave his life. It mirrors the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is the Helper of all mankind.
When we give, we become imitators of God.
Thus, it is through giving that we re-enact the ministry of Jesus on the cross. In giving we become more Christ like.
Moreover, it is in giving that we show our full allegiance to God without the distraction and hindrance of money.
When we imitate Christ in giving, we help extend the borders of his Kingdom. Jesus came preaching of the kingdom of God. Now through our giving, we also allow people to experience the redemptive nature of the kingdom.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11 NIV)
What other healthy reasons are there for giving? What motivates you to give?
Photo by jamieleto