What Is Your Motivation in Giving?

by Jason on February 13, 2010

Lately I’ve been reflecting on giving and our heart motivation behind it. 

I’ve had the great opportunity to teach a money class the last couple weeks to a Young Marrieds group at church and It’s been a great experienc for me, because I’ve had to spend some time digging in to Scripture to get me prepared to talk about money and theology.

In general, most people know we should give, but what is our motivation behind our giving – in other words, why give?

Here’s a look at a few reasons to the question of:

Why Do People Give Their Money?

We’ll talke a look at a few not-so-good reasons and then a couple really good reasons.

To Earn God’s Favor

One group might settle in on this side of the room.  These folks think that by giving money to the church or giving money to a homeless person that somehow God will smile on them and be pleased. 

On the flip side, they may also think that if they don’t give, then God will be mad at them!  So, to appease a cranky and crotchety old god they need to just give!

To Get a Blessing

They give because they want to get an abundance.  This seems to be prevalent.  I recently received a direct message on Twitter from someone talking about God’s abundance being poured out on me!

I think there is some confusion in this camp and hopefully I can clear it up:

We don’t give to GET a blessing – we give to BE a blessing!

To Get Rid of Guilt

Others give because they want to rid themselves of guilt.  Maybe they feel guilty for being “blessed” while others suffer in need; or they feel guilty because they think that in order to be a “good person” they need to give.  The thought of not being a “good person” kills them.

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To Garner the Praise of Men

Some of us like to give because we want others to know and think that we are very generous!  Remember the pharisees in the New Testament that would throw their coins in to the offering to make a loud clang so everyone could hear?  That’s some of us.  We give to get noticed or to “be somebody”.

To Get a Good Feeling

There is a good feeling we all get when we give.  We feel like we were part of something bigger or that we made a difference in someone’s life when we give. 

Those are great feelings!  I love feeling that way after I give, but is it our sole motivation in giving?  Is it just to make us feel good?

To Get a Tax Deduction

As a finance guy, I love tax deductions!  Who doesn’t – am I right?  But, there are plenty of folks out there who only give because they can write it off on their taxes. 

Are you one of the one scrambling on December 31st to find a charity and donate money so you can write that off?

To Glean Meaning or Purpose from Life

Oh, meaning and purpose – everyone’s quest in life.  Some say there is none – other’s know exactly why we are here.  Those trying to find meaning and purpose, trying to be a part of something beyond themselves may give just to feel like they are accomplishing a mission.

Again, nothing wrong with finding meaning – but are we grasping at finding purpose through our giving or do we find our purpose in Christ himself?

What Should Our Motivation Be?

Notice that each of those motivations above are self-focused – We get something in return.  It really becomes all about us! 

So why should we give?

Because We Want to Help

I think many of us have a really sincere desire to help people.  That’s great!  We should desire to come alongside others, meet needs and to defend social justice because we value others and truly want to help them!

For some reason, it seems like in America we’ve lost a sense of “being a neighbor” to others.  On the block I grew up on there was always someone watching out for us, conversations between neighbors going on and a willingness to go and help each other.

I think we need (myself included) to get back to being a good neighbor.

Because Jesus Demonstrated It Best

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 8:9:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Jesus had everything in heaven – He was rich.  Yet He gave all that up to come to a lowly stable, to be the son of a poor Jewish couple – why?  So that we who embrace Him as Savior might become rich (all the glorious riches and benefits of spending eternity with God in heaven!)

He did it for you!  He gave up everything, to the point of a scandalous and shamed death on a Roman cross so we might have life!

even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Matthew 20:28

Let’s reorient ourselves back to the great Gospel and realize that because Christ gave up everything for us we are freed to go and serve others for His sake!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lakita (PFJourney) February 13, 2010 at 8:18 am

Well said!

“Selfish giver” seems like an oxymoron but you’ve proven that it can be the case.

I think if we orient our giving back to Christ, it will help us become that “cheerful giver” that the Bible speaks of.
.-= Lakita (PFJourney)´s last blog ..Should I Hurry to Pay off My Student Loans =-.

Jason February 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

Lakita – “Selfish Giver” is a term I know all too well because that’s me way too often – in my marriage, with my time, with my money etc. I am a “receiving addict” at heart and need to change. But constantly looking back to the Gospel helps us put things in perspective.

JoeTaxpayer February 13, 2010 at 11:10 am

I tend toward specific charities.

One which I link to on my site is a clinic for poor women. My wife’s GP left the practice to found this clinic, and I am in awe of people who are so selfless to dedicate their life to such a cause.

Another is a shelter for homeless vets. Whatever one’s politics, those who return from a war are our fathers, sons, brothers, and the idea that those who risked their lives to protect us are not cared for is unnerving to me.

As many do, I also give to our house of worship.

In the big picture, what I give to a homeless person I pass on the street is nothing compared to the official organized charities, but long ago I decided I’d never pass a man or woman with their hand out and just walk by. (I broke that rule once, a gal holding a sign “help keep the Irish drunk”. Yes, I know most of those I hand a few dollars aren’t buying food, but you don’t need to rub my face in it. My best homeless give was when I shouted at a homeless guy “go get a job, do something with yourself, man” his sign read “tell me off, $2″ we both chuckled and I wished him luck.
.-= JoeTaxpayer´s last blog ..Snowmageddon! =-.

Jason February 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Thanks Joe – sounds like you got a charitable heart, that’s awesome.

MichelleL February 14, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Hey Jason, Enjoyed reading your post.

I learned a long time ago that we can never outgive God, but giving is simply an act of obedience and an act of worship. (2 Cor 9:6) When we give out of a heart to obey His word, giving cheerfully, we demonstrate worship and obedience to the Father. In that we can be confident in knowing that he doesn’t love us any more or less when we give, but He definately rewards our obedience–the reward isn’t our motivation–its just a BONUS! Our call is to help the widows and the orphans, and propogate the gospel with our finances.

I rarely worry about the economy cause I know because I give, I live in God’s economy, not the worlds. That gives me peace and confidence that God will never forsake me…

Anyway, keep up the good work..

blessings
m

Jason February 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Michelle, well said! Great reminder that God never forsakes us! We give to be a blessing and in turn God blesses us to be a bigger blessing to others!

Monique February 22, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I have always been a give but mostly of my time. It wasn’t until late 2007 that I started giving financial support. This year I was able to give the best gift possible and my friend asked me why I did it while I was trying to get out of debt. All I could tell her was because I am blessed to be in a position to help. Most of us are blessed to have so much that there is plenty to share with those who are less fortunate.

Jason February 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Monique – I like your perspective on giving! We truly are blessed beyond our imagination. When compared to the rest of the world we are loaded! Great job in starting to give the financial support – keep it up!!

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