Compelled by Guilt or Grace: Motivations for Giving

Faith Promise Devotional Series: Day 4, Thursday January 28, 2016

Compelled by Guilt or Grace: Motivations for Giving

There are numerous motivations in life, many of which are incredibly effective at causing people to open their wallets and give their money. All of us, those who are followers of Christ and those who are not, experience such tactics in various settings. Commercials seeking our donations will display images designed to break out hearts and open our wallets. Similarly, auctioneers are well aware of the powerful motivator that public shame serves in the cause of raising funds. After all, there is nothing quite like sitting in a room full of people you know to push you over the hump in your heart of deciding to donate lest you be that one “guy” or “gal” who never raised a paddle or pledged a card while all others gave in.

In most settings someone is trying to compel us to give, and whether we are reluctant givers is irrelevant to those compelling our gifts. After all, whether our gift was given reluctantly or not doesn’t show up when tallying a total, and coloring in another segment of a giant thermometer at the front of the room. All that matters to most fundraisers is that you give funds. In contrast, as Paul seeks financial gifts from the Corinthian church He is as concerned with why they give as what they give. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, he writes:

“[7] Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV)

 

Amazingly, Paul is as concerned with motivations as amounts, and with one’s habits as heart. On the one hand, Paul has specifically written to these followers of Christ in Corinth to ask them to give monies to support a relief effort for believers in need living in Jerusalem. And yet, even as he asks them to contribute he also cautions that their contributions not merely be reluctant gifts by a compelled congregation. As some fundraisers might ask, why does Paul care? Doesn’t it all spend just the same? The answer is that Paul cared because he recognized that while such funds might be given for the physical benefit of those in Jerusalem, that they were ultimately given to God. As Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver.”

God desires that we take steps of faith and obedience in the arena of our stewardship and generosity, and that we delight in Him as we do so. Our financial pledges might be turned in and collected by men but they are given to God. As such, our commitments to give are an act of grace motivated by the grace of God. In fact, this is exactly how Paul describes the act of making a financial contribution here in his letter. Three times in chapter 8 Paul describes the act of giving as an “act of grace” (see 2 Cor. 8:6, 7, 19). Paul further demonstrates that these “acts of grace” are ultimately a response to the “grace” of God demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus. He writes:

“[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.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, ESV)

 

As you consider how you will participate in this year’s Faith Promise campaign, there is no doubt the possibility that you will participate reluctantly and under compulsion. You will be tempted to make a commitment that you don’t really want to make. You may be tempted to turn in a pledge you have no real desire to meet. You may feel compelled to participate due to peer pressure, personal relationships, or pride. No doubt, Paul recognized that there would be some in the Corinthian church who would feel similarly. This is why he took the time to address not only the act of giving but the motivation as well.

Both this Sunday, January 31st and next Sunday, February 7th, you will have the opportunity to turn in your Faith Promise Pledge card during the offering portion of our church’s worship service. It will be human hands that pass you an offering plate to collect your card. It will be human hands that count the cards turned in and tally up the total amount. It is the human hands of our church’s Global Missions Team that will oversee the allocation of the monies pledged to bless the work of the hands of our very human missionaries. However, there is only one to whom you are truly giving, and that is our divine, eternal, and triune Lord. As you consider how you will contribute this year I want to encourage you to move past reluctant compulsion and toward worshipful delight in the one to whom you give.

Questions for Reflection:

1. In what ways might you be tempted to give and participate in this year’s Faith Promise campaign “reluctantly” or “out of compulsion”?

2. Are there people in your life who are compelling you to make what would be a reluctant contribution to this year’s Faith Promise campaign? How do you need to respond to these well-meaning loved ones?

3. What would it mean for you to be a “cheerful” giver?