The NT provides at least four motivations for giving. Two that curiously did not appear were: (1) the feeling of guilt; (2) receiving a better tax rebate. However, these four motivations are helpful in checking ourselves to see if we are giving out of the right heart.
But before the “positive” motivations are given, first an “anti-principle” (by “anti-principle,” I mean a rebuke for an incorrect motivation … note, when a principle and an anti-principle collides, gamma-radiation may be produced … you have been warned [this warning was given by Matt Lytle]). Negatively, we are warned in Matthew 6 about one improper motivation: to be seen by others. This passage is not a prohibition against keeping track of contributions. Rather, it asks: are you giving so that others will see what you gave? It isn’t necessitating total secrecy; it is encouraging correct motivations in giving (see below). For one application, public giving of money (like publishing the names of generous donors) may be an example of what Jesus is teaching against.
The first principle is that of love. Our giving should be an expression of our love for God. 2 Corinthians 8:8–9: “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 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 through His poverty might become rich.”
Giving should also be an expression of our thankfulness to God. In 2 Corinthians 9:12, Paul says, “For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”
A third motivation is the recognition that God praises sacrificial giving. One description of this occurs in Mark 12:42–44. Also, in 2 Corinthians 8:2–3, Paul says, “that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.” While sacrificial giving is not necessarily a requirement, recognizing that this type of giving is pleasing to our Heavenly Father should be the only motivation needed to enact it in our own lives.
Finally, a fourth motivation (some may dispute this classification) is what I’ve called “spiritual growth.” That is, giving causes one to grow in good works. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8, Paul say, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.… And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” These verses appear to say that we should be motivated to give because it will effect spiritual growth in our lives.
The Motivations of Giving
Definition: Giving is an expression of our love for God
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:8–9
Definition: Giving expresses thankfulness to God
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:12
Definition: Recognize that God praises sacrificial giving
Scripture: Mark 12:42–44; 2 Corinthians 8:2–3
Definition: Giving causes one to grow in good works
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8