What was your immediate response to the title of this post? My guess is that most of you thought, “No way! Giving should be totally pure … with absolutely no self serving motives. After all, isn’t Agape love that pure love that expects absolutely nothing in return?” Do you know what? I thought the same thing, but I have a dilemma — how do we square these high minded notions of giving with these words from Jesus:
When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. – Matthew 6:2-4
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 6:19-21
There you go. In the first passage, Jesus promises that the Father will reward those who give with pure motives. He then, in the second passage, defines these rewards as treasures in heaven.
Do you get the idea that Jesus wants us to be motivated by rewards? I do, and here are some reasons why:
Jesus is practical.
As he points out, whatever treasures we gain here on earth are momentary. One only need to drive by a junk yard to see all of the rusty automobiles that were once highly valued treasures. A practical person, instead of saving up stuff that will break, rust or decay, should store up treasures which last for eternity.
Jesus knows that we can send it ahead.
After J. D. Rockefeller died, someone asked his accountant, “How much did he leave behind?” The accountant’s classic answer was, “All of it.” How utterly true! But Jesus knows something the accountant might not have known: “You might not be able to take it with you…but you can send it ahead.”
Jesus wants to change our priorities.
By comparing earthly (and thus temporary) goods with heavenly (and therefore eternal) goods, Jesus forces us to re-prioritize our lives. This stark contrast motivates us to think in heavenly terms instead of earthly. If there were no heavenly treasures, this change in priorities would not be such a clear challenge.
Jesus want to change our hearts.
Once our priorities are challenged, our hearts will also be challenged. Jesus wants us to be more than practical; he wants us to think His thoughts and feel His feelings. Focusing on heavenly treasures will bring about that change.
Randy Alcorn, in his book “The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving”, shares the following analogy:
Imagine you are alive at the end of the Civil War. You are living in the South, but you are a Northerner. You plan to move home as soon as the war is over. While in the South you have accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Now. Suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war, and the end is imminent. What will you do with your Confederate currency? If you are smart, you will immediately cash in your Confederate currency for U. S. currency — the only money that will have value once the war is over. Keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short term needs.
The message is clear: we too should invest in a currency that will have ongoing value … eternal value.
I want to be perfectly clear in stating that we never give in order to win God’s love…that is something we already have. We do so simply because our heavenly Father wants us to have some eternal investments. Remember: it is His idea, not ours. As we live out our few years here on Earth, God want us to be enthusiastically expectant about our upcoming eternity with Him … an excitement which comes at least partly from the promise that we will have treasures in heaven. That promise motivates me to be all the more giving today. How about you?
Readers: Jump in here with your thoughts. Should our giving be motivated by the promise of rewards? Meet us in the comments!