Giving—What Is the Right Motive? – Part 1

Giving—What Is the Right Motive? – Part 1

by Ron Davis

Have you ever wondered why it is that every time we go to church, an offering plate is passed around (or a “bag” if you are more “modern”)? You don’t often see a donation taken at other public gatherings. Why is it only at church that we are given this opportunity to give?

Could it be that it has something to do with why we give? I don’t mean “why” in terms of results anticipated, but rather “why” in terms of motivation. What is it that motivates us to give and to provide opportunities, like the Sunday offering, for others to give?

Too many take their motivation for giving from a verse like Luke 6:38—“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over …” The focus ends up being placed on the words, “and it will be given to you.” However, the principle is to be our reward, not our motivation. We learn this from the verse that precedes it: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (v. 37). Whatever we give will be given back to us “pressed down, shaken together and running over.”

God is actually very concerned about our motives. “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2). How do you think God feels when His people are motivated to give only when there is a promise of personal increase? The biblical writer James says that if we don’t get what we ask for, it may be because we ask with the wrong motives. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Notice the last line of that verse. Motives are extremely important. So how do we know if our motives are right when it comes to our generosity? What is the right motive for giving?

Dave Toycen, [former] president and CEO of World Vision Canada, is convinced that “we were created to be generous.”1 He writes an entire chapter in his book, The Power of Generosity, on the potential for generosity to “stimulate personal growth.”2 He even argues at one point that generosity can save one’s life.3 That is pretty strong motivation for giving! Recent scientific research affirms the positive effect of generosity on a person’s emotional well-being. The Boston Globe reported on a study conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Dunn (a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia) and her colleagues, researching the relationship between happiness and how money is spent.4 Their findings discovered that those who spent money on themselves sensed less happiness than those who spent money on others. One actually can buy happiness—you just have to know what to spend it on! An interesting finding of the study was that the level of happiness did not vary with the amount that was spent or given away. Even a little generosity is good for the soul.

But is personal happiness motivation enough for generosity? Is personal growth the fundamental purpose of giving? It hardly seems right that what could be perceived as selfishness would be the true motivation for giving. Could there be a more profound motivation, one that is more consistent with the practice itself?


Read the second part of the chapter here. This article is an excerpt of a chapter that appeared in Generosity Changes Everything – Even Us (Mississauga, ON: The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, January 2014). © 2014 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Ron Davis is the executive director of PAOC’s Pension Fund. To order this book, click here or call 905-542-7400 ext. 3223. Photo ©

1. Dave Toycen, The Power of Generosity: How to Transform Yourself and Your World (Toronto:
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2004), xv.
2. Ibid., 49.
3. Ibid., 14-15.
4. Carey Goldberg, “Money makes you happy—if you spend it on others,” Boston Globe, March
21, 2008.

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