Money…a word that has the ability to bring more emotions with it than a sports team, a relationship, or a middle schooler. Happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and more can creep into our emotional state when that word is used. Want to see those emotions increase to an even crazier state? Mention the word money in a church setting and there’s not even an emotional comparison.
Unfortunately, a quick Google search about church giving reveals why people struggle with the idea of pastors talking about money: Private jets, helicopters, fancy cars, embezzlement, gigantic mansions, and abuse are just of few of the things pastors are known for when it comes to money. Here’s the problem with me even writing that list: I haven’t seen any of those pastors’ paychecks, budgets, or giving receipts. Moreover, I haven’t and never will be able to see the motivations of their hearts. When it comes to generosity, specifically in the church, this reality is the issue: We can look at others, critique their belongings and gifts, but we’ll rarely, if ever, know the “why” behind “what” they have or give.
Why we give matters more than what we give. It’s not what we do with our money that matters most. In actuality, it’s why we do what we do with our money that matters more. People contribute money to the church for many reasons: Some people’s giving is obligatory: “I give because I have to.” Others give selfishly: “I give because I want something in return.” However, Jesus desires for his people to give cheerfully: “I give because I get to and want to.” The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:7: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
God loves a cheerful giver. Joyful, hopeful, non-begrudging generosity is loved by our great God. He’s pleased with that type of giving. He’s honored with that type of giving. He’s blessed by that type of giving. God is glorified when the motivation behind our giving is pure.
This type of motivation sounds wonderful, but it’s impossible, apart from Jesus. Our flesh quickly mars our pure hearts when left to our own budgets and belongings. However, purity is revealed when the focus is placed on the gospel. Paul said it this way in 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 it all but gave it all for our sake. Purely-motivated generosity puts the gospel on display and glorifies God.
God doesn’t need the money you give or the money you withhold. God owns it all and can do whatever he wants. A big gift is no better than a small gift. In fact, sometimes it’s worse (see Luke 21:1-4). Next time a pastor talks (or writes) about money and you feel like your sports team is losing, a relationship is unclear, or you’ve gone back to 7th grade, check your motivation: Remember why you give matters more than what you give. May our generosity make God famous by reminding the world around us of the gospel.