What are our motives for giving? Giving is a blessed thing, but often we receive no reward for our giving because we do it for the wrong reason. Sometimes we give because we are in a situation where we are forced. Other times, people give to enhance their own prestige and position. As T. S. Eliot so poignantly says in Murder in the Cathedral, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
There is really only one true motive for giving. We give because of the love within our hearts, and love always expresses itself.
Giving with the right motive does bring rewards. First, through giving, we gain a sense of living. What are the highest joys that parents receive? Is it not in sacrificing for their children? At times, some parents may feel that they are burdened by the things they have to give their child and do for their child. But suppose that child developed an illness and died? As the parents watched the last breath go out of that child and realized they could do nothing more for him, a part of the life of the mother and the father would die, too. The opportunity to give is really the opportunity to live.
Whenever an opportunity to give is presented to you, be thankful, because that opportunity is opening channels of life to you. The parish priest in A.S.M. Hutchinson’s The Uncertain Trumpet said it beautifully: “You do not love the life down here because, as you say, you are living for it ... because when you are here, you are giving; and because life, real life, living is giving. When you are taking, only taking, you are not living, you are slowly dying.”
The second reward of giving is that it strengthens our own lives. One never gives without receiving something more valuable in return. Conversely, to face a situation in which one ought to give but turn away from it, this brings hurt upon that person. This is true of every duty of life, and certainly giving is one of life’s duties. When I face up to my duty and respond to it at my best, I am going to be strengthened by it. When I turn away from a duty, then I am going to be weakened by the very act of turning away.
We must not assume that we should give because it is our duty. As I have indicated, there are higher motives for giving. But, at the same time, we must also recognize that the demands of living carry with them the demands of giving.
We give because we love. But, on the other hand, sometimes giving is the pathway to love. We are familiar with the three rules of giving that have been quoted many, many times: 1. Give, 2. Give until it hurts, 3. Give until it feels good.
In the third place, one of the great rewards of giving is that it broadens and lengthens our own lives. By giving, I am enabled to serve in many places and in many institutions in which I could not expect to be physically present.
In his book In Quest of a Kingdom, Leslie D. Weatherhead tells a powerful story: “The chairman of a missionary meting claimed he was the founder of a flourishing Christian community in India, although he had never been out of England. To the amazed listeners, he said that when he was five years old, he wanted to give a penny to the missionaries, but strongly objected to putting it in a brown box. He had no proof that it ever went abroad. The local minister was a friend of the family and also a friend of an Indian missionary. So the minister, to please the child, sold him a copy of the New Testament for his penny and directed the boy how to post it to the missionary in India, having first written on the flyleaf an inscription giving the name of the boy. The missionary gave it to a poor native who had walked miles through the jungle to procure a testament, but who couldn’t afford to buy one.
"Nothing was heard of the incident for 20 years. Then, another missionary, preaching in a jungle village to the people who he thought had never previously heard the gospel message, noticed that his words were causing excited delight. Pausing in his preaching to ask questions, the preacher found that the people knew a great deal about Christ and that many were serving Him. No preacher had ever been to the village before. The little Christian community had been born through the love and life of the native who have given the Testament – the Testament which was sold for a penny to a child of five.”
Giving with the right motive does bring great and lasting rewards.