The subject of generosity in churches is a tough one. As pastors, we know we have to talk about it for two reasons. The first: It’s all over the scriptures and we’d be ignoring a large portion of what Jesus taught if we didn’t discus it. The second: Because the survival of our church relies on the generosity of its congregation.
It’s part of our job as pastors to encourage our congregations to give—both for their own personal walk with God and for the well-being and sustainability of our church as a whole. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
I know pastors who are groaning internally as they see their “giving talk” coming up the pipeline. It’s one of those, “here we go again” talks because often the pastor feels like he’s having to beg for money and the congregation feels like they’re being hit up for it.
With all this focus on generosity, what if I told you there was one good reason not to be generous?
That reason: bad motives.
Giving is good (and needed) but when we give for the wrong reasons, it amplifies the distaste we all have for these giving conversations.
Here are three questions to help you check your motives for giving:
1. Do I feel anxious when I give?
One of the most important reasons we tithe is because it reminds us that our security comes from God, not from our money. Giving away money isn’t an easy thing to do, but that’s why it’s so important. It’s a faith-building exercise, reminding us that God is our provider as we watch what happens when we give Him our resources.
But giving should increase faith, not be an exercise that induces constant anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious about giving, you might need to spend more time with the Lord on the subject, asking Him to help you see how He provides for you.
2. Do I hope other people notice how much I give?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about how your left hand should never know how much your right hand has given. This is an illustration of the fact that giving is not a public activity. It’s not something to earn you a reward from man—whether that’s praise, affirmation, or extra points for being holy.
If you’re giving hoping that those around you are going to notice and affirm you for your generosity, Jesus says, you have already received your reward in full. If what you’re looking for is praise from men, that’s all you’re going to get. You will not receive praise from both God and men.
3. Do I feel bitter or resentful of how much I give?
Feeling bitter or resentful for how much you give is a great indication something is off in your heart about giving. God doesn’t want us to give out of bitterness or obligation. We don’t have to give. We get to give. Giving out of bitterness does not produce the same fruit as giving out of love and generosity.
If you answered yes to any of those questions, I have a challenge for you.
For the next month, I challenge you to focus less on giving more.
Yes, I said it. Stop focusing on giving more, and instead focus on the heart with which you give.
God has great blessings in store for those who trust Him with their money. Our reward is spiritual and eternal, and He rewards us with a greater measure of faith in Him. But if we’re just giving to give, without our heart being in the right place, we’ll never receive any of these blessings.
For the next 30 days, give less. Give just a little bit, but pray a lot. Spend time with the Lord and ask Him to teach you what it means to be generous, and to trust Him with your finances.
Focus on this for 30 days and see what happens. I think you’ll be surprised.