What is Your Motivation for Giving?

Giving USA estimates that $335 billion was given to charity in the United States last year by individuals, corporations, and foundations. We give a lot of money. We also give in a multitude of ways that cannot be measured by dollars and cents. But why? What is the motivation behind all this giving?

In the book The Seven Faces of Philanthropy, Prince and File describe seven different motivations for giving:

1. The Communitarian: Doing Good Makes Sense

2. The Devout: Doing Good is God’s Will

3. The Investor: Doing Good is Good Business

4. The Socialite: Doing Good is Fun

5. The Altruist: Doing Good Feels Right

6. The Repayer: Doing Good in Return

7. The Dynast: Doing Good is a Family Tradition

In these descriptions I see a mix of both external and internal motivations. Some of us are driven by how others will perceive us, some by how giving makes us feel, or whether it seems a good intellectual or economic choice.

I love what Martin Luther said about giving. He says that a righteous act is one that pleases God. He said that would be an act that 1) does the right thing, 2) the right way, 3) for the right reason (motivation) and 4) in the right spirit.

As I examine my own heart I realize that many times there are selfish or vain thoughts creeping in. I find myself asking questions like: “How will this giving benefit me?” or “Will people think highly of me if I give to this cause?”

While it may be true that giving will benefit me or that others may think well of me if I am generous, I don’t want this to be the fundamental reason why I give. Rather, I want my innermost desire to be to please God. I want my heart and mind to ask questions like, “What does God want me to do with what He has entrusted me with?” and “Will this choice be pleasing to God?”

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Lord, make my heart soft so I can have the humility to listen to Your voice and the courage to obey.

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