The Motive of Generosity

by Robert Morris

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

The Blessed Life

Yesterday we talked about the meaning of Luke 6:38, which says, "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." As I said, it's one of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture, and the biggest point of confusion has to do with our motivations.

I've heard so many people preach Luke 6:38 with material gain presented as the motive for giving. In reality, it shouldn't be our motivation—it should be the by-product. Let's take a look back at Luke 6:30, which says, "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back."

The message of Jesus' sermon in Luke 6:30–38 is "Give!" Give to those who ask of you. Give to those who can't pay you back. Give love to those who don't deserve it. Give mercy to those who wrong you. Give the kind of treatment you would hope to receive from others. Give, give, give! Oh, and by the way, when you do, your heavenly Father will make sure you get much more in return.

There is a subtle but important distinction in emphasis here. When you give with what looks to the world like reckless abandon, you are following God's example. God is a giver. We should give for the pure joy of imitating our wonderful Father. It's our hearts the Lord is concerned about. And a properly focused heart is more excited about the giving part than the receiving part. In other words, God is saying, "When you give just to give, I'm going to reward you by giving back to you in much greater measure." The reward comes because we have allowed God to do a work in our hearts in the area of giving—not in the area of getting.

There is an Old Testament glimpse of this truth in Deuteronomy 15:7–11, where God says:

If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, "The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand," and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you. You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, "You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land."

In this passage, we can clearly see God's heart for helping people. It also shows that God looks at the heart of the giver. He even makes it a point to tell the Israelites not to let their hearts "be grieved" when they give. God has always loved a cheerful giver.

It's not hard to understand why this is. Aren't you proud of your children when they're unselfish? Are you blessed when you have to bribe or threaten them to get them to be generous? We're pleased when our children help and prefer one another in love. And what is true for us as earthly parents is infinitely true for God.

When we grow to become cheerful, willing givers, we become more and more like our heavenly Father. But sometimes growth can require us to confront attitudes and motives that keep us from moving forward. God is trying to do a work in us. He wants to purify our hearts. And He does it by looking at our motives when we give.

Prayer

God, thank You that You give with reckless abandon. Make me more like You and give me Your heart for being generous and helping others. Help me to confront any attitudes that stand in the way of being a generous giver. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For Further Study

  • Proverbs 16:2
  • 1 Corinthians 4:5
  • Psalm 37:25–26
  • 2 Corinthians 9:10–12
Proverbs 16:21 Corinthians 4:5Psalm 37:25–262 Corinthians 9:10–12
Robert Morris
James 4:3