Two Motives for Giving

By the Rev. Canon J. Hugh Magers

There are two real reasons for giving to God through the church: one is Obedience; the other is Gratitude.

Obedience is grounded in a theology appropriate for being a creature. It can be expressed in three simple propositions and one action. The three propositions are:

  1. God made it and it is God’s to do with as God wills.
  2. God entrusts it to us (so far) and we are to be stewards, managing the creation that God made.
  3. God is just and we are accountable to God for the quality of our stewardship.

The essential action is this: Tithe. The tithe is God’s law. The tithe changes our relationship with God’s creation because it acknowledges God’s creation, God’s law and God’s gift of stewardship. It is a law with promises – a hospitable and charitable society, personal and family property, and national blessedness – if it is obeyed. Many of us who tithe in obedience will testify that promises are fulfilled for us. But we have never lived in a nation that is obedient, so we can’t give testimony to the corporate blessings that come from tithing.

The other reason for giving to God is Gratitude. Gratitude exists when we see God’s work in the world and discover that our personal well-being, meaning, and eternal salvation are a consequence of God’s work. Gratitude is grounded in the experience of being blessed by God’s work which is done by human hands, voices and minds. The marvelous example of this is Jesus, God Incarnate. Since Jesus’ ascension, the work of making well-being, discovering meaning, and proclaiming eternal salvation, is in the hands of those humans who know about these things and want to share them with those who don’t know them.

Gratitude can be expressed in three simple propositions and one action. The three propositions are:

  1. Everything I know about love, forgiveness and eternal salvation, I know through Jesus and his friends who tell stories about him and try to live the way he lived and lives.
  2. Jesus’ friends are all recruits. Recruiting more friends of Jesus who will be his presence and do his work requires money. The money goes for recruiting, training, and then sharing as Jesus asks us to do.
  3. The more generous I am, the more Jesus’ friends recruit, train and share.

The essential action is this: Give money to Jesus’ friends in order to recruit, train and share. This also has promises attached. We can give without fear and not under compulsion, because God will provide more than we need. Our giving creates a global network of prayer and love. We can come to wholeness of mind, and by our giving, we can give witness to our love of Jesus and his work. Many of us who give generously to Jesus’ friends, enabling them to recruit, train and share, can testify that these promises are fulfilled.

I personally don’t care whether you give out of obedience or gratitude. One motive is not superior to the other, and both seem essential because people come to this from different places. I suspect gratitude is more powerful than obedience, but – and this is a cosmic but – everyone has to find their own way to Christian stewardship. There is probably a parallel to the requirement that everyone has to find their own way to God. There may even be a connection.