There was a man I once read about who was determined to “pay it forward” by giving away a dollar, a day. Given his economic status at the time, such a commitment was truly sacrificial. He sometimes found creative ways to deliver his generous gift, but other times, he simply handed a dollar bill to a person sitting next to him on the bus. Often, he was asked whether he was a Christian. An unbeliever, he found such a question insulting. “No, I’m not a Christian. I’m better than they are. I’m not giving to try to get to Heaven; I’m just doing it to be a good person.”
As a Christian myself, I found his words quite thought-provoking: Is that the way the world sees Christians, and any good we might do and generosity we display? Does the world think we give to gain entrance to Heaven? I truly hope not, but either way, I think it’s important that we carefully consider truly Biblical motivations, as we give.
Our Gifts Are Inadequate
Sure, there are arrogant people who name the name of Christ but boast and brag and think they’ve earned favor with God on their own (Ephesians 2:8, 9). They’re clearly and sadly self-deceived (Matthew 7:21, 22).
In God’s economy, even our best attempts at pleasing Him are so sin-soaked that they’re worthless as far as measuring up to the debt we owe God for our sin (Isaiah 64:6). To put it another way, everything we do comes short of glorifying God, which is the highest and best motivation (Romans 3:23).
I’m not sure we can ever actually have completely pure motives, even when we think we do; we’re simply that sinful, and our hearts are that deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 61:10).
Our Future Is Secure
Despite our complete failure at being able to live up to God’s standards, He offers us salvation. It’s not something we work up from within ourselves, but something He gives us, something we can put on, covering our far-from-worthy efforts to appease a Holy God (Isaiah 61:10).
That definitely takes humility (James 4:6). But with that humble admission of guilt and acceptance of God’s grace comes spiritual fruit and divine enablement to serve God and others — imperfectly, yes, but without a sense of our eternal destiny hanging in the balance (John 13:35; Galatians 5:22, 23; 1 John 5:13).
Our Response Is Gracious
As the woman who extravagantly anointed Jesus was propelled by her appreciation for His forgiveness (Luke 7:47), we can show our love for Him by giving to others (Matthew 25:35-38). That giving is sometimes best done anonymously (Matthew 6:4), while other times, we do best to explain our motivation (Mark 9:41). Whichever posture fits the situation, the reason is the same: The grace we have been shown by Christ spills over into love-fueled giving to others. Whether it’s within our local assembly, to missionaries or other Christian organizations, or to believing or non-believing individuals in need, we give out of grace and with grace.