Is it Truly the Thought that Counts?

Motivation is that power within us that arouses us to action. Motivation encourages us to perform some service or deed. For instance, my paycheck motivates me – impelling me to climb from my cozy bed and head to work. Likewise, love for my children motivates me – causing their rooms to be filled with excessive amounts of toys, many of which are rarely played with. When it comes to charity giving, however, what should our motivation should be?

In Matthew 6:1-2, the Great Teacher had the following to say about giving: "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."

Here, Jesus was speaking about motive, the cause that compels us to action. While I am not able to examine the hearts of the 200 people who stood that day under such innovative teaching, I believe their thinking had to be challenged. After all, the leaders of their day proudly displayed acts of kindness and charitable giving. They wanted everyone to see the great things they were doing for the Kingdom. Jesus discouraged this because they were being motivated by the opinions of others rather than being moved with compassion to meet the need itself.

If the reward for kindness is a pat on the back received from admiring peers or if the honor for giving is seeing your name engraved on a plaque, an empty feeling can replace what should have been a fulfilling action. The payment for giving and good deeds is equal to the reason for the act. If the gift was offered because compassion filled your heart for an underprivileged child, then simply seeing a little girl prance around in a new dress, proud of her appearance, is reward enough.

Secret giving is the most fun. When I was about seven or eight, I picked a basket full of flowers from our back yard. After separating them into bouquets with ribbon, I went down the street setting the spring blooms on my neighbors doorsteps. After ringing the doorbell, I would hide and watch as surprised smiles spread across their faces when they found the anonymous gift.

Giving for show, giving begrudgingly or giving out of obligation is no gift at all. Colossians 3:23-24 reminds us that "...whatever may be your task, work at it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the inheritance which is your reward. You are actually serving the Lord Christ..."

Motive matters. So, the next time you feel compelled to give, whether it be gift or deed, check your heart. What is inducing your action? If the motivation is pure, your reward will be sweet.