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“Isn’t it enough to give? As long as I’m giving, does it matter why? Does it really matter what my motivation is?” Think about this for a moment and consider what Scripture has to teach us.

Much of the giving in the early church was done to help brethren who were in need (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:16-24; Rom. 15:25-27). Giving was also done in order that preachers and elders who labored in the word might be financially supported (1 Cor. 9:1-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18; Phil. 4:14-19). An early example of this kind of giving is in Acts 4:32-5:11, in which we read of a significant difference between givers in Acts 4 and givers in Acts 5.

In Acts 4, the early church was “of one heart and one soul,” to the extent that no one would “say that any of the things he possessed was his own” (4:32). These brethren were not focused on themselves or on what they owned. They were focused instead on those brethren who “lacked” and were “in need” (4:34-35). So they “sold” some of their possessions, “brought the proceeds…and laid them at the apostles’ feet.” Barnabas was such a Christian. His motivation in giving was not himself—it was not to receive accolades or any attention. His focus was on the joy of giving and the need of his brethren.

In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira followed the external pattern of giving (i.e., sold a possession, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet). But, it is apparent that their motivation was different. It can be surmised from the text that the motivation of Ananias and Sapphira’s giving was on attention and accolades that might come upon themselves, rather than truly being motivated by those who were in need. This can be traced to other passages in the New Testament.

In the life of Jesus, we find a similar contrast made on two different occasions. In Mark 12, Jesus observed the difference between the rich who came and gave their gifts and a poor widow who came and gave only two mites (12:41-44). The noted difference was not on the amount of the gift. The different was the heart, the focus, the motivation. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemned those who give (like Ananias and Sapphira) “to be seen by [men]” (Matt. 6:1). Jesus went on to teach that our giving should never be done to draw attention to ourselves but to focus on the “Father who sees,” so that we are not the focus (6:1-4).

When you give, why do you give? When you are given a special opportunity to give (or as Jesus talked about, “doing a charitable deed”), do you do it for you or for the one being served? Think about it. It makes a heavenly difference!

Austin Wright
Church of Christ
Nocona, TX

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