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What are the Motivations Behind Donations?

I was having a conversation with a gentleman this morning about various topics within Christianity. After a bit of discussion, we somehow got to the topic of televangelism and the donations millions of people are frequently sending these televangelists. The gentleman I was speaking with referred to them as “scam artists,” and I like to think of them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” While we were chatting about it, though, he brought up a good point that I’ve never really thought about. At least not in the perspective he shared.

It’s not unknown that these televangelists are constantly preaching about sending them money. Every single preacher on TV does it. Usually, these calls for donations are quickly followed by something along the lines of “God will bless you and send you ten-fold in return.” And it’s no surprise that the majority of the viewers do send in some form of “donation.” But why? What exactly are the motives behind the donation?

According to the gentleman I spoke with this morning, and to me now that I’ve thought about it from the same perspective, the motivation is greed. I mean think about it. Why do they give? Because they expect to receive ten-fold in return. They are giving simply to get more back. The root of it is greed.

Now I’m not saying that every person out there who donates to these people is a greedy person. I’m sure some do it out of the love and compassion in their hearts, or some may be too naive to see that the majority of the money goes straight into the pocket of that particular preacher. But for those whose strict motivation is a ten-fold return, you’re “charitable” works aren’t biblical.

In the Gospel of Luke when Jesus is talking about loving your enemies, he says this, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back.” (Luke 6:35) When we are giving to those we feel need it, we are to expect nothing in return. These donations people are sending are for the exact opposite reason, they are expecting to receive a ten-fold amount back.

As Christians, we should give because it’s what we are called to do: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) Because we love God, we should want to help others in need.

The return blessing isn’t more money as many seem to think it is. God isn’t going to measure us on our “return on investment” from donations we have when we die. Christ specifically says “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) The return blessing is what mercy God returns to us:

Give, and it will be given to you: a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing will be given to you. For with the same measure [that] you measure, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

However, it was a good thing that you shared in my affliction. As you Philippians know as well, in the beginning of the Good News when I departed from Macedonia, no Church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving–only you did! For even [when i was] in Thessalonica you supplied help for my needs once and again. It is not that I seek the gift; what I value is the interest that is accumulating in your account! I actually have all things and I overflow since I received from Epaphroditus what came from you, a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God! My God will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:14-19)

You see, when Paul received his gift from the Philippians, he was more pleased with their charitable nature than actually receiving the gifts they sent. According to Paul, those gifts they sent out of love, expecting nothing in return but only to help Paul on his journey, were an “acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God.” As a result, “God will supply all of [their] needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Their needs weren’t more money or gifts of the same in return, but basic necessities. More importantly, however, their giving allows them to growing in the Holy Spirit, it brought glory to God, who will return that favor to them in the same measure. It all results in eternal life. That is our blessing! Not more money or material goods. Those things can only weigh us down, driving us to want more and more of those things. Which in the end will only turn our attention away from God and towards more material idols.

If you are one of those who send money to televangelists, or these major multi-million dollar “Christian” organizations, expecting a ten-fold increase return, then you really need to reconsider your motivation for giving. It’s not through the desire or love of helping those in need, but only gaining more for yourself. If, however, you are one of those who donate to these organizations out of the kindness of your heart, I ask that you keep doing so. Only find something else more beneficial to give to. These televangelists aren’t giving out the way you may think. A brief look at their lavish lifestyles should quickly inform you they aren’t living biblically, but worldly. They are pocketing a majority of your money, if not all of it.

Find a real charity that truly helps people in need. Or you can simply go out in your local area and find people to help. I’m sure there is someone in your area that needs something you are able to give. And you will know without a doubt that all of your donation is going straight to what you want.

In the end, that loving kindness it what God seeks. If you are willing to give without expectation of return. If you are helping those in need who are struggling in some way or other. God is watching and will return the blessing to you according to how you are blessing others.


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