What Motivates You to “Do Something” For Others?
Do you write a check to a charity at this time of year? What percentage of your gross income do you give helping others directly? If you are a church-person, do you tithe? Do you believe there is a direct correlation between what one gives to God and what one gets from God? These represent a few of the theological, practical, philosophical, and political questions that are on many minds during December.
Theologically, “giving to get” is nothing new. Though some TV evangelists and networks would have you believe that supporting them financially is “sowing a seed” in the Kingdom that God is required to multiply back to you. First, let me tell you that they have no “new” revelation. The theology has been written about since at least the early 1800s. The metaphysical teacher and author E. W. Kenyon popularized the theology in the early 1900s. The Pentecostal and Charismatic beginnings were led, in large part, by people who were Kenyon followers.
If one studies and ponders Kenyon’s teaching and its timing, “God spoke” to him at about the same time the capitalist profit-motive philosophy was in full vogue. Physical possessions were being accumulated at a rate never seen before due to economic influences that, frankly, had little to do with God’s blessings. So teaching that if you give God a little, He will respond (make the MUST respond) with a lot gained traction and has maintained it through men like A. A. Allen, William Branham, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts and family, Trinity Broadcasting, and the Osteens. Of course, Scripture is quoted to support the theology, but often the context of the quoted scripture is brutalized to serve the point.
It is also worth noting, that the theology is often embraced by those who are most desperate and often, most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the “give to get” theology makes a relationship with God transactional. If I do my part then God is obligated to me to respond in the manner I have set up in the transaction. For example, if I have “enough” faith, then I will be_______________(you can fill in the blank with whatever it is you want God obligated to do).
The biggest issue with the Kenyon theology, is that God is too big for any box man can create for Him and refuses to be reduced to a transaction. God, through the Scripture, is abundantly clear that He seeks relationship with us, not a transaction.
Would You Give If You Couldn’t Deduct It?
The philosophy of “giving to get” is the philosophy of the capitalist. Investment reaps reward. I invest my dollars in a venture that I believe will bring me more dollars. I am willing to risk what I have in order to gain what I want, but does that figure into charitable giving?
The practical and political tone to the question comes if it is rephrased to ask, “How much would you give to charity if your donation was not tax-deductible?” Do you give to charity because you believe in the charity and in its mission, or do you give to the charity INSTEAD of giving to Uncle Sam?
Remember when Jesus said that if you hate your brother then you are guilty of murder, and lust is no different from adultery? The message He delivered through the hyperbole is that motivation matters. The widow who gave her “mite” gave more than those who could fill the coffers because her motivation was approved of God. I wonder what her response would have been if she had been able to “deduct” it from her taxes?
Here’s my point. There is a huge political debate raging at the moment about raising revenues for the Federal Government and reducing the spending on entitlement programs that it does. One of the ideas being floated is to do away with the charitable deduction now available to Americans who itemize their deductions. How do you feel about that? Would it make a difference in your giving if your gift was non-deductible? Will ministries like this one suffer if donations are not deductible for the donor? Who is more responsible for the poor, the government or the church?