Leader to Leader, Ministry

What Motivates People to Give?

February 13, 2014 | Posted by John Kieschnick

Have you ever heard someone say, “The Gospel is the only motivation a pastor should use to move people to give”? If you have, I am 99.99% certain the comment was made by a pastor. I heard it more than once during my 37+ years of pastoral ministry.

Obviously, God’s grace in Jesus Christ should be the primary and ultimate motive for Christian giving. However, to suggest that it is the only motivation for giving isn’t supported by Scripture. While I want to remain faithful to the Law/Gospel distinction so important to us, I believe St. Paul had a few other “motives” in mind when he wrote chapters 8 and 9 in his second letter to the Christians in Corinth. Consider some of the comments he made and ask, “What was Paul suggesting about giving when he wrote these words?”

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (8:1-2). Do you sense as I do that Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to recognize the powerful example of others when they considered their response to his plea to help the poor Christians in the city of Jerusalem?

Why do you think Paul wrote these words, “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability,” and “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints”(9:3-4)? I have a hunch he expected his more affluent readers to reflect on their own giving in light of the example of poorer Christians in Macedonia.

If Paul believed that the Gospel was to be the only motivation for giving, why would he write, “But just as you excel in everything…see that you excel in this grace of giving” (8:7)?

Before some of you get the impression I don’t believe grace is the greatest motivation for giving, let me conclude with Paul’s own words, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (8:9). Just remember, that’s not all he said!

John Kieschnick
Born in Walburg, Texas, the second youngest of nine children, John Kieschnick received a B.S. in Education from Concordia Teachers’ College, River Forest, Ill. Throughout his ministry, John has served on a variety of synodical boards and committees, both national and district (Texas). He has authored numerous stewardship Bible studies and programs.