“I give because I know my reward is in heaven.”
“Sell all your earthly possessions because your rewards in Heaven will be so much greater.”
I give because I know my reward is in heaven. This is a phrase (among a plethora of others) I hear all the time, and have even used myself, in and out of Christian circles. It hasn’t been until the last year or so that I started to question the implications of this statement. Something just didn’t sit well with me whenever I heard it. I would wonder, “Should that be the reason we give? To receive our treasures in heaven? Or, should selflessness, humility, and love be the catalysts of our giving? Love for God and love for people.” After all, those are the two greatest commandments. Right?
36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt 22: 36-40, NIV).
Right. If we sell all we have to the poor and “give of ourselves” in the form of money, gifts, time, etc., because we know we’ll have more treasures in heaven, isn’t the focus still on ourselves? I mean, when we truly dig down to the basic idea of this overused Christianese phrase—no polite tones and gestures, no Churchy jargon, no BS—we are essentially saying, “I give because I get.”
We as Christ followers, as people, need to come to a place in our lives where we can take the focus completely off of ourselves and truly learn to love others for the sake of loving them. No other reason. No ulterior motives. We should love because we love. It should be that simple. It should come as the overflow of the love we have for God. We should be moved with compassion and want them to have the things we offer, even if it means giving up that brown coat that goes so well with those brown shoes.
I feel like we mask our selfishness by saying it’s for our “eternal wealth” as if that changes the fact that we’re being selfish. As if it’s just dandy to make that our motivation. Maybe I’m wrong. Is it ok? Is it ok for our “treasures in heaven” to be our motivation for giving and loving people? I don’t see why it should be. To me, giving with this motivation takes away a lot, if not all, of the authenticity of the sacrifice. It’s as if we’re saying, “Here, you can have my stuff. I really don’t want to give it to you, but I know I’ll be rewarded for this in heaven. I know God is watching me and is proud. But man, I really don’t want to give this stuff away.” Yuck.
Why do we always need a reward for sacrifice? What if there was no reward? Would we still sacrifice? Now, this doesn’t apply solely to giving to the poor; it also applies to tithing. We should tithe out of our generous hearts. Scripture states in 2 Corinthians 9:6: “Remember this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Here again, Paul (whose writings, we must remember, are theopneustos, or God-breathed, as is all of Scripture) promises that we will “reap generously”, but that should not be our motivation. Tithe to honor the Lord as we’re commanded in Proverbs 3: 9: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”
I mean, look at Jesus. He died on the cross for sins he didn’t commit simply because he loved God and loved us. He didn’t receive anything other than the joy of knowing that he was obedient to the Father and that he saved those who choose to live for Him from eternity in hell. That’s it. There was absolutely no selfish ambition or ulterior motives.
Now please, do not here what I am not saying. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look forward to our treasures in heaven or that we should disregard the idea of treasures in heaven all together. It’s going to be awesome when we finally do experience that. But what I am saying is that our treasures should not be our motivation for giving, befriending, loving, and caring. Love and only love, love for God and love for others, should be our sole motivation.