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The Corruption of Giving (ThinkJump Journal #46 Kim Gentes)

I've had a question bouncing around in my brain for years now. It's this- why do we give? Is it out of a sense of wishing the best for another? Is it for the hope that our excess can supply someone else's need? Or is it a desire to meet an obligation, or aleve a sense of guilt?

Perhaps we have learned something powerfully wrong about giving. We may know what giving is, but we may not have examined, with ruthless intention, the inner motivations of our hearts as to why we give. We may have lost sight of the heart from which we can not only give, but give thankfully. A place of giving that is not corrupted by misinformed understanding or malignant forces of self-interest. Let us revisit this and unwind some thoughts together.


Charity

Giving, or the offering of charity, is by its very nature an act synonymous with love. This is so true that in early English language the concept we now know as love was translated literally as charity. Charity actually eventually lost its original use in antiquity and we rarely use it now except just mean acts of giving. Love and charity, rightly understood, are the giving from one with a desire to have another benefit, wholely apart from an anticipation or expectation of a response or reciprocation. True giving is an act of love that does not demand anything of the recipient. It is done for their benefit and is left to them without an obligation of payback.

Losing Our Center of Love Amidst Clichés for Giving

The more recent idea of "pay it forward" seems a unique form of giving. Yet, as I examine it, it seems less like giving in love and more like multi-level marketing. Why do I say this? Because when giving comes with a requirement it is never truly a free gift. This gets to the heart of the issue that lurks inside of all giving- is it done with right motivation? I contend would that right motivation is love. Bad motivation comes in other forms:

  • Obligation - being under demand to pay a debt
  • Guilt - emotion of having done something wrong or with a state of being wrong with a need to correct it.
  • Reciprocation - a return for previous deeds.
  • Accomplishment - something achieved or successfully completed

Giving from Obligation or Guilt

Giving cannot rise from obligation or guilt. If it does, it is not true charity, it is tribute. Not only is this unstable foundation for giving, it will not assuage the sense of either obligation or guilt which fuels such action. Freedom from guilt and the onus to repay a debt is part of the undertaking of the work of Christ's forgiveness in our lives. Returning to a mode in which we attempt to service such guilt and debt undermines our trust in God and His work, through Christ, on the cross. Giving then, cannot rise from these places for the Christ follower who wishes to remain at peace with God.

Giving for Reciprocation

If we give for the purpose of receiving something back in the future (pay it forward?). Jesus was quite clear that we are not build a "downline" for our generosity, hoping the payoff will be returned and we will be lavished in response. He said:

Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid." (Luke 14:12)

Jesus seems quite clear here that when it comes to our acts of giving, service or ministry we are not to allow ourselves to become self congratulatory, because he says about giving:

 "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," (Matthew 6:3)

So reciprocity can not be a source for giving. Parenthetically, this does not mean the concept of "pay it forward" is completely wrong. It is simply not truly a kind of giving based solely in love. We all understand that a plastic bag full of dough-liquid (called, ironically, "friendship bread"), a community chain letter, and pay-it-forward efforts are, at their best, more part of a desire to be more connected with other people in some common effort than it is about giving from the depths of love.  Again, this does not make them wrong things to do, per say. But true giving is something different. Let's continue.

Giving For Accomplishment

Sometimes because we have goals and vision to do altruistic things, we believe that those goals give us the foundational purpose and energy to proceed. This desire to "do" something for an honorable ideal, can be insidious in hiding a deeper, more unhealthy motivation. Sometimes the motivation driving a person to give comes from a need in the giver to accomplish something worthwhile. This is the kind of gift that one gives with the sense that they are achieving something or furthering their interests either personally, emotionally or perhaps even spiritually. On the surface, this may seem well intentioned and even pious. Sadly, this kind of giving is wrapped up in selfishness. A clear symptom of this can be that the giver, in this kind of situation, may feel slighted if they are not "appreciated" for their generosity. But that symptom is simply a broken scab on a deeper wound to a persons soul.

Even worse than feeling slighted by not being appreciated, this kind of "spiritual" person often thinks that giving, helping or supporting someone should be done primarily as a mechanism for "evangelism". The insidious message here is that if we have a goal, and our giving meets that goal, the person (or object in the goal) who receives the gift is of little consequence. We objectify the person being given to, making them less than human- just a needy "it" that satisfies a role in our equation of measuring how good we are. This reveals a kind of giving to accomplish the goal of evangelism that is ultimately a corrupted objectification of the genuine value of human beings. In the end, giving for this kind of reason is just another variant of abuse in which we use others for our own ends and to satisfy our own selfish (if insular) methods.

Finding Our Way

What then is a clearer way to see giving? Let me postulate another reason for giving. 

The foundation for giving cannot arise from any sense of obligation, guilt, reciprocation or accomplishment. It must come from a deeper, more profound truth, that buoys with the truth and value of God's desires. At its core, giving must be done from love. Love that imitates from humility the selfless love of God, having assigned true value to us by his creation of human beings and his reinvestment in us (his creation) by the sacrifice of His son for us, on the cross. We gain our value from Christ and God's valuing of us. To see this all clearly, we must return to Genesis and the creation account.

 Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over ...". So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God not only created man, he placed his own image on the likeness of the created being.  Both men and women have the imprint of the creator on their lives. This alone postmarks us with God's love. Like a father, we are his children, bearing His image.  This is restated later in Genesis, as a warning when talking about God requiring that each person be accountable to not shed the blood of others, where he says to Noah:

Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

Here, God uses the importance of his image upon us as the profound reminder that we must value one another. This valuing of one another, and thereby honoring God and what he values, is a core foundation for understanding how we think about each other.  This entire flow of value related to the image of God and creation is commonly referred to via the greek phrase "imago Dei". This encapsulates a theology that asserts that human beings are created in God's image and therefore have inherent value independent of their utility or function.

Quite simply, we have value because God has given us value. So then, we must value one another, as co-creation in this earth. God has created your fellow man (or woman), just as surely as he has created you. Any sense of value that we place on others or gifts we give to others should come from the fountain of love and family that we have with our fellow human beings. We are all of like nature, and should value one another as part of a fellowship of humanity, valued by God.

Seeing another person who is in need, then, and responding to it is a matter of according dignity to them, and accepting the fact that we are in this life together with them. That we are part of the human race along with them.

Voices from the Past

Gregory the Great understood this concept precisely in his profound treatise "Pastoral Care". There he clearly articulates the value of imago Dei in the context of giving, when he says:

 "[one] gives of his bread to an indigent sinner, not because he is a sinner, but because he is a man. In doing so one actually nourishes a righteous beggar, not a sinner, for he loves in him not his sin but his nature." -Gregory the Great (~600AD)

Gregory articulately corrects the misconception that we should attach our Christian ministry hopes and goals to our simple act of giving to those in need. At our core, we are to give to others simply because we are humans and they are too. We find a kinship of God's love overflowing from us (in his overabundance of provision) allowing for us to pour out on others God's love he has given us. We are linked by the nature of our kinship of humanity. In that link, we share with people the things we have because they are other people, children like us, of a good and gracious God.

When we think of others in this way, we lose our begrudging attitudes about others and about giving to them. We see ourselves as part of God's creation, and that any resources we have are meant to be shared with others whom God has created as well, saint or sinner, friend or stranger.

Overflowing in Thanks

Having a good foundation of why we give, Paul articulates a proper posture for giving in his beautiful writing in the second letter to the Corinthians, where he says:

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver"

Our giving then, coming from the foundation of love, is to be expressed not as one caught in a demand, but as one expressing thanks. Paul is saying that cheerful giving reflects right purpose in the heart. A thankful heart is a brilliant fountain from which loving gifts can come without pretense.

A Life of Giving

You might have wondered why I have not yet quoted instructions about faithfulness or obedience in regard to giving. The bible has some instructions for us that are often taught from that perspective.  The scripture tells us that we are to fulfill a call to faithfulness and obedience in many areas, including giving. I do not disagree with this. However, maturity and Christ compels us first to live out of love. But where love fails, obedience remains. This has always been the message of the Bible. Jesus said it this way:

 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)

By saying "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments", Jesus was articulating that these two commandments serve as the foundational pillar for all others. All others "hang" on them. Love is the single powerful purpose from which we do, or seek to do, any of the other acts of instruction from the scriptures.

Love and Obedience

Jesus did have specific teaching on giving in the New Testament, as did the Apostles. Christ was clear that regular giving to the community of God is something we should continue in. It was important to him and he told us not to leave it undone (Luke 11:42). Obedience to Christ is certainly not to be ignored. Paul gave further instructions about giving in 2 Corinthians 8 where he deals with the themes of faithfulness, generosity and giving as unto the Lord. I will reiterate the earlier point, since it is essential- where love fails obedience remains. We must follow these instructions of obedience in the present because they will lead us to the same love we might currently lack in fulness.

Obedience and love are intertwined, each leading to the other. For just as true as the previous statement, we find- where obedience fails, love remains. Like two pedals on a bicycle, we must push in synchronous alternating harmony on them both to see that they are connected. One now, the other later, and continuously we see that one leads to the other.

There is no dearth of instructions in scripture about giving to your local community of God. While my treatise here is not specifically about local church giving, it can be applied. Let your motivation for giving be out of love (and spurred on by Christ's call to faithfulness and obedience to that love), finding God's value in others as He has also found value in you.

Give as a human being to other human beings, out of a true sense of being a part of one another, part of God's love towards us.


In Christ's love,
Kim Gentes


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Reader Comments (19)

Kim,

The most important part of this entire article is found in your last sentence.

"Giving as a human being to other human beings, out of a true sense of being a part of one another, part of God's love towards us."

Your first word, I believe, you mean to be "Give." Giving out of being a part of one another, this is love embraced and owned to its very core. Thank you for this.

January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan Wilt

Thanks Dan for the edit note. thanks for pointing that ou. I have changed it as you noted.

January 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Hey Kim,
Giving is an important area in our lives. I like the section on image. When we give cheerfully, we display the character of God. So where does the "cheerfulness" come from?

When I see a person on the street and they ask me for "help" do I give cheerfully?
Sometimes it's tough. It takes time and desernment.
Once I give I have no recourse to know what happened. I don't know anything. His name, where he stays, his true plans, will this be used for good or evil?

What is my motivation?
Do I feel sorry for him because he has less than me? Guilt.
I hope he buys food for his family and not drugs or booze. Obligation.
Maybe God will look more kindly upon me for this. Payment of debt.
I can tell others what I did and gain their favor. Manipulation.

To me the cheerfulness comes from knowing that I am God's instrument to display His righteousness and love. (Rom. 6:13). I am doing what I was made for in this place, at this time.

Blessings,

Jeff

January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Merry

well said Jeff, excellent points!

kim

January 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

I generally like what you say, Kim, and it is insightful. However, I would make two caveats: (1) our giving is probably rarely if ever "pure", even when we think it is, and (2) Jesus did talk in Matt 6 about being rewarded by one's Father in heaven and Paul does talk about the idea of reward in 2 Cor 8 - 9, so the idea of a "well-done" from Jesus and/or the Father at the final judgment (and perhaps sooner) is not absent from the teaching of Jesus nor from the teaching of Paul (and I have only pulled a couple of passages that I immediately thought of). Perhaps this does not just accord with the concept of final judgment, but also with the practical reality that we often need the promise of such reward, ideal or not. Give because we are becoming like God and God gives freely - that is the ideal - but if not, give because the Father will reward you or for a lesser reason, for it is likely that if we knew our motives like God knows our motives, then we would recognize that most of the time, perhaps all of the time for most of us, there is some mixture of such motives in there.

January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Davids

Kim,
Thank you for your well put thoughts on this topic. The topic of motivation is a deep and tangled rabbit hole. To create in the physical realm something good that stemmed from a bad motivation is self cancelling and akin to Jesus' statement about driving out the devil by the devil's power.
This topic always goes hand in hand (For me) with the motivation behind mission trips, esspecially the very short term ones. I have taken part in some of these and always come away questioning my own integrity and motivation behind the service I just took part in...

Hmmm, which should I take? The red or the blue pill?

January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Liko

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kim. You are provoking some worthy thinking about this subject. As you have asked for our thought too, I offer few for consideration.

Your title seems to address giving in general. But there are many kinds of giving, and more than one valid motive. So I wonder if your title is perhaps a bit too strong.

You seem write primarily from the perspective of private giving: one individual's personal response to another individual in need. While pure motives are best, I suspect that whether you gave to someone in need out of guilt, or from compassion, they probably appreciated the gift either way.

I suppose one could say that from God's point of view, a gift given from guilt or fear or a misplaced sense of obligation has less than perfect motives and is therefore less virtuous than a gift given cheerfully, from the heart, from brother to brother. In terms of your own personal growth and maturity this distinction is helpful.

The gratitude of the recipient however may be unaffected by your motive, and that gratitude just might help you see that the recipient is a sister or brother, as deserving of help and mercy as you are. In other words, giving from imperfect motives may still be beneficial to both parties and serve to both instruct the giver and arouse gratitude in the recipient. So calling these motives "corrupt" is a bit strong. After all, I don't think it would help individuals to hold back from giving out of concern that their motives were less than pure. I prefer the term misguided, and to address the misguided one compassionately, to free them from the guilt or fear or to help them appreciate that some motives are less helpful than others.

Is there not also a place for public giving?

It is true that Jesus scorns giving designed to enhance your reputation and publicly demonstrate your virtue. While giving with these motives will not impress God, it may be incorrect to assume there is no place for public giving that has more noble ambitions and may have great benefit to your fellow man, woman, and child.

Consider all the public donations given by individuals and foundations to support schools, universities, churches, aid organizations, to provide aid of various sorts. While a strict reading of the gospels seems to condemn these gifts, are they not the source of much good in this world? Public giving can have the positive effect of encouraging others to be generous too. It can draw attention to worthy causes, and help your fellow citizens realize that government can't do it all, we need to all chip in to make this world a better place.

We would never understand this if all giving were private. I personally am impressed at Warren Buffet's generosity. Not that it has made him a better man, but that it inspires me to be a better man. I am inspired that a man I could have thought of as simply a greedy capitalist is willing to not only give away what his talents have earned him, but to encourage others to do so too. That he is not just taking, but also giving back. That we should also think about giving back to the churches, schools, communities and societies that have contributed so much to our own growth, opportunities, and success.

Some will say that scripture takes a somewhat narrower view of public giving. I agree that it does. But do we really think that truth is only to be found there, or that all truth is contained within it? I think it is instructive to also learn from our own lived experiences. To learn lessons that only acts of compassion can teach us. And to learn by keenly observing and noting what works and what doesn't in the world around us.

January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAl Jaugelis

Peter, Charlie and Al,

Thanks so much for your important thoughts. Very good. I knew that others would bring some important thoughts to the forefront that I had missed. Well done. I'll respond briefly for some of the thoughts that I can.

Peter-
1) very much agree, yes.
2) very well said. Yes, there definitely are instructions, clear enough that seem point to rewards being an acceptable part of the process of giving. I am not sure that I would say they are the primary goal being issued by either Paul or Jesus, but they certainly seem to allow for the fact that the fruits of our lives may be positively beneficial towards us, when it comes to giving. Where I end up is asking if it is meant to be "bait" to do something? Or is it more of a "spiritual truism", such as the "reap what you sow" law of agriculture and human nature. As you say, it seems that Jesus was ok with us looking at it as being a "reward for good behavior". This was something I tried to somewhat address (and updated the paper a bit) in relation to "obedience" section of the article-- the point is, yes, love isn't always fully at work. We must live in obedience to grow into both. I think having a reality of "reaping what you sow" is a similar thing. We can live with that principle in mind, as it will help us.

Charlie-
yes, it can be a rabbit hole.. my goal here isn't to send people down a hole.. but I do think that it is helpful for maturity to investigate our motivations.. I'll take the purple pill :)

Al-
Regarding the title.. I took a while to decide on the title and that not without a bit of consternation. I could go with it, or change it if I heard something better. My reason for settling on the current one is mostly because my goal is to challenge our hearts (mine most of all) where we sometimes give no thought to why we give, after years of doing so. I realize that is not true of all people, so perhaps the title is too indicting in that case. The other reason for titling it strongly is that I knew people with differing opinions would feel more impugned to state their thoughts, and to be honest I wanted this. Sensationalism? maybe, but I didn't want to be the only person stating my thoughts on this. I genuinely wanted to hear from others and learn.

Gratitude of the receiver, regardless of the motivation-- that is a great point. You hit a nail on the head there. People certainly can be helped whether the motive was right or good. In fact, I think that is actually the redemptive part of the equation. Sometimes what we mean for bad motives, God still uses for good. Sounds very similar to Genesis 50:20 in my mind, but with a twist. I definitely agree with you that clean motives don't stop charity from being effective in the immediate. This article definitely was about the long term maturity of the giver, primarily from my belief that a healthy person (good motives) will stay a life long giver, while a hurting/misguided (as you put it) giver will eventually bankrupt themselves on their broken expectations that they secretly have for giving.

Public giving. Very good thoughts there. I am with you on it. I don't think we should downplay public giving either. Perhaps the reward is already given, as Jesus states. But then, if our goal is actually to help another out of the value we have for them as members in the human family and part of God's creation, perhaps we can still do that, whether private or public. It may just be that it is a much more difficult task to keep our hearts from being inflated with pride. Perhaps that is what Christ was trying to avoid- placing too many burdens on someone learning to give rightly.

Thanks again to each of you for the great thoughts. Very helpful. We are all richer seeing some of these larger points.

thank you
Kim

January 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

thank you so much for the insightful and thought provoking article, and for the discussion that followed- what fun! i hope it is okay for me to wade in here above my head.... i loved hearing all that was said and want to share my own response. why do we give? why should we give? good reasons seem to be: that there is need and it is very real; because we were made originally in the image of God- to be like Him is to give, to share, to care for each other; because we have been brought into His immediate family in Christ, been made sons of God, and given His Spirit to indwell us and live His life in and through us. He cares for our fellow man, He desires his good and give us the opportunity of participating with Him. at times, it does seem as if He actually leaves it to us, He entrusts us with the caring of another to the extent that they will indeed suffer and experience lack without our involvement. do we really believe that it is the will of a God of love for many of His children to suffer extreme want while some others live in indulgence? because He allows it does not mean He either wills or approves it, right? shouldn't we be interested, as the good children we have been made, are being made, in the desires of our own Father? what a joy and privilege if He shares His heart with us and allows us to have a part in His plans coming to be! not only that, but what if He tells us- little, immature, clumsy, awkward us- that there is something we can do for Him.... bring him a cup of water, a bowl of soup, some warm socks, turn the heat on darling, fetch a pillow, or some aspirin or neosporin, pass me the screwdriver? what delight to a father- our sharing our teddy bear with him. or, in his absence, bringing seven-up to our sick brother, our blankie to our cold sister, letting the littlest one be in the club, getting a cup of coffee and a cookie for our tired mom. should we care what our motives are for doing any of this? isn't the only thing that matters the fact that it gets done? probably it isn't an all or nothing deal. for your sake, the essential thing is that the giving occurs- my impure motives or someone else's use of manipulation to get you fed are no excuse at all for your continued hunger. surely there is real and great value in your needs being met, whatever my reason for doing so might be. but that doesn't mean that i need to be content with my impure motives. if i am giving or doing something for someone else because i am afraid i will be beaten if i don't, something is wrong. if i do it so that i will get my own dinner tonight or in order to force a bigger, better thing out of Him, something is probably off. if i give so that i can then go tell my friends about it so that they are compelled to praise me, or to make myself feel 'better than', it might be indicative of a breakdown in my relationship with my Father. if i seek a reward, what if my reward is not going to come as a lump sum payoff after the final accounting is done, what if it is meant to include enjoyment of His presence and delight now? i might miss it. if part of the purpose of this life is to be growing more like Him as i go along, i can surely delay that process by growing or trying to grow something other now. and i may well lose all that 'other' at some point in order to grow as i was meant to, which may or may not be painful, who knows?, but will surely be done if necessary and will ultimately be fine- why not allow it now? if i have been saved, am being saved, and will be saved, it would be most natural to be part of the process even now. and one good way that i can see to jump right in there is to see what He is and is doing and join in alongside where i can, being open to correction/improvement/instruction/refinement, and giving, generosity, tender care and support are trademarks of His.

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterheather norman

Heather,

great thoughts... I think this section of your thoughts were key to me:

"should we care what our motives are for doing any of this? isn't the only thing that matters the fact that it gets done? probably it isn't an all or nothing deal. for your sake, the essential thing is that the giving occurs- my impure motives or someone else's use of manipulation to get you fed are no excuse at all for your continued hunger. surely there is real and great value in your needs being met, whatever my reason for doing so might be. but that doesn't mean that i need to be content with my impure motives."

Well said. I agree, there is great value for the recipient in the acts of giving simply being done, regardless of the source. But in everything, we can fall into painful long term issues if we take this approach for too long. Yes, it matters that the hungry and broken are ministered to. But as you say, that does not mean we allow our impure motives to live and thrive.

my contention is that if we give out of impure motives, we will eventually bankrupt our own lives. Possibly to the point where we won't give or help anyone again. I have seen this happen to a number of people, who started off giving with mixed motives and eventually were consumed by false understandings of why they give, hoping for something to be rewarded to them, looking for affirmation and reciprocation and so many other things. In the end, years later, the people are no longer givers at all, but angry, hurt and inward people who no longer trust that giving is anything but people manipulating other people. Like, you I believe that we should continue to give while we work through our motives. (which is why I have the "love and obedience" section). But if we fail to tend to the garden of our motives, it will overgrow with weeds, and choke the life out of any fruitfulness we may have had.

thanks for your thoughts. They challenge and encourage me.

One question I had. near the end, you said "If part of the purpose of this life is to be growing more like Him as i go along, i can surely delay that process by growing or trying to grow something other now."
I am sorry, but I got confused by this. Can you explain this to me. After this sentence I wasn't able to understand the rest of the points which hung on this sentence.

thanks
kim

January 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

I cannot find any reference to Ben Franklin ever saying "Millions for charity, but not one cent for tribute."
Otherwise it was a thought provoking article.

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Shermer

Andrew, thank you for pointing that out. I had taken the quote from a second source, which itself was failed. I researched it and found that the original quote was "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.".. a far cry from pertinence in this article. I removed the quote and will find a more appropriate one that reflects the point being made. For now, the article is updated to be clear without it. thanks again, Kim

January 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Hi Kim,

1st post.

It is refreshing to see an article on giving that isn't replete with 'Give to get' theology. It's more and more rare among pastors, it seems, to reduce giving to it's core simple truth. Love. Love God. Love People and give freely and joyfully. Not to diminish the principals behind giving, but to place love over them.

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Burns

Hi Kim,

I am suspect of recommendations to swim too deep looking for motivations. The scripture gives hints that motives may be important i.e. Matt 5.21-22 anger equated with murder, but I see as many instances of the imperative to act with no reference to motive (Matt 5.16 let men see your good works). My point is that the scripture rarely encourages deep introspection. Rather, the scriptures tell us to take thoughts captive (2 Cor 10.5), walk through hard times with joy (Jam 1.2), encourage one another to good works (Heb 10.24). Even our great worship prototype, David, would limit his introspection (psalm 4.4) and proclaim, "Why are you in despair O my soul? . . . Hope in God." (Psalm 42.5).

The scripture consistently tells us to act. When Jesus commands his disciples to give in Luke 6, he is creating a stir. The idea that we should give even to the point that when we are stolen from we should not ask for the item (s) in return is nothing less than seditious. Later in the same chapter, Jesus explains that when you give in such a radical measure, you will be given back in much greater measure. The idea here is not so much economic instruction, but covenantal expectation - an expectation that works both ways.

Jesus came to the elect. These are the chosen people who are to take the light and life of creation and bless all the nations. Unfortunately, the Jewish mission, like all human endeavor, was inadequate to the divine mandate (the old problem of sin). Jesus is now on the scene spreading a prophetic word that is calling his people to act in accord with the divine mandate. He says sell all you have, give to the poor and expect blessing in return. This in my mind can be nothing less than Jubilee (see Luke 19). Then, of course, sin is dealt with supremely at the cross.

Today we have even more. For the divine Spirit now dwells in us. If we are to grasp the fullness of our call through a godly ethic, then we must by all means act with compassion - even if it feels much more like begrudged obedience. The writer of Hebrews tells us to simply lay aside any weight or sin that can tangle us up and get to running the race.

As a musician, artist, pastor, touchy-feely person, whinny boy, grumbler, etc., I find introspection to be all too consuming. I can spend way too much time thinking about myself. I have a horrid time walking in faith and expectation when I'm weighted down by introspection. The much greater (and profitable) exercise is speaking the word of promise, giving anyway, loving unreasonably, praising through confusions. There is just to much tragedy and pain in the world for me to introspect. I will follow my Lord and King Jesus. Spirit will teach me the ethic I must walk in, and the body of Christ, his blessed church, will kick my tail when I'm acting the fool. We have a good Father, Creator of all. I can trust Him - I will hope in God!!

thanks for the conversation :)

blessings
gary

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergary

Gary,

You've done a great job of articulating your thoughts. I will say right up front, though, that we are not far apart in terms of goals. In fact, I think we probably have the same one. My goal with the article is actually to encourage giving, and to help people find a way to be more generous. It sounds like ultimately most people are in favor of giving, and my article is meant to fan that flame.

That said, I also believe in obedience to right living, which includes giving, as part of the way we practically work out following Christ. So this article is not about only doing something after all the proverbial ducks have been lined up. However, I believe that tending to the core foundations of why we are doing things is an important work. If we don't do that, we suffer the possibility of running blind for our entire lives, never allowing the Holy Spirit (let alone others) to question our motives and character.

The essence of the Holy Spirit work in us is to bring change- from our sin-filled lives and natures into an ongoing renewed life in the Spirit. You said "I am suspect of recommendations to swim too deep looking for motivations". Worded that way, I'd agree somewhat with your thought. But truthfully, most people I deal with and know push through on practicals without really considering the undergirding principles.

I think you run against history of the church when you say that we shouldn't give serious pause to motivations. Rightly placed in a full life (one which includes obedience), checking our motivations and having them challenged has been the painful but needed reality that has come to us from literally every single leader in church history: from Jesus, to Paul, to Antony, to Augustine, to Gregory, to Bernard, to Francis of Assisi, to Luther, to Calvin, to [name your present day world changer]... You can't find a single one that didn't try to to force us to look honestly and brutally at our motivations, and even call them into question.

I think you are misinformed if you don't see that extensively in the "heart" message of Jesus, and certainly it is the core of Paul's message, especially to the Jews when he was trying to move them from religious Judaism into heart-filled service to God in Jesus Christ.

You said "My point is that the scripture rarely encourages deep introspection."

Here is where it is both hard to agree and hard to disagree. Where I agree- no personal internal work can derive a change of heart. We don't "figure" ourselves out. HOWEVER, I DISAGREE in that, as we (and trusted others) look at ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to view us honestly, we will be convicted by the Holy Spirit. Introspection for its own sake is not of value. But "judging our own hearts" certainly is. Psalm 51 is a powerful reminder of this.

Repentance is the point. We need the Holy Spirit for conviction. But if we refuse to look at our real lives (internally and externally) we can hide our sin, and simply deceive ourselves while ignoring the Spirit.

Your point is not lost, though- some people already do this activity as part of their natural make up. But when we stop the process of clarifying the "why"s in our Christian life, we gradually move headlong into stagnation, consolidation, error and even blind acquiescence to rules and concepts we never intended. And when we end up in those places, God sends powerful change to challenges us, as he did when he sent Jesus, the first century church, 4th century monastic movement, 12century Franciscan order, the protestant reformation and on.

In my opinion, we can't stand in the face of our sin nature, church history and a New Testament (through Jesus and Paul) that calls us to repent, and say "we shouldn't get too deep" with considering our motives. Like everything, there is a balance. Neurosis is no substitute for Holy Spirit conviction.

Your point is good. Hope this helps edge the boundaries of my thoughts...

I so love the dialog. thanks!

Kim

January 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Hi Kim,

I have been trying to find the time to leave a proper response, but my days have been filled with a new worship project (s) and the demands at the office and home are taxing. Forgive my brevity - there is so much that I should say but don't have time .

Psalm 51 is a wonderful response to a revelation that YHWH has found his shepherd king lacking in faithfulness. This is my point. "Ruthless examination" of one's own heart (thoughts and intentions) as a vocational or self-help exercise rarely provides benefit to the Kingdom of God. What does provide benefit (as you mentioned) is self-examination encouraged and tempered by the Spirit and the Church. It could be argued that the bible leads us to this kind of introspection, but I find that those of us who use the Word without the Spirit and/or the church wind up worse off.

My concern with your original post is that introspection can be a way of acting as servants rather than sons (heirs) of the kingdom. We put ourselves in some unrealistic fish bowl and examine every defect of the heart. (i say defect because so many in our body never see, or even imagine, the glory of the ascended Christ dwelling inside) Giving should emerge from relationship, but if the relationship with Creator is lacking, then giving out of position (heirs of the Kingdom) will suffice.

My point is that when we do the things of the Kingdom, then the Kingdom begins to emerge in us. There have been seasons in my life where either confusions or dissatisfactions or deceptions or whatever dull my sense to the voice of my Lord. The Spirit taps me on the shoulder; the brother concerned for my well-being asks me to lunch; scripture jumps off the page only to roll around the floor because in my lack, I am not hearing.

If I went into introspection at this point the result would be morbid. When I am lacking, I need to remember the words of promise and do the things that are required to demonstrate my devotion to my King Jesus. I believe the scripture and my experience would vindicate that action speaks more than intention.

You mentioned that most of our Christian heros (including Jesus & Paul) require us to take our motivations very seriously. I would argue that we should be in dynamic relationship with Father, Son and Spirit and respond as He leads. Motivations may or may not be commensurate with this leading.

When Jesus speaks to His seven churches, he reminds them to keep up the relationship and to act as he directs . . . "he who has an ear, let him hear . . . Paul tells the Galatians in chap 5 that certain behaviors, regardless of motivations, indicate that one will not inherit the Kingdom. Antony was a great brother in the Lord, but history sees him as the first Christian hermit: go hide from the world and it's distractions. There are many problems with this, and while I am grateful for some elements of the monastic period (movement), I question the validity of a movement that separates from mission. I wish I could elaborate further, but I have no more time.

I would agree that the scripture encourages us to examine ourselves, but that examination must be directed by Spirit. Otherwise, we are too prone to get lost in the myriad voices that bombard us daily. Did you know that the word repentance was used in the first century as a political term requiring action lacking the religious over tones (feeling sorry for my sins) that it now carries?

Again, my apologies for the brevity. Perhaps some day we can sit and discuss these things over a beer :-)

blessings
gary

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergary

Gary,

well said, and well done. I very much enjoy the conversation here. Thanks for that. I find clarity in your statement

"I believe the scripture and my experience would vindicate that action speaks more than intention."

This is a profound and ultimately clear truth. In fact, I do not think that you and I are at opposite ends of this at all. Let me summarize in this way:

The treatise I've intended with this article is meant to dislodge the excess of one end of the spectrum- the place where people who are obeying simply out of duty or other "less than" motivations. The goal is to come to better foundation (love) for doing what we are called to do. I think my caveat on obedience clarifies the balance of not ignoring duty as an excuse whilst you are gaining properly clarity in motivations.

But I wouldn't go as far as you have in your sense of unhappiness with introspection. In fact, your use of the word *introspection* misses the mark of the article, in my mind. Not because it is wholly the wrong term, but because we nuance its interpretation culturally in the Christian world. "Self-absorbed introspection" (what I expect you mean when you say "introspection") that elevates a fleshly interpretation and response is not the point. However, positive heart-examination (what I am in favor of in the article) is necessary.

There are plenty of examples that show the balance I am talking about. I did not include them in the article primary assuming their essence being generally accepted. I'll list a few here to clarify, so you see where I am coming from.

• Jesus saying "look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye" Matt 7:3-5
• "...unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Matt 26:28
• "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." 1Cor 11:28
• "looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" Matt 5:28
• "How many are mine iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin." Job 13:23
• "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah." Ps. 4:4
• "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways." Hag. 1:7
• "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2 Cor 13:5
• "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge...Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. " Ps 51

Each one of those examples, shows either a directive or example of examination, prompted by the direction of Jesus, the Father, conviction of sin via the Holy Spirit or teaching from Paul (which we assume is also filled with Holy Spirit inspiration). They nuance a kind of life that says "Consider your ways", and "forgive your brother from your heart", and "examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith".

Of course, if you look at these from a fleshly standpoint, yes, selfish-introspection only poses more problems. But honest, Spirit directed examination is clearly called for in our lives. That kind of Spirit led examination is sometimes to ferret out subverted evil desires, sometimes to avoid actual "blind spots" where we don't intend to sin knowingly but it will lead us into temptation, and sometimes to simply avoid the pain and destruction of good intentions that ultimately don't lead to true Holy Spirit led life of son-ship and freedom.

Well done in clarifying the differences between servanthood and sonship. The BEST is, as you say, to be led out of relationship engaged by the guidance of the Father, Son and Spirit. My belief is that examining ourselves is part of that process in nurturing an honest relationship, and allowing God the prune the garden of our hearts.

in Christ,
Kim

January 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Thanks so much for further clarification Kim. I am grateful for the conversation and exploration into the ethic of giving and self-examination. I too believe we are not far apart in our views. Self-examination with the intent of Spirit healing or instruction makes for a great heart :-)

blessings friend
gary

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergary

Kim, this is a very important article and a concept that I have been sharing with people for several months. At a time when so many people within our own congregations are suffering with extended unemployment, home foreclosures, and incredible need; when the church has made the huge political stand that "care of the poor belongs to the church, not the government," we seem still to be focused on giving token amounts to organizations "out there" after which we feel much better about ourselves. It is so much easier for us to give token offerings to causes, than to give from the heart to meet the needs around us. To me, this indicates giving that is done out of obligation, or guilt (as in, I have so much - now I've given, I feel better about spending so much on that TV.) What it lacks is a sense of urgency for helping those in need around us, for THEIR sakes. It lacks love.

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

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