Monday, February 24, 2014

What's the REAL reason?

I recently read an article about motivations for generosity. It was a very interesting discussion of why we give, why we tip, and just overall what are the motivations for people to give. Among the theories discussed were the ideas that we give to protect an image we have of ourselves or because of an expectation that the giving will be reciprocated. It reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of FRIENDS:

Joey's theory of giving is pretty comprehensive. According to him, even the fact that giving makes us feel good makes it selfish. "There are no selfless good deeds," he says.

So why do we give? Why do you give? What's the real reason? And are there selfless good deeds?

This idea is nothing new. Jesus acknowledged it long ago, when he talked about our tendency to love those who will love us back. He was at a dinner being given by a prominent religious leader, and he noticed a lot of self-serving behavior. And he made this comment to the 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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
- Luke 14:12-14

And thus we see what Jesus brings to the table. His kingdom turns our world system on its ear. Psychology and even common sense says that everything we do has a selfish aspect. Joey on FRIENDS is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even he picked up on it.

But Jesus says, no. That's not how his followers are to live. We are to give to those who cannot possibly repay us. We are to be generous when there is no benefit for us. He even says not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3) - a reference to making sure we are not even congratulating ourselves internally. And, "if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:46) He's very clear. The mark of his kingdom is a whole new way of thinking.

Easy? Heck, no. Possible? Joey is probably right - not in our own strength. But when the resurrection power of Jesus lives in you, the impossible becomes possible.

We love, not to make him love us, but because he loved us. And that's a radical thing.

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