FENTON, MI – Everybody has felt it before, that sinking feeling when the offering plate is being passed in church. You have money to give, but your mind lists a thousand excuses to keep it for yourself. You feel torn because you know you should give—and part of you wants to give—but definitely not all of you.
People in your church have the same inner battle. In this moment, some withhold money grudgingly as the opportunity passes. Some give the money just as grudgingly, imagining all the bills or nice things where the money could be used. If you’re a pastor or a member in the local church, seeing this ungrateful spirit might discourage you. Maybe you are the person with the ungrateful spirit. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loves a cheerful giver” —so what should we do when we aren’t?
In times like these, the giver’s heart is the problem. There’s only one way to change a heart, and, thankfully, we have access to it, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit changes hearts through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we as the Church are giving out of guilt rather than joy, our hearts have not become gospel-centered. The gospel needs to shine into our hearts, so the Spirit can change us. The key is to find ways to link the gospel to giving, and let God’s truth about giving come alive in hearts. After all, the gospel is the whole reason we give. I John 4:9 says, “We love because He first loved us.” We have the capacity to give out of love because He first loved us.
God is the initiator who gave His Son—His only Son—so we could be reconciled with Him. Jesus gave Himself as a willing sacrifice, so we could be saved and follow after His example. Weaving this gospel narrative into everything our church does helps us remember the reason we give. When we remember and meditate on truth, we change. Our hearts are transformed, and when we’re overwhelmed by everything God has given to and for us, we no longer feel compelled to give out of guilt. Instead, we want to give away as much as possible, simply because we want to glorify and exemplify God.
The Church should love God so much that we want to give away everything we can, simply because we love Him. Like a child who adores his father—which is exactly our relationship to God—we should want to copy Him, look like Him, and obey Him. Because we love Him, we want other people to know Him which is why we give money to offerings like the Frances Brown State Missions Offering.
So how do you motivate your church to give out of gratitude, not guilt? Remind them of the gospel. Talk about it all the time. Let others see it in your actions, words, body language, behavior—and everything else about you. When you do this, others will be constantly reminded of all God has done. As they contemplate these gospel truths, their hearts will begin to thaw. Soon they will want to give, not out of guilt, but out of sheer love. Just like God did for us.