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The Discipline of Giving

• Greg Boyd

In this sermon, Greg addresses the nature of the rewards that we receive from investing in spiritual disciplines. He then speaks to how generosity is rewarded.

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In this passage, Jesus is saying that our motive is all-important. If we give alms to seek recognition, we have our reward. But if we do it in secret, which means that we have no ulterior motive, we will get a reward in heaven. However, this raises questions about whether God loves us because we behave a certain way or if we are simply loved by God. In addition, the teaching that we will be rewarded for our good deeds also seems to contradict the New Testament’s uniform message that we’re saved by grace through our faith, not by works.

The question of rewards for our efforts is a serious issue because the New Testament addresses it quite a lot. The payoff for sacrifice and loss in this life comes in the next age. However, because this apparent tension between grace and rewards is rarely addressed, let alone coherently answered, many tend to ignore teachings about rewards and losses. It causes people to think this way:  If Im going to be magically perfected upon death, why would l go to the trouble of disciplining myself like an Olympic athlete? Therefore, we end up with a “Christian” worldview in which your present behavior, and the character you’re forming with your behavior, simply doesn’t matter.

How should we think about this? First of all, we are saved by grace. The only reason anyone can recognize Jesus as Lord is because God graciously opens their heart by the power of his Spirit. The question is: What do you do with the salvation you’ve been graciously given?

Upon receiving salvation by grace, we must ask how much will we yield to the Spirit working in our hearts? To what degree will we allow our relationship with Christ, given us by grace, to transform us into Christ’s likeness? Paul put it this way:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. — Philippians 2:12-13 

One dimension of our gracious salvation is that God is at work in us, empowering us to want to do God’s good pleasure, which is to transform us into the image of Christ. Another dimension is the role we play in this transformation. It’s our job to work with the Spirit to manifest this grace in every area of our life.

This lays the groundwork for us to understand how we are rewarded for working out our salvation. Some rewards are external, while others are inherent or organic. For instance, having a deep capacity to give and receive love and to experience the joy of helping others is the reward for cultivating that kind of character day by day.  The New Testament is not saying that God will give treats to all good boys and girls because they have worked out their salvation. Instead, striving to get every aspect of your life in line with the truth will deepen your capacity to experience God’s good and perfect will.

Jesus teaches that if we give alms to display false righteousness, we have our reward. If we intentionally keep it secret so there is no ulterior motive in giving, then we are storing up rewards in heaven. Jesus is challenging us to develop the kind of generous character that loves to give, not to get noticed but just because generosity reflects God’s character and it’s the best way to live. Someday we will come into the undiluted presence of the generous God, and the character we develop now will determine how much of that generosity we can participate in.

As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, what we reap is what we sow.  Being generous with our money now forms our character in a Christ-like direction and there are inherent rewards that result from it. It will reward us throughout eternity.

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Topics: Disciplines, Generosity, Salvation

Sermon Series: Sermon on the Mount, Getting Real

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The MuseCast: November 9

Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 6:1-4

    “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

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3 thoughts on “The Discipline of Giving

  1. Rhonda says:

    I love the belief of eternal growth. A peodophile husband of mine once suggested this 15 years ago and i dismissed it, but having lived another 15 years i believe it to be true, because we will never out sin the Cross of Christ, his love is eternal and we can never be lost. If we believe, its a done deal and His Bride is saying come, reward or no reward, we just want Jesus to come and if its eternal growth, and it is, because we will never be God, then we are all ready surely??
    Just to be in Jesus Kingdom fully with all of you, after 64 yrs in this one, is my all, my life, my hope, done deal, see you there, Hallelujah come Lord Jesus and thank God for the Bride of Christ who prepares and waits, One with Christ, glory be to God! I can only imagine, and i do Greg, thanks to you, and Bonhoeffer n Mackie n Wright and Bruxey lets not forget Brux, n Danielle and the myriad of those who want to present us faultless before the presence of His glory. Thankyou Brother, you will!. sorry im so long winded, bear me xoxoxo

  2. Robert says:


    Monday, October 25, 2021
    11:24 AM

    I was thinking about something that Pastor Mike said Sunday about rewards. While on the one hand I don’t like to think of myself as having selfish motives for my service for Jesus, the truth is I already have my rewards. I have a purpose for my life, I have peace that passes understanding, I have nothing to worry about. I can go on and on about the rewards that I already have. If I look up into the sky on a starry night that’s how many blessings and rewards I have. Dn. 12:3 says ” They that are wise will shine as the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” meditate on that for awhile. It even says of Jesus that the reason that He endured the cross and despised the shame, was for the joy that was set before Him. There are so many verses about treasures in heaven, and also promises of rewards here and now. I can attest to the fact that my joy is not dependent on anything except Jesus and His love for me. If I have nothing else, that’s enough. There have been times when that was all I had and it was enough. When I think about the joy that was set before Jesus, I am sure that the joy it talks about is the joy of being with us and celebrating the victory together. I know that, that is the joy I’m looking forward to, seeing people who’s lives have been changed because I shared His love with them, and celebrating with them and Him. So let’s turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in light of His glory and grace.

  3. Robert says:

    1 co 15:41 The sun has one kind of splendor, and the moon another and the stars another, and star differ from star in splendor.
    Da.12:3 They that are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

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