When I was in middle school, my stepmother offered to pay me to wash her car. I did a great job (if I say so myself) but then got another idea. What if I waxed the car, too? Certainly, she’d see how awesome of a job I did, and then would pay me even more. So I did a quick wax job on the car and then took her outside to show off my handiwork. She said it looked good, but then I bragged about the wax job. “I paid you to wash it. I didn’t agree to the wax,” she said.
“But…” I was a bit shocked.
“No. I’m paying for exactly what we agreed to. The waxing will be your donation.”
I was shocked. I thought I could force her into more by doing more. But she saw straight through my ploy and shut it down immediately.
That’s kind of the way the Pharisees did things in Jesus’ time. They would go to make their offerings to God at the Temple, just like everyone else. But instead of doing things quietly and in reverence, as was the custom for most Jews, the Pharisees would be as loud and obvious as possible. “See how much we’re giving?” they seemed to say, without using those words. “We must truly be holy if we’re giving this much.”
Their hope was to impress the other Jews, probably so that they would easily keep their religious power. Perhaps they also thought God looked at things that way. But Jesus shut down such notions when He told His followers that there would be no reward in heaven for impressing people through giving. Instead, He told them to keep things as low-key as possible, and that God would notice and provide heavenly rewards.
Giving is definitely important to the Lord. But giving with a thankful heart and in gratitude to God is extremely important. Don’t forget to include God in how you spend your money, but when you do give, remember to do it only because you love Him, and not because you want your gift to gain you anything in return.