A rather introspective Daoist practitioner once wrote that she thinks her religious practice of burning incense sticks and offering food to the gods is like putting coins on a piggy bank. Saving a penny here and there, hoping that one day or when the sudden need arises, a fat pig can be cracked open for one’s disposal and favor.
Somehow, I feel that Christians approach relationship with God the same way. We pray, we do good works, we give offering at church, we serve in ministry, we read the Bible, and do all the rituals of good Christian living…for what? Is it out of sheer obedience or are we implicitly trying to store up a good amount of devoutness to our account so we can withdraw when necessary?
A friend who’s exploring Christianity casually confessed to me that she feels it’s cool to pray because you can make requests and they happen. Christianity has its benefits! And it does. “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not His benefits.” (Psalm 103:2) But to see Him simply as a passive reactor to our deposits is demeaning His greatness. It’s insulting.
God promised great rewards for those who give cheerfully and sow graciously. (2 Corinthians 9:6-14). Clearly, there’s nothing wrong in expecting Him to fulfill our needs and desires. But the heart motivation should be set aright. Are we testing God’s math? Are we laying treasures in heaven with our heart of trust to God or are we laying them down before us and checking once in a while if it’s time for the grand request? Do we always see God as the record-keeper who tallies every score we make?
I personally feel very uncomfortable when just after I give a present or bless someone with a meal, I immediately get back a gift or an excessive thank you. Or like today, my gift gets rejected because I’ve been told that I’m too nice. It’s good to be reminded to check my heart if I’m giving with expectation of receiving or is it from the outflow of God’s blessings to me. But more than that lesson, it makes me think: Is God like some of my friends who react to my giving with instant compensation or doubt? Or is He the activator and when I give or when I pray or when I do all these things in His name, I’m the reactor? This paradigm shifts me into thinking that I can never outgive God. I can’t give just so He can give me more. I simply give because He’s given.
To see God as a reactor to what we do is understating Him for who He is. When we give, we don’t compensate His goodness. We don’t bribe God to win His favor. We don’t need and God doesn’t want us to flatter him. Instead, we give out of a thankful heart in response to what He has given and what He has done.