Posted by: Kerry Spencer | February 9, 2009

Motivation for Mercy

What should be our motivation for serving the needy? Often, my main motivation is guilt. It is clear to me that I have an abundance of wealth compared to the average human being. I’ve long felt this to be a good enough motivation to “share the wealth” and serve the poor. Though this may not be the worst motivation, I’m learning that there is a better one.

I’m reading a book by Tim Keller called “Ministries of Mercy.” In it he suggests that our main motivation for loving and serving the needy should be God’s mercy and grace towards us. God has saved me and blessed me immeasurably for no reason besides His unconditional love. Likewise we are to pass on that love to others even when, in our eyes, they don’t deserve it. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Keller quotes from a sermon by B.B. Warfield in which he answers three common objections we have to serving the poor:

“Objection 1. “My money is my own.” Answer: Christ might have said, “My blood is my own, my life is my own” . . . then where should we have been? Objection 2. “The poor are undeserving.” Answer: Christ might have said, “They are wicked rebels . . . shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.” But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving. Objection 3. “The poor may abuse it.” Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood. Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving.”

In 2 Corinthians 8:2, Paul writes about the Macedonian churches: “their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” Their motivation for generosity was joy from God’s grace, rather than guilt from their prosperity. In fact, the Macedonians were considered extremely poor. Yet due to their joy in the Lord, they “gave according . . . and beyond their means” (v. 3). The love of God is reason for much joy. Likewise, the love of God is a great motivation for serving the needy.

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