Guilt Giving

Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything I ran across this helpful section of Gospel in Life: Study Guide last night at our church’s Bible study.  I appreciate it in light of popular speakers who make Christians feel guilty for having a furnace, an air conditioner, a fishing boat, and good food to eat each day.

“Often books and speakers tell Christians that they should help the needy because they have so much.  That is, of course, quite true.  Common sense tells us that, if human beings are to live together on the planet, there should be a constant sharing of resources.”

“But this approach is very limited in its motivating power.  Ultimately it produces guilt.  It says, ‘How selfish you are to eat steak and drive two cars when the rest of the world is starving!’  This creates great emotional conflicts in the hearts of Christian who hear such arguing.  We feel guilty, but all sorts of defense mechanisms are engaged.  ‘Can I help it if I was born in this country?  How will it really help anyone if I stop driving two cars?  Don’t I have a right to enjoy the fruits of my labor?’  Soon, with an anxious weariness, we turn away from books or speakers who simply make us feel guilty about the needy.”

“The Bible does not use the guilt-producing motivation, yet it powerfully argues for the ministry of mercy.  In 2 Corinthians 8:2-3, Paul tells us that the Macedonian Christians gave generously to the Jerusalem famine victims.  …What was the dynamic that moved them to give?  ‘Their overflowing joy…’ (v. 2) and ‘they gave themselves first to the Lord’ (v. 5). …Their gifts were a response, not to a ratio of income levels, but to the gift of Christ!  Mercy is spontaneous, super abounding love which comes from an experience of the grace of God” (p. 109-110).

In other words, we should help those who need it – but we should do so not out of guilt, but out of gratitude for grace.

The above quote is found in Tim Keller, Sam Shammas, and John Lin, Gospel in Life: Study Guide.

shane lems

5 Replies to “Guilt Giving”

  1. Our small URCNA church just used this for a small group and I found it very beneficial, particularly this lesson. Our group mostly viewed this curriculum positively but some older members found it , particularly this chapter, as somewhat problematic. I fear the battle of fundamentalism andmodernism has created in some folks an angst about social responsibility (fear of becoming a social gospel cause). I even had one member in our group state that “helping people socially is a slippery slope”. How has your group been with this material?


    1. Richard/Nathaniel: we’re almost finished with the 8 sessions, and I’m pretty sure everyone who was at the study would say it was helpful. We had to discuss Keller’s negative use of the word “religion,” since it can be used in a good way; we also had to define what Keller meant by “community” (we thought “church” is a better way to put it), and it would have been helpful if he had mentioned the work of the Holy Spirit more. So we had a few critiques – but these critiques became times of good discussion. Thankfully every session had an emphasis on the gospel as well.

      Overall it was challenging, convicting, and worthwhile. The people at the study were an average age of about 40 years old, and a lot of them haven’t been Reformed more than 10 years. So the social gospel critique wasn’t really there – we kept talking about loving and serving our neighbors.

      Nathaniel – too bad for the “slippery slope” comment!



  2. This was a very good reflection of what we go thru in our daily lives. Being a parent, we are “guilted” into giving everyday! Not only with the “older children” those who should be taking care of themselves, but also the work force that sees you as “better off”, no matter how you try to share that it’s His Blessings in your life.
    It is a prayerful part of our emotion that we need to learn, that giving, without guilt, with a cheerful and Grateful heart is a part of Christ’s ministry, but it can also be taken advantaged of, that’s where the wisdom of God comes in! Learning to say the word “NO”!!


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