Guilt Is Not The Best Motivator

Pic from Flickr by Mister Rad

When it comes to helping people live the Christian life, guilt is not the best motivator. I believe that we should feel a true sense of shame and guilt because we have all sinned against a holy and righteous God. The only thing that can remove this shame and guilt is being covered by the precious blood of Jesus, an  act known as salvation. However, too many people in the church today are being guilt-tripped into reading their Bible, serving, going to church, and tithing.

The congregation in our churches can only be guilted into something a few times and then guilt is no longer a way to accomplish anything. Tithing is probably the best example that one can use to explain guilt. Most pastors will use Malachi 3:8 -10 for it says, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”[1] Usually in this circumstance, these verses are read, the congregation feels guilty and then next Sunday a really nice offering is given. Then a few Sundays later, the amount in the offering plate goes back down because the guilt has worn off of the people in the congregation. This is a sad way to handle the subject of tithing and giving. Guilt is the wrong motivator even if it works. The people in our churches need to know that if they withhold their offering from God, that God does see them as thieves. However, they need to know that God is also a God of grace and mercy and there is forgiveness where there is repentance.

A pastor needs to realize that he is addressing the Body of Christ. These people are made in the image of God. Instead of guilting people into giving or tithing, there is another route that should be taken. People feel guilty enough when they sin, or do not read the Bible, or they miss church. People need to know that God desires to bless them and give them the abundant life that Jesus talked about if they seek Him with their whole being. Christians should be joyful not shameful. There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.

Pastors should show their congregation that the Christian life is not a bunch of rules and regulations. Jesus gave us only two commandments. Matthew 22:37-39 says, “And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[2] Pastors do not need to guilt their congregations into tithing. They need to show the congregation how to fall in love with God all over again. Seek God! Fear God! Respect God! The congregation needs to learn how to find all their passion, desire, meaning, purpose, identity, hope, and security in God and God alone. When the congregation gets this, true life change takes place.

God does not guilt his people into anything. God wants his people to come to him with the right heart and the right motives. When people fall truly in love with God, they will do things out of their passion and desire for God not because the man behind the pulpit guilt-tripped them into it. Pray that God’s people will long for him the way a deer longs for streams of water. Maybe then, a revival like we have never seen will flood our communities, states, country and spread to the world.


[1]    Unless otherwise noted, the ESV version of the Bible will be used.

[2]    ESV version