“YOU received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8) Jesus issued that instruction to his apostles when he sent them forth to preach the good news. Did the apostles obey this directive? Yes, and they continued to do so even after Jesus departed from the earth.
For instance, when the former sorcerer Simon saw the miraculous powers possessed by the apostles Peter and John, he offered to pay them to impart that power to him. But Peter rebuked Simon, saying: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought through money to get possession of the free gift of God.”—Acts 8:18-20.
The apostle Paul displayed a spirit similar to Peter’s. Paul could have allowed himself to be a financial burden to his Christian brothers in Corinth. However, he worked with his own hands to support himself. (Acts 18:1-3) Thus, he could say with confidence that he had preached the good news to the Corinthians “without cost.”—1 Corinthians 4:12; 9:18.
Sad to say, many who claim to be followers of Christ have not shown the same willingness to “give free.” Indeed, many of the religious leaders in Christendom will “instruct just for a price.” (Micah 3:11) Some religious leaders have even become wealthy from money collected from their flocks. In 1989, one U.S. evangelist was sentenced to a jail term of 45 years. The reason? He had been “defrauding supporters of millions of dollars and using some of the money to buy homes, cars, holidays and even an air-conditioned dog kennel.”—People’s Daily Graphic, October 7, 1989.
In Ghana, according to the Ghanaian Times of March 31, 1990, a Roman Catholic priest took money that had been collected during one church service and hurled it back at the congregation. “His reason,” says the paper, “was that, as adults, they were expected to contribute in higher denominations.” Not surprisingly, many churches even try to appeal to greed in its members, actively promoting gambling activities and other schemes in order to raise money.
By way of contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses endeavor to imitate Jesus and his early disciples. They have no paid clergy. Each Witness is a minister charged with the responsibility of preaching the “good news of the kingdom” to others. (Matthew 24:14) Over six million of them worldwide are therefore engaged in bringing “life’s water” free to the people. (Revelation 22:17) In this way, even those who “have no money” can benefit from the Bible’s message. (Isaiah 55:1) Although their worldwide work is funded by voluntary donations, they never solicit money. As true ministers of God, they are not “peddlers of the word of God,” but they speak “out of sincerity, yes, as sent from God.”—2 Corinthians 2:17.
Why, though, are Jehovah’s Witnesses willing to help others, doing so at their own expense? What motivates them? Does giving free mean that they do so entirely without reward for their efforts?
An Answer to Satan’s Challenge
True Christians today are motivated primarily by a desire to please Jehovah—not to enrich themselves. Thus they are able to provide an answer to a challenge raised by Satan the Devil centuries ago. Regarding a righteous man named Job, Satan challenged Jehovah with the question: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God?” Satan alleged that Job served God only because He had put a hedge of protection about him. If Job was deprived of his material goods, argued Satan, Job would curse God to his face!—Job 1:7-11.
To answer this challenge, God allowed Satan to put Job to the test, saying: “Everything that he has is in your hand.” (Job 1:12) The outcome? Job proved Satan a liar. No matter what adversities befell him, Job remained loyal. “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!” he said.—Job 27:5, 6.
True worshipers today show an attitude similar to Job’s. Their service to God is not motivated by material concerns.
God’s Free Gift of Undeserved Kindness
Another reason true Christians are willing to “give free” is that they themselves have “received free” from God. Mankind is in bondage to sin and death because of the sin of our forefather Adam. (Romans 5:12) Lovingly, Jehovah arranged for his Son to die a sacrificial death—something that cost God dearly. Mankind is certainly not entitled to this. No, it is a gift from God.—Romans 4:4; 5:8; 6:23.
As recorded at Romans 3:23, 24, Paul thus told anointed Christians: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” Those who have the hope of living forever on earth are likewise recipients of “a free gift.” This gift includes the privilege of being declared righteous as Jehovah’s friends.—James 2:23; Revelation 7:14.
Christ’s ransom sacrifice also makes it possible for all Christians to serve as ministers of God. The apostle Paul wrote: “I became a minister of this [sacred secret] according to the free gift of the undeserved kindness of God.” (Ephesians 3:4-7) Having been called to this ministry by means of a provision they did not deserve or could not earn, true ministers of God could hardly expect to be paid materially for sharing the news of this provision with others.
Everlasting Life—A Selfish Inducement?
Does this mean, then, that God expects Christians to serve him without any hope of a reward? No, for the apostle Paul told his fellow believers: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” (Hebrews 6:10) Nor is Jehovah unjust. (Deuteronomy 32:4) On the contrary, Jehovah is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But is not the promise of everlasting life in Paradise an appeal to selfishness?—Luke 23:43.
True Christians today are motivated primarily by a desire to please Jehovah—not to enrich themselves
Not at all. For one thing, the desire to live forever in Paradise on earth originates with God himself. It was he who presented this prospect to the first human couple. (Genesis 1:28; 2:15-17) He also made possible the restoration of this prospect when Adam and Eve lost it for their descendants. God thus promises in his Word that “the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) It is therefore entirely proper for Christians today, like Moses of old, to look “intently toward the payment of the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26) God does not offer this reward as a bribe. He offers it out of genuine love for those who serve him. (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17) In response, “we love, because he first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
Proper Motive for Serving God
Nevertheless, Christians today must constantly scrutinize their own motives for serving God. At John 6:10-13, we read that Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of over five thousand. Subsequently, some began to attach themselves to Jesus for purely selfish reasons. Jesus told them: “You are looking for me . . . because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied.” (John 6:26) Decades later some dedicated Christians similarly rendered service to God but “not with a pure motive.” (Philippians 1:17) Some who ‘did not assent to the healthful words of Jesus Christ’ even sought ways to make personal gain out of their association with Christians.—1 Timothy 6:3-5.
Today, a Christian who serves only because he wants to live forever in Paradise could also be serving with a selfish motive. In the long run, this could result in a spiritual fall. Because Satan’s system of things seems to have lasted longer than expected, he might “tire out,” feeling that the end has been delayed. (Galatians 6:9) He might even become bitter over material sacrifices he has made. Jesus reminds us: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Yes, a person whose primary reason for serving God is love puts no time limit on his service. He is determined to serve Jehovah forever! (Micah 4:5) He does not regret any sacrifices he has made in connection with his service to God. (Hebrews 13:15, 16) Love for God impels him to put God’s interests first in his life.—Matthew 6:33.
Today, over six million true worshipers “offer themselves willingly” in Jehovah’s service. (Psalm 110:3) Are you one of them? If not, then meditate on what God offers: pure knowledge of truth; (John 17:3) freedom from bondage to false religious teachings; (John 8:32) the hope of living forever. (Revelation 21:3, 4) Jehovah’s Witnesses can help you learn how you can receive all of this from God—free of charge.