Reward-based motivational methods have been around for a long time. Whether patches and bars for children who learn verses or plaques and certificates for hard-working adults, we line people up and applaud them. But some believers are uncomfortable with these traditions. Shouldn’t we serve the Lord out of love? Doesn’t the applause of men rob God of His glory and encourage pride?
Extrinsic motivators are continually at work in our lives, shaping our choices and lending direction. These motivators, both those made by man and those designed by God, represent an important ingredient that adds order and structure to our lives. They serve purpose that cannot and should not be denied. Effective employers, teachers, and parents all understand how to wisely and properly use external motivation in order to move others toward established goals.
Discussions centering on the proper use of external motivators continually draw a wide range of viewpoints and opinions, for the responses these motivators draw are as diverse as the individuals represented. The same motivator that stirs one person to action has the ability to frustrate another. For example, we have all witnessed our share of energetic debates over institutional rules that generate more heat than light. These debates continually remind me of how much time we can waste seeking to find common ground when it is not possible or even necessary to be found. Apart from the mandates of God’s Word and from those whom the Lord has placed at the decision tables, is it necessary for us to find agreement with an institution’s code of student conduct before we embrace any biblical admonishment to withhold negative judgment and criticism?