Dear GracePoint family,

Carrot and stick motivation is a motivational approach that involves offering a reward—for good behavior and a negative consequence for poor behavior.

The Carrot and Stick approach of motivation is based on the principles of reinforcement set forth by philosopher Jeremy Bentham, during the industrial revolution. It is derived from the old story of a donkey, who was motivated by a carrot dangling in front of him and the jab of a stick from behind.

Some people are carrot people and some are stick people. Among Christians, the carrot people attend prosperity churches (where prosperity is promised to those with the appropriate amount of faith), and the stick people attend more legalistic churches (where punishment is threatened to those who fall short of obedience).

But when God’s love is described as unconditional in the Bible, it is saying that God has put down the stick and has thrown away the carrot. God’s unconditional love is not a bribe. God’s unconditional love is not a threat.

The truth is, neither the carrot nor the stick can produce unconditional love. Both motivations are based on fear, so they are only able to produce fear and insecurity. But when a person receives God’s unconditional love, all fear in their relationship with God is immediately dispatched. That person becomes free of the carrot and of the stick. Instead of being controlled by fear, they are now free to love God just because they want to, not because they are afraid not to.

Only God’s unconditional love can transform a human heart so that love is the only motivation it needs.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (1 John 4:18).

Grace and Peace,

Gary Nock

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