Most people probably know the old proverb: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Recently, I decided that I wanted my oldest daughter to read more books. She had winter break coming up, and I told her that I wanted her to read two books during the 10 days she would have off.

She wasn’t very enthusiastic about “having to” do all that reading. In the end, she only read one book, and it required a great deal of reminding and cajoling on my part.

I quickly realized that if I made reading into something that she was constantly being hounding to do, she’d learn to hate it. So I changed my course.

Instead, I decided that I needed to create an incentive that would get her into reading. I know once she gets into it, she’ll learn to love it. At 7 years old, I decided it was time to institute an allowance for her.

But unlike many households, she doesn’t get an allowance for her chores. Her chores are how she earns food and keep. I don’t pay her to handle her responsibilities.

Instead, I linked her allowance to reading. She earns 50 cents for every book she reads (I have to approve that it is long enough first - no less than 75 pages is my standard.)

She started reading every night, proudly announcing “fifty cents, please!” as soon as she finished yet another book and telling me all about what she had just read.

I wonder if we haven’t made living for Jesus more like a punishment than an incentive, and that’s why many people loathe Christianity and church life.

‘Accept Jesus or go to hell’ is an awful marketing pitch. It’s like me saying ‘read a book or you’ll be punished.’ My daughter would not want to read the book, and she would only do it at the last minute under threat of imminent punishment. Instead of loving to read, she would probably hate it.

However, I also think ‘Accept Jesus so that you will go to heaven’ is a terrible pitch. similar to the previous pitch, it puts all the emphasis on ‘the afterlife’ rather than the here and now. This essentially says ‘life is still gonna stink, but once you die, you’ll be happy forever!’

For me, one of the primary reasons to believe in Jesus is his promise and desire to bind up the broken-hearted in this life. To release people held captive in this life. To give sight to people who are blind. Today. Here. Now.

A more abundant life starting today, not when you’re dead.

God teaches us to live a life of love rather than strife. He teaches us to function with faith and hope rather than despair and meaninglessness. Not necessarily (or even usually) by changing our circumstances, but rather by changing us.

He makes us to be part of his family, his community, where we no longer need to compete and jostle for positions of prestige in order to gain more self worth.

I’m trying to remember this when I teach my teens at church. If you force somebody to do something, they’ll resent it. You must attract them. Allow them to leave if they want, without threats or insults.

Instead of coming up with better sales pitches for the life of faith in Jesus, perhaps we just need to do a better job of demonstrating it. Perhaps more people would be more drawn to the product if our smarmy sales tactics weren’t in the way.