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Why Rewards?

At SMF, we believe the treasure of God's Word hidden in your heart is the best reward for memorizing it. But sometimes tangible rewards are a helpful way of staying motivated. They can also be a powerful motivator for memorizing Scripture—especially for children. From time to time people ask us whether it’s wise to offer external motivations (e.g., prizes) for a spiritual discipline. After all, shouldn’t Christians memorize Scripture out of an internal motivation—love for God?

First of all, we agree wholeheartedly that love for God should be our primary motivation for memorizing Scripture. Our goal is not to encourage children to make Scripture memory a means to a selfish end, and we’re not trying to make Bible trivia champs who never apply the Word to their lives. However, consider the following two facts:

1) The ideal time for building long-term memory is before the age of 12. A child’s mind is better equipped to tackle complex memory and acquisition tasks (such as learning languages) than an adult’s.

2) Realistically, most children lack the ability to be internally motivated to memorize the Bible. Meaningful, Holy-Spirit inspired understanding of Scripture tends not to happen until the teen years.

Only the Spirit can light His words on fire in a heart. God Himself must exchange an individual’s “heart of stone” for a “heart of flesh” (see Ez. 36:26). While there are exceptions, most young children are not yet at this stage of spiritual maturity. So while we wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to light the fire, we believe it’s wise in the meantime to “stack the wood” of Scripture in the child’s heart. At SMF, children and youth can earn a fun and meaningful week of Scripture Memory Camp through memorizing Bible verses!

What about adults? Well, we trust the internal motivation is already there, but we acknowledge that memorizing Scripture can be a challenge. Consider picking a tangible incentive for a particular Scripture memory goal—not replacing internal motivation, but supporting it. If you can do this mutually with a Scripture memory partner, all the better. Community + encouragement + reward for work well done = a boost in the uphill (but worthwhile!) climb to memorize.

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