Incentives are often used to assist in changing behavior.

A few years ago a MichiganStateUniversity study discovered that 97% of the faculty members and staff who bet $40 that they could stay with a six-month exercise program were successful. Only 19% of a non-betting group stayed with their six- month program.

At one point in the first grade our youngest child began to hate going to school. He would resist getting out of the car when you dropped him off for classes. An idea hit me one morning as we approached the driveway to the school. I told him if he would get out of the car and not make a scene every day that week, I would pick him up on Friday and we would go to the Dairy Queen and have a Blizzard.

Amazingly my idea worked. That began a weekly ritual for Jonas and me last lasted several years. Every Friday after school you could find us at the local DQ enjoying a wonderful ice cream treat.

Parents use different methods to motivate their children to clean their room, do their assigned chores, or brush their teeth. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Incentives and rewards work for adults as well as children. Several years ago my health insurance provider changed the focus from illness to wellness. The priority shifted from helping people who were sick to assisting and encouraging folks to be healthy. Cash and other incentives were provided if people had an annual wellness exam or participated in certain healthy habits. Pedometers were provided with a way to earn rewards by getting and staying active.

Credit card promotions offer cash back, points that can be converted into cash, hotel stays, or merchandise. Although they are not as valuable or as easy to redeem as they once were, frequent fliers can build up mileage that can be used to save money on future travel plans.

Retail stores use a variety of gimmicks to encourage customer loyalty. Rewards for spending a certain amount or discount coupons are among the methods used by Macy’s, Belk’s, Ace Hardware, and others. One Day Sales (with a Preview Day the day before) promise big savings. Deferred or low interest lures people to purchase home furnishings, appliances, and automobiles.

There are more “deal of the day” offerings than you can shake a stick at. Websites like Scout Mob and Groupon have used the technology of smart phones and the internet to revolutionize the way people shop for bargains.

Warehouse clubs like Sam’s and Costco promise cheaper prices on quality merchandise to folks who pay a membership fee and are willing to buy toilet tissue, apples, or cereal in large quantities.

Incentives are offered to professional athletes and coaches in addition to their sometimes astronomical salaries. A baseball pitcher might earn hundreds of thousands of dollars extra if he pitches a certain amount of innings or wins a certain amount of games. A football quarterback can make an additional bundle of money if he throws enough touchdown passes or a clause in a coach’s contract can include incentives for winning his league or conference championship.

There is one incentive that surpasses all others. For those who wisely and responsibly use the resources and opportunities that God provides, the reward at the end of life’s journey will be to hear the Lord say, “Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me” (Matthew 25:23, Common English Bible).

Jamie Jenkins