It is, I have learned, far easier to ask forgiveness of a god we can’t see than from a person we can see. Perhaps this is why many religions are vertical in nature, focused on pleasing and placating God. That orientation has usually entailed sacrifice, the notion of giving God something—our time, our attention, our praise, our skill, our money—and, in extreme instances, our children, our virgins, an animal, our lives, or someone else’s life. But early in his public ministry, Jesus articulated a different understanding of sacrifice—the surrender of pride, the surrender of ego, the surrender of the privilege of being right, the surrender of everything that keeps us estranged from others, so we can be reconciled.
From a book entitle “If the Church Were Christian” by Philip Gulley
I make no apologies about quoting Philip Gulley so frequently on this blog. In my mind he seems to be one of the few Christian clergymen to have it more right than others now days. In my sixty odd years on being on the earth I have come across a myriad of different approaches to God. As Mr. Gulley says many seem to be in the business of either striking the fear of God in our hearts or asking forgiveness of sins we have committed or will commit in the future. Some also seem to be totally fixated on looking to our lives in heaven to almost the exclusion of what we do on this earth. As was mentioned in the above quote I think Jesus had very different ideas. He meant for us to take care of each other as he showed us by his examples.
Jesus’ idea of sacrifice was not the same as the Old Testament of Abraham or today’s of giving up things for Lent. Jesus meant us to humble ourselves by giving up our pride, our inflated egos, and our insistence on only us being right. We must be reconciled with all of God’s children to be one of Jesus’ followers. Pride and ego are very powerful parts of many of our lives. They are also the most dreadful parts of our lives!
As Jesus said many times, if you want to be the best then you must humble yourselves into being the least. That means taking care of your brothers. Even those smelly homeless ones we so increasingly see now days.
Charity has always been an important Christian characteristic. Jesus was constantly giving of himself to others. Often times when he did it he said not to tell others about his act. His giving is the reason that we have salvation. Jesus clearly expects us to also have charity, especially to the poor and needy. Here is the verse we will use today to study this concept.
Matt 6:2-4 NIV
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
In these words Jesus makes it clear that we are to give without bringing honor to ourselves. This is one of those places where He called some of the religious of his day hypocrites! Calling church people hypocrites is a common occurrence in today’s church as well. Some of it is well founded; some of it is not. If we give to the needy in order to draw attention to ourselves Jesus says we are hypocrites! We should give so that even we don’t know we are doing it. I don’t know quite how that is supposed to work though 🙂 ? I think it is just human nature that we want others to know the good works we do. But, of course when we do that we might doing it mainly to boost our vane pride. By the words above Jesus says when you do that you have your reward already and don’t expect anything from God for doing it.
As a personal note there is someone I have known most of the life that always makes their giving a very public event! It was always very embarrassing to me to have to witness those acts and the praise they expected to be lavished on them. For that reason I have always tried to live by the red letters above even before I knew of their existence. But I do also often fail when I tell people of my charitable acts. I think I do this to encourage others to also give but maybe I am sometimes doing it to draw attention to myself. So, shame of me when I am a hypocrite with my giving. As the Apostle Paul says sometimes I just can’t seem to do what I know I should do.
The last sentence in these verses says that God will reward us if we give in secret. I’m not really sure just what that reward is? Will it be something in heaven or on earth? I hope it is in heaven. I know there are Christians who are constantly saying things like “yesterday I gave $100 to the needy and today I received an extra $10,000!”. I have always been very uncomfortable with these types people. They seem to be very frequent in some Christian sects today especially among the televangelists. The main message it sends to me is when they do that is to say if you want to be rich then give to the Lord (or to the TV program you are watching). I don’t think that is really what Jesus meant in these verses.
Let’s all pledge to give more to the needy and to keep it a secret.