GUIDELINES ON GIVING
Thank You Lord, for Your love embraces me, for Your joy uplifts me, and for Your peace which floods me. I rest in You.
Read MATTHEW 6:1–4
Giving to the Needy
6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Take my silver and my gold; / not a mite would I withhold.’1
John Stott comments that the three practices discussed in this section2 – giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting – are basic features of every major religious tradition. Jesus ‘expected His disciples to do the same’,3 but He warned against perverted versions of these disciplines and expected His followers to practice them in ways that are completely distinctive. The background here relates to the cultures of the ancient world in which a social structure involving grotesque inequalities condemned vast numbers of people to a daily struggle to stay alive. This system was underpinned by the values of honor and shame. The rich and privileged retained and increased their honor by very public displays of beneficence, while the poor were treated as the scum of the earth, lacking honor and kept in their place by their dependence on charity. So when Christ dismisses the public display of giving to heighten the donor’s prestige as hypocrisy, he is attacking a practice which lay at the center of the culture of the ancient world. The quest for public esteem is specifically challenged when Jesus condemns ostentatious giving ‘to be honored by others’ (v 2).
Our world is not so different from this. The gulf between rich and poor continues to grow and people with vast wealth are celebrated by newspaper rich lists and a plethora of TV programs depicting the accumulation of money as the supreme goal of life. However, Jesus’ challenge is directed to His own followers who are urged to give generously to the poor, but with their eyes firmly fixed on God and not motivated by the desire for either public reputation or private self- esteem.
Consider what is implied in not knowing ‘what your right hand is doing’ (v 3). How do we work this out in practice?
Lord, so often I say and sing way beyond the reality of my inner life. Forgive me, may my words and deeds reflect the real me.
1 Frances R Havergal, 1836–79, ‘Take My Life’ 2 Matt 6:1–18 3 John Stott, A Deeper Look at the Sermon on the Mount, IVP, 2013, p107