I begin with a brief apology for the missing post last week. I’m sorry, and I’m blessed to know that there are people out there reading our musings and enjoying them.
Now, to the text for the day: Matthew 6:1-4. So much in a few verses.
This is the first of three warnings in which we are told to watch our intentions–this one about giving, followed by a similar sentiment on prayer (v.6) and fasting (v.16).
Jesus tells us:
1. Give to the needy (the statement assumes we are already doing it and know it is a good thing).
2. Don’t go announcing what you have done to gain the attention or approval of other people.
3. Give in secret. God sees what you’ve done secretly, then you will receive a reward from God (much better than the accolades of other people). *
*–We don’t give to the needy in order to be rewarded by God. We don’t give seeking to receive some benefit, payback, or eternal bonus points, but by acting faithfully we do receive God’s esteem.
This passage suggests that how we give–our disposition, our attitude–is in fact as important as the gift we give. It all comes back to the idea that we can only worship God. Either our intentions are to honor God in our giving (and praying and fasting) or they are to honor ourselves. We can’t have it both ways.
I can’t give you any examples of giving in secret, obviously that would defeat the point, right? I can tell you that I know it in my gut when I am practicing my faith in a way that is first seeking the approval of others. At first it feels good… other people say things like “oh Molly, that’s so generous” or “you give so much of yourself.” Then that voice in my head says, “yes, I am so good/so holy/so giving/so faithful.” Then, my stomach starts to turn a bit, and I can almost hear God say, “so that really wasn’t for me after all.” That’s when I’ve received my reward in full from everyone around me–at the expense of worshipping and honoring God. Not good. I suppose that’s what Jesus was trying to tell us in the first place.
~Molly Simpson is the Campus Pastor of Resurrection West and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.