Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Authentic Charity

Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matthew 6:2-4)
The Greek word for “charitable deed” here is the word for “alms.” It speaks of compassion and beneficence. The purpose is to help the poor, not to receive the applause of men. The Bible says that “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He [the LORD] will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). When the Lord pays back, it is with great blessing. But if we do our alms in order to be seen by others, their acclaim will be all we have — and they have a very short attention span. We will have reaped what we have sown, and there will be no reward from God.

Two Bible accounts show a dramatic contrast in motivations and their rewards. The first is the story of the widow’s mites:
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mark 12:41-44)
This woman gave with no fanfare. It was only two mites, smaller than a penny and worth even less; it would not even make a sound as it fell into the box. But Jesus knew something about this widow and her gift—it was all she had. Others gave out of their abundance; she gave out of her lack, but also out of great faith. The synagogue crowd did not notice, but the Father did, and He has rewarded her ever since. We do not have her name, but we know her as the woman who humbly gave all she had.

Now think of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). Others in their young Christian community were selling properties and laying the proceeds to the apostle’s feet. This was not a requirement; it was purely voluntary. Ananias and Sapphira did not have to sell any of their possessions but were free to do with them as they wished. But they wanted the admiration of the people around them, so they decided to sell a property and pretend that they were bringing all the gain to the apostles, when in fact they were holding some of it back. Again, they were free to keep any or all of the money, but they wanted to have the glory of the crowd for giving it all. So, they faked it. They were hypokrites, stage-players in a little theater of their own devising. And for a few very brief moments, they enjoyed the spotlight. But when they were soon found out, things did not end well for them. We do know their names, and for almost two thousand years they have served as a warning to hypocrites and glory-hounds.

The kingdom of heaven on earth requires authentic charity.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.