“When you give to the needy . . .”
Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4
1 “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is 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 men. I tell you the truth, 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.
Reader: This is the word of the Lord. Response: Thanks be to God.
Prayer, fasting, and giving alms are three central themes of Lent. We’ll look at each over the next three days.
We don’t need big words to say powerful things. These words of Jesus have four or fewer letters and most have a single syllable. He couldn’t be clearer. Ours is a faith that expresses itself in actions. Giving to the needy is one of those actions that is done not to buy God’s favor or earn salvation. We are not graded by God based on what we do. We “give to the needy” to live out a relationship with our heavenly Father. Giving to those in need is what we do as Christians. Jesus was clear. He didn’t say “if you give to the needy,” but rather “when you give to the needy.” Giving is one of the three primary themes of Lent along with fasting and praying. Have you noticed that is exactly what Jesus did his whole life? And we are the “needy” who benefit. So our question is how and when do we give to the needy? Maybe adopt a World Vision child. Put together a “Grace Bag” for your car. In the bag you might have a toothbrush and toothpaste, a little bottle of shampoo, a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of water, a bar of soap, some baby wipes, a can of beans with a pop top and plastic spoon. Then when you see a homeless person who, like you is made in the image of God, you’ll have something practical you can give to one in need. Look them in the eye and don’t be afraid to talk with them and listen to their story, whether it is true or not. Listening gives dignity. Giving to the needy acknowledges their humanity. They are not like a pet that needs to be fed, but an actual human being that has come across your path. Another thought, do you know someone who is having a tough time making ends meet right now? Send them a gift card, or send them some cash anonymously. Ask the Lord to bring to mind someone you can encourage in a practical way. “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.” The point of secrecy here is to counteract our natural instinct to broadcast what we have done for our glory. A silent gift gives glory to God.
Music: “Amazing Grace” Zero8
Hymn: Here I Am Lord Daniel Schutte, 1983
I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in deepest sin, my hand will save.
I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright, Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send? Here I am, Lord, Is it I, Lord? I have heard You calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Sustainer and Provider, help us to be your hands and feet to those in need. Tune our hearts to your own generous heart that we may see as you see and do something about it. Thank you for coming to us in our great need. You are our only hope and salvation. May we bring hope, the hope found in you, to those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Book recommendation: Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster (An “old” classic)