Beware of practising your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Today's verse is encouraging you to give discreetly in clandestine so that your giving may be blessed. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
We live in a world where people strive to be noticed and acknowledged. People like to be commended and seen when they give to the poor and less fortunate. Nowadays it's all over social media where the poor are consistently displayed receiving alms from the rich. Sometimes I watch it with admiration and other times I watch it with sadness and anger, as the motives appear to not always be pure.
On reflection of this week’s verse, the analogy that comes to mind is a cultural fund-raising event, I have been part of over the years.
In this event, members of the community who are seen as the rich and affluent gather together at the end of the year to raise funds for the less privileged and the poor for countries in Africa. The rich are announced as soon as they arrive, and are ushered to a table of prestige which they call the 'high table' with loud cheers and accolades. They are served with the best food and drinks to entice them to donate that night. During donations, the Master of the Ceremony calls them out one by one announcing their title and if required their qualifications. Their donation is also announced and once again people clap and cheer. All in the name of charity.
Well, what resonates with me with this week’s verse is that we must set our heart to God Almighty’s peace, love, and eternity. If we give to be rewarded by men, when they clap and praise us we have already received our reward on earth. God warns us that when we give to the needy we should not let anyone know that we have given alms, then our father in heaven will reward us in secret.
Going back to this charity event, the affluent are called one after the other to donate funds to build hospitals, schools etc. Many will give hundreds of pounds whilst some will eat and drink and not make any donation that night.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
I believe that Jesus does not teach us not to give alms in front of other people, but it is all about the state of your heart when giving the alms.
Did you give for your own glory, for people to praise and clap for you?
Did you give to be seen and acknowledged by people around you?
Did you give it to gain influence and for your selfish reason?
Did you give it to glorify God and make a difference for vulnerable people among you?
What is your reason...
I believe that sometimes the way we can help others is in front of other people. I say this because it encourages and motivates other people to give, I remember watching a young man on Facebook that re-housed poor families living in depleted properties, sharing food amongst the poor, and visiting hospitals to pay bills for those who cannot afford it. This motivated me to encourage the company I work for to share Christmas hamper meals to homeless mothers and children on the street during the Christmas period. Furthermore, I noticed community organisations raising more money when giving of this kind is publicly announced. But one can argue that it creates competition and can be a force upon people to promise what they can not afford or give beyond their means.
“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; (Deuteronomy 15:7)
Jesus highlighted in Mathew 5, that it’s not just about giving alms to the poor in secret but also knowing exactly why we are giving and our intentions behind what we do, including who we are looking up to for a reward or affirmation.
Are you looking unto a man or are you looking unto God for a reward?
In Deuteronomy (Verse 5- 11) Jesus highlights the benefits of giving to the poor and needy in obedience to God: He said that if you can fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commandments He has given you today the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations, but none will rule over you.
Jesus mentioned that if anyone is poor in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. (Deuteronomy 15:9)
When you give or decide to give to the poor and needy, do so with a cheerful heart and give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart, because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do. It is important to remember that Jesus warns us that there will always be poor people in the land we live in. So, He commands us to be open handed towards our fellow human beings who are poor and needy in our land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)
I wonder what whispers might be keeping you from letting God use you mightily to help the poor and the needy
At times we stop giving because of our experiences of being hurt by those we supported financially in the past, other times, we stop giving because of the lies and deception from those we gave alms to and other times witnessing some use begging as a hobby. Whatever the reasons are or our experiences, as children of God, we must give to the poor with the hope that we will receive a reward from God Almighty, the creator of the universe. Therefore, let us continue to do good and offer helping hands to the poor and needy people in our community and hope for reward from our faithful God who is faithful till the end.
In all things, let us give our brethren’s alms with love, joy and laughter without grumbling “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing”. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Therefore, reflect and ask God to delete the whispers in your past that hinder your giving abilities. When you give to those in need, do it discreetly with love, try not to announce it in parties or on the street, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured and cheered by men. According to the verse of this week, they have received their reward in full.
Search your heart today and reflect on what motivates you to give alms to the poor. To shine God’s light or to get praise and impress people around you?
As we ask God for wisdom and prudence this week, I challenge you this week to meditate on this week’s word of encouragement: be open and receptive when you are placed in a position to give alms to beggars. Remember! the golden rule is “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
Let us pray
Dear Heavenly Father, please show me how I can give and serve people around me. Search my heart and show me any motives I am not aware of, Please Help me to show love to people I may meet in the journey of my life. In Jesus name Amen
Written by Juliet Ahanonu