Wednesday, February 6, 2019

EmmDev 2019-02-05 [Sermon on the Mount] Discretion... in giving

Discretion... in giving

In the next few verses Jesus will radically re-examine three pillars of Jewish piety: Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting. He taught that it is possible to do these three very good things in a way that results in them having no real value. For each of these three practices, Jesus warns that those who have done these things for "public honour" have received their reward in full.

So discretion is advised in giving, praying and fasting.
We start with giving...

There are many reasons to give charitably (almsgiving):
(I've ranged them from best to worst)
- We can give, because we feel compelled by Love
- We can give because the need is great.
- We can give to soothe our consciences.
- We can give because it feels good. (They talk about the "giver's high.")
- We can give for others to see and admire us.

It is this last motive that Jesus is particularly concerned about. When we give to be noticed and admired it can be very dangerous for our overall spiritual well-being. This is particularly true in our age of digital photography and social media. Today we are quick to take and post selfies as we minister to "those in need." But did we get the permission of the "person in need" to be portrayed as the "victim" while we, the "benefactor" in the photo, are made to look good, kind and saintlike?

I think we all have had to deal with the compulsive urge we feel to tell others about a kind things we have done. But Jesus would as go as far as saying that the desire to been seen as "good and saintly" can easily negate any positive impact we may have had. If we give to boost our ego then that is all that will happen.

Jesus would advocate utmost discretion when we give to others. It's almost unthinkable that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing, but Jesus uses this kind of hyperbole to emphasise the need for us to avoid recognition and the "spotlight" at all costs when we give charitably.

Lloyd C Douglas (a Lutheran Minister) wrote a novel called "Magnificent Obsession" about a wealthy playboy whose life is transformed by reading a journal of a doctor and philanthropist who deliberately lived his life by the principle of giving in secret. (In fact, the doctor is described as being almost fanatical about the secrecy of his giving.) As the young (and somewhat arrogant and conceited) playboy implemented this practice it had a profound effect on his life.

When it comes to giving, be discreet.

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, 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 honoured 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.      (Matthew6:1-4)

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