Thursday, August 18, 2022
Steve McConaghie - Journey Church Board Member
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others 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 honored by others. Truly I tell you, 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.”
We’ve all seen industrial safety standards intended to protect us: “Do not eat,” “Smoke alarm required,” or “Maximum capacity”. Some people generally accept these warnings. Others consider the warnings as suggestions, weigh them against perceived risks, and then choose to accept the warnings or not based on their own experiences.
The Bible also gives us warnings, and we will consider one of them today. We would all expect SOME warnings from God, such as, “Don’t do bad things,” and “Do good things”. But Jesus warns us to “be careful” when we give to the poor, pray, and fast (verse 1). Those are really good things to do, so why would they carry a warning?
Jesus teaches that it’s possible for us to look like we are doing something good for others, when in fact, we are acting selfishly or faking compassion. Our intentions and motivations are invisible to others but not to God. This echoes the truth from Proverbs 16:2, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Ouch! God is considering our actions AND our motives.
Jesus does expect his followers to serve the poor because he addresses the issue with, “WHEN you give…,” and not “IF you give…” (verse 2). Our first response to this teaching must be, “Am I giving to the poor?” Our second response must be, “What is my motivation when I give?”
The Bible teaches over and over again that God loves the poor and that we should, too. In fact, some of Jesus’ parables about how people neglect the poor are quite sobering (Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 16:19-31). Yet what Jesus addresses in Matthew 6:1-4 is less about the mechanics or optics of our giving. What Jesus is getting at is about adjusting the way we give to the poor so that it’s not about us.
Sometimes pride and self-righteousness manifests itself out loud in an obvious way, like announcing good deeds “with trumpets” (verse 2). Jesus says that this kind of behavior only results in bringing human honor. But then there are times when pride and self-honor can be more insidious, and only God can see it. The truth is that if our giving to the poor is done humbly and sincerely, then we know God is pleased and that he “will reward you” (verse 4).
I have tried to follow God for the last 40 years of my life, and I confess that I’m not sure if I have ever given or served in a 100% altruistic manner. There have been times, however small, where I was motivated by what other people thought of me. How much do I like being recognized and honored when I do something virtuous?
Jesus’ teaching and the words of Proverb 16:2 are clear. As we follow and take our next steps, we know to address our actions and our intent. Let’s commit to being people who take Jesus seriously, so much so, that we give to the poor willingly, happily, and humbly.
“God, will you please give me compassion and concern for others. Change the way I think and feel about those who are needy, and provide me opportunities to give to them. I ask for your supernatural help to live what Jesus taught. Amen.”
Daily Prayer Initiatives
- Jesus to change more lives as we double the square footage of our Castle Pines location.
- Momentum as we launch our Highlands Ranch location.
- Someone you can invite to Journey on Friend Day (Sunday, September 11)
- One bold prayer you sense God is personally inviting you to pray during the 21 Days.
Get to a place where you can focus and read the daily Scripture passage several times. From the passage of Scripture you read, highlight one or two verses that stick out. Write them down, and even consider rewriting the verse(s) in your own words.
Make some basic observations about the scripture you just read by asking these questions:
- Why was this written?
- To whom was it originally written?
- What is the author trying to communicate?
- What does the Scripture passage teach me about God and humanity?
After taking some time explaining the highlighted scriptures, begin to think about how they apply to your life. Ask yourself these questions and spend some time writing down your thoughts:
- What do these verses mean today?
- What does this verse(s) mean for my life?
- How does this verse challenge my thinking and actions?
- What changes do I need to make in my life as a result of this passage of Scripture?
Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through the Bible verses. You may indicate what you are going to do because of what you learned. You may respond by writing out a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving, or to give you a desire to be more generous in your giving. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.