Unselfish Giving Or Show Business?

Unselfie

I make a living with some awareness of a social environment and what makes people tick.  One incentive that goes into what motivates actions of individuals will always be making sure they are liked.  In fact, one of the tops things people say is looked for by women towards the men in their lives is kindness.  So if that were to get out as more common knowledge there would be one more reason for single ladies to process a kind act as wondering if it was sincere are that of a suitor for her affections (to put it politely).  Really, one could wonder a lot if someone kind acts are really without agenda and can be sure only if you “catch them in the act”  in that you see them doing right and they had no way of knowing that they were a “suspect” of being a true giver.

But there is one person that has been proposed to catch such people in the act of unquestionable kindness: God.  Jesus decided one day on a mountain speech, with those who were intent in being His followers, to juxtapose giving in holiness versus giving for recognition.

“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. 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. 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” (Matthew 6:1-4).

Jesus here speaks a mouthful in that again truth is spoken to those in positions of religious power who have overall lost track of the most basic traits of what the kingdom of God is supposed to be like.  The loud and proud givers among them have combined a pride of place to their religious oligarchy with themselves as individuals.  Their show describe by Jesus is all about bragging to the world that they are kind and powerful with the grace to bequeath alms to the commoners.

Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. —-It is implied by such a show that the receivers and their witnesses will see them with some special point of recognition.  Jesus congratulates them with a backhanded compliment because their reward is limited.

do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. —- What Jesus is getting to is how the right giving should be so pure that one does not even deliberate in their thoughts anything complicated and especially about their own identity.  They just see a need and do not worry about the currency of public favor.

Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you— Ideally the one who is tied into living out the life of Jesus Christ is conscious enough about the presence of God in all they do so the hope of the right reward is always there.  To do this is no small matter but to have an attitude of having a prayerful disposition when you go out to meet the world every day.  That is to be in the world but not of it as if their opinion makes you rise or fall.  From there one can be called religious and it would not be all about the show.

This sunk into the mindset of the Church.  So much they about twenty or thirty years later a kinsman of Jesus said the following:

 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

To give rightly?  No agenda? No politics?  So radical.  Such a change in getting that stain out it could be called brainwashing.  Speaking as one disciple of Jesus who is very much a work in progress, I hope so. And I pray that during this lenten season my heart would be awakened to God’s ongoing presence and His call to make a difference through my left and right hand.

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Saturdays With Simon Peter–Speaking Grace

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One holy, apostolic and Catholic Church. 

That phrase is a mouthful.  Imagine being the screwed up guy commissioned to be the manager at its foundation (not the Head or King but a humble steward). 

 

That’s our guy Simon Peter.  He was a long-term work in progress by Jesus and did not stop being worked on and worked through after that.  And so are we. 

 

Before I get too deep, don’t worry, the apostolic is addressed already in chapter 1 of Acts. Peter had received a renewal of his commission by Jesus to be His guy in the foundation of His church in a face to face conversation in John 21.  It was important to Peter as a pope but also as a sinner who had plenty of grace for redemption.  Redemption from cowardice, pride and wrath. 

 

He knew he needed it.  Peter had been impulsive so many time in his Lord’s darkest hour he denied Him three times.  With such a knowing one morning at 9:00 am in the Feast of Trumpets in Jerusalem  such a blue-collar fisherman from a marginalized region of Palestine stood up and proclaimed the gospel.  Oh, and yeah he may have still been scared but he know he was not alone because he had received the Holy Spirit speaking tongues of men and angels beyond his Aramaic or Greek. 

 

The Church is Universal. 

 

Acts 2: 37 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,[i] what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

 

Peter knew that he himself was one of those “everyone’s” that could have a new lease on life.  The more he could keep some humility about the restoration in his life, the more he could feel like his own best customer.  In this case, the crowd was full of foreign Jews from many countries that were far off.  Many of them could not hold their own in Greek, let along Aramaic.  But Peter was open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to bring this message out beyond the comfort zone.  Little did he know that in ten years Jesus would step it up a notch to non-Jews. 

 

The Church is holy. The Church is one. 

 

Acts 2: 41 “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.”

 

Peter leads them into a covenant that is superior than the first six of the Jewish covenant.  By being baptized, they are saved (1 Peter 3:21).  This holiness is a transcendent and practical experience of appropriating His grace through the extension of Jesus as Truth, Jesus in the Spirit, Jesus in the Eucharist and Jesus in corporate prayer.  It would take long than what is appropriate to explain, but these wonders and signs point to the greatest miracle in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus 53 days before. 

 

44 “All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k] and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

 

Peter and the other apostles had a lot to do for their remaining lives and some with shorter lives than others. Infused with the mission of unity, holiness, universality and a multi-generational context, they were in for keeps. 

 

AFTERWORD

A little Bible trivia.  Eucharist comes from the Greek, eucharistia, which means thanksgiving.  When they were breaking bread, it was the experience of partaking of the divine nature of Jesus.