From: Su Min
Subject: Alms Giving
Put on the whole armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Eph 6:13-18).
Today's passage is Matt 6:1-4.
There were three legs upon which the Jews felt righteous behaviour was to stand: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Yet, much superficiality developed in that they wanted to be seen being righteous, pious, rather than actually seeking righteousness. Jesus speaks out to correct this deviant behaviour. Good deeds done in public for all men to see are rewarded by praises of men. Give, and give discreetly.
Almsgiving, doing of good deeds, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the poor and needy, the widows, the orphans, the oppressed, the prisoners, the sick, the alien, all are recognised as good works required of the true believer. (Leviticus 25:35, Deut 15:7, Isaiah 58:7, Matt 19:21, Luke 11:41, Luke 12:33)
Not that these good works can earn us salvation: far from it: salvation is free for us, bought at the supreme price paid by Jesus. But the good works are recognised as our fruit, and we as good trees are expected to bear good fruit. James 2: 14-26 records precious teaching in this direction, emphasising the practical need to balance between faith and deeds.
The Pharisees lived a life full of ritual: They washed and cleaned themselves and their utensils with religious fervour. When Jesus did not wash himself before a meal he was criticised (Luke 11:38). To be clean, Jesus taught them, was not achieved by having a bowl that was clean outside, but achieved having clean inner heart that was willing to give to the poor.
The widow who gave two mites is a holy example of the degree we are to give: while the rich men gave out of their wealth, she gave out of her poverty, giving all that she had to live on. (Mark 12:41-44).
God promises us a good return for what we give in good faith. Two passages stand clear in my mind:
- Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3: 10).
- Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6: 38).
The Word of God teaches us that giving alone is not good enough: we must learn to give without ostentation (Mat 6:3), according to our ability (Deut 16:17, Acts 11:29), freely (Matt 10:8), with simplicity (Rom 112:8), regularly (1 Cor 16:2), cheerfully (2 Cor 9:7)
Is there anything that we possess that truly comes all from ourselves, that God had no part to play? As we think carefully, the answer is No. Surely all we possess comes from God. As we recognise that all we have comes from God, as we look at our possessions as materials put in our hands for us to care for, for our stewardship, our view of almsgiving no longer should be in worldly terms where we are giving away our possessions, but in Kingdom terms, where we are merely redistributing what has been put in our charge to distribute. With the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we learn to do this redistribution not seeking our own glory, but to God's glory and to His glory alone. Good deeds are imperative for the Kingdom Kids.
...Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me (Matt 25:34-36).
Let us pray.
Thank you for sending Jesus that we may have life and have it to the full.
Thank you for today's lesson.
Thank you for teaching us that part of the full life comes in giving.
Thank you for teaching us self sacrificial giving by the gift of the perfect gift, Jesus who sacrificed himself on the cross for us all.
Today, we hear Jesus teach us to give of our time, emotion, money and gifts to the poor and needy, to give quietly, seeking to do Your will and seeking only Your glory.
Father help us be not only hearers of Your Word but also does of Your Word.
In Jesus name
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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