“Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
~ Matthew 6:1-4
The Lenten Season calls us to be a people who make additional offering. We take on prayer, fasting and alms-giving. We are called to give in such a way that we do not make a show of it. Called as it were, to give with the left hand without the right hand knowing of it. This in a world where we sell naming rights to everything from hockey arenas to church school furniture.
Shane Claiborne, in his book Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, reflects on the teaching of Jesus about the love of God and how it is poured out so liberally for so many. He writes…
“If the people of God were to transform the world through fascination, these amazing teachings had to work at the centre of these peculiar people. Then we can look into the eyes of a centurion and see not a beast but a child of God, and then walk with that child a couple of miles. Look into the eyes of tax collectors as they sue you in court; see their poverty and give them your coat. Look in to the eyes of the ones who are hardest for you to like, and see the One you love. For God loves good and bad people.”
I think this difficult message gets at the heart what giving is really all about. The best gifts we could offer to another do not cost a nickel. We can offer dignity. We can offer respect. We can give a generous spirit. It’s true to say that we all yearn for respect, for dignity, for the generous response from others. There is no doubt that some people make it very difficult for us to give our love, and our respect. Yet we are compelled by the love of Jesus, to show love and respect to others – even when it hurts…. nay, more so when it hurts!
Too often we can give generously to our favourite causes and feel real good about ourselves in the process. We also too often we look past the needs of those in right in front of us who yearn for love, for kindness, for forgiveness, for dignity, and for respect. I can very easily have my name placed on a plaque to show the world how generous I am while in truth, I might fail miserably at giving that which Jesus calls me to give most of all and to give in abundance – the gift of love. And guess what – I am guilty of this too. I need to focus on what real giving looks like, knowing full well that it does not have to do with putting my name on a plaque above a bench. It is a call to love even when it’s hard.
God loves good and bad people. That’s a hard pill for us to swallow some days. So it won’t do for me to engrave my public offering ‘to the glory of God,’ if I cannot love the vulnerable, the weak, the broken — and yes for those we don’t always like so much. The big public gift with shiny plaque attached — that’s just money. The costly gift is love! Love offered when it matters and when no one is looking.