Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Make Your Almsgiving Secret (June 21)

Brothers and sisters, consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 COR 9:6-7

“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  Matthew 6:1-4


Blessed the man who fears the LORD,

who greatly delights in his commands.

His descendants shall be mighty in the land,

a generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches shall be in his house;

his righteousness* shall endure forever.

Light shines through the darkness for the upright;

gracious, compassionate, and righteous. (Psalm 112: 1BC-4


While Jesus might not have changed everything, there is no Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one’s enemy nor demanding that we have to give everything away and live in sack cloth eating locusts and honey.  Hebrew and Mosaic Law required love of neighbor.  However, the “neighbor” of the love commandment was understood as one’s fellow countryman.  That is how and why so many people passed by the man who was mugged and thrown into a ditch until the Good Samaritan came around.  That is way the lepers were banished into isolation. Christian community does not grow in isolation.  It grows in love when in relationship with others.

Jesus comes along and builds upon Mosaic law by changing the behavioral expectation.  Our behavior and that of all people who follow Jesus has to live up to certain expectations.  First, it must be righteous in the eyes of the Nazorean. It cannot be done with a sense of regret or out of a sense of duty.

Second, it must surpass that of the community leaders – the scribes, Pharisees and the hypocrites in the streets. (“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” M5:20)

Finally, it has to be unusually, perfectly secret. Jesus calls us to perfection – a word when translated only appears twice in Matthew’s book and no other place. Not only does Jesus call us to be surpassingly unusual.  He calls us to perfection.  “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."  This word appears only in Matthew’s Gospel.  Luke uses merciful in the similar passage. Matthew uses it in only one other place: Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (19:21)

For God loves a cheerful giver even as Jesus asks us to pick up our cross daily and follow him up Calvary (Golgotha). “Cheerful givers do not count the cost of what they give” (Julian of Norwich).


Wednesday morning, I am giving a talk about fund-raising to a group of charity professionals.  The presentation is taking place at the American Bible Society in Philadelphia. 

The first Bible that I ever owned – and still have and am brining it with me – is a copy of the Good News for Modern Man (Third edition, 1971).  To find that today’s reading is on “cheerful giving” and “almsgiving in secret” is a special Spirit-filled moment. 

Share a story about cheerful giving on your part and how you increased the spirits of the people who were helped through your gift.

Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

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