Faith of Jesus Daily Devotional - Day 21
Previous Context: devotion:Matthew:5:43-48 Love for Enemies
Quoted resource: strongs 'G1654'
(See also: dict:easton Alms )
It is interesting that in this sermon thus far we have seen a people through whose good works God is being praised by others. Weigh that against the present picture of certain truly devote acts being hidden or done in secret.
What is God doing?
There has always been the poor and until the full installment of God's kingdom on earth there always will be. For many poverty is a brief taste of misfortune and for others it is more of a generational thing handed down or caused by famine or war; there also those poor stricken of madness/addiction or crippling disease. To the poor God has declared HIMSELF to be their God. We see in the Psalms the enemies of God attacking God even by acting out against the hope of the poor because HE is their God. The treatment of the poor is also used by HIM as a measurement of nations and of individual religious believers.
This passage, as well as others old and new, hint at a "reward of your Father which is in heaven". Though they do not specifically describe what that reward to be, they do declare some to be in this life openly bestowed, others are put it in a very desirable eternal light given after the final judgment.
God is also said here to be watching in secret. A reading that I have always found most descriptive of the is nkjv@Psalms:139 ; you can read it, though I won't quote it here.
What is man doing?
The contrast being made is clear, we have two men doing the very same thing: giving alms, but for two different reasons. One is giving charity for himself to be seen of men, the other is giving out of the abundance that God has given to him to the needy to the glory of God. Alms is something that can be done (is nearly done) universally by anyone of any faith or theism with or without spiritual regeneration. Certainly, it is not the exclusive act of Christians although the reason behind why and how it is given by them is.
Note also that we are not talking about what we as citizens provide the needy through national welfare/food stamps or institutional poor acts. This is what we individually or as a local church congregation that goes above and beyond that. The Old Testament law provided a very extensive national program of assistance to the poor such as the access to corners of croups, work (though as bond servants) for the able bodied poor, the cultural discouragement of the able bodied to beg, the mandatory daily pay of servants, more lenient treatment of those who steal out of need, seventh year debt forgiveness, forty nine year cycles of family property restoration, networks of national crisis grain storage, and near everything in between. A vast number of other countries/cultures past and present have formulated similar forms of relief and protection for the poor. These things however are built into the national system of governance and are not truly qualified as alms. These are a most nessessary things for a society to have and impliment, each system has considerable points of operational interest, but this is an entirely different consideration than the one presently being held.
What does this passage tell us about the about the commands and faith of Jesus that saints are to keep/guard?
"...when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret..."
With so many of these legal points that this sermon is illuminating now there is this vital contrast being placed upon the two extremes (self righteousness and God righteousness) doing the very same action; say giving alms. The end result as far as the poor are concerned are nearly the same; we do not want to discourage that. The effect upon the giver and the society however greatly differ. The one result is the puffing up of one's self, the immediate satisfaction of self generating something nearly good for the needy, the optimal satisfaction of the esteem placed upon it by others. The other result is that it by Christ's wondrous continuing influence it much more resembles a selfless act of godly compassion. Only one of these is God willing to sometime future reward; when it is HIS love bold and pure being carried forth by us to the benefit of those HE brings to us in need for no other reason than HE is a most compassionate God.
Next: devotion:Matthew:6:5-15 Prayer