Monday, February 26, 2024

Living The Jesus Way – The Way of Generosity

 Monday, February 26, 2024

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 CSB

Living The Jesus Way – The Way of Generosity 

Doing the “right thing the wrong way” happens when we do good things for the wrong reasons. The motivation of our heart in our actions is what determines if the deed we are doing is for the right reason. So far in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has addressed a Christ follower’s character, influence, faith, heart, devotion, and response. Now He shifts to personal application of generosity, letting us know that a Christ follower’s righteous actions come out of a right heart before the Lord. He speaks about how doing righteous things for the sake of display or to be seen by others is the wrong reason. 

Jesus begins in verse 1 by saying Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. In the last chapter He told us not to hide our good works which sounds like a contradiction to what He is saying now, but in chapter 5 Jesus was talking about our reluctance of sharing the gospel. Now He addresses the motivation of our hearts when we do good things like giving to the poor. The only right reason for a Christ follower to do good things is for God to be glorified. We are to be salt and light but not for our own glory. We are to glorify Him in everything we say and do. In all things. When we give, we are not to give so we can look good to others, but to glorify God. We are not to boast in our actions but to glorify God above ourselves in everything. 

Jesus then says So whenever you give to the poor… making it clear that giving to the poor is expected for someone who is living the Jesus Way. Our God is merciful and gracious to us so we should extend mercy and grace to others, and this includes generosity to the poor. It should be second nature for Christ followers to love generously if you have been generously loved, and we have been loved with the greatest love. We have been given the greatest gift when we have been the most destitute, having nothing to give in return. We have been redeemed by a merciful and gracious God. 

The Jewish people felt strongly about giving to the poor, believing that it was the same as being righteous. They also believed that it could earn them atonement for their sins and score merit for them in the sight of God. They put a lot of importance into giving to the poor but not for the right reasons. Jesus talks of “hypocrites” during this time who would sound a trumpet to draw attention to themselves and be applauded by people. This is probably metaphorical as there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that literally sounding trumpets was a practice in almsgiving. Jesus is painting a physical picture for us of someone who lives to draw attention to themself, not a literal practice. He is telling us we are not supposed to toot our own horns!  Jesus continues through the Sermon on the Mount to show them the difference between what they have been taught in the past and the truth He brings. There is nothing we can do in our own power make ourselves righteous. Righteousness only comes from Jesus.

What does generosity look like for someone who lives The Jesus Way?

In Living the Jesus Way, living like Jesus and pointing others to Him should become so natural to us that it just happens. Our giving should become “unconscious giving” in such a second nature that we don’t even notice what we are doing. We certainly don’t linger or give a second thought of how much we have given or what a good deed we have done. We do it out of obedience, humility, and genuine heartfelt care for those in need.

Jesus sees everything, including what is in our hearts. There is nothing hidden from Him. He sees what we give, who we give to, and why. He sees the motivation of our hearts and He knows if we are doing it for a fleeting moment of applause or if we deeply desire to be humbly obedient to Him. Our reward from our heavenly Father for being obedient is eternal. Our acts of righteousness should cultivate humility, not pride This is not about our outer works; this is about our interior motives.

Everything we have been given comes from God and belongs to Him. He gives us good gifts and resources to steward for a season. Living the Jesus Way means stewarding them well for His glory.  When we are humble and obedient, stewarding His gifts in a way that glorifies Him, He will take care of us, and our needs will be met. 

Below are some questions to ask yourself about your giving. These are hard questions – be honest with yourself. God already knows what is in your heart. This is an alignment check for you. 

Why am I doing what I am doing? 

Am I stewarding the gifts God has given well?

Do you have an expectation about receiving acknowledgement? 

Do you only give gifts to gain influence or curry favor for you? 

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