Living Generously, Part I

There’s an interesting set of verses right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount that most people have a particular interpretation on. Those verses are:

  “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not 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 6:2-4, ESV

When these verses are often examined from the pulpit, the focus is on how we are to give. We aren’t to give to puff ourselves up. We aren’t to give to have everyone look at us and think, “Wow, those folks are really generous and awesome!” We aren’t to give with the intent of any gain, real or imagined, for ourselves. And that’s a valid interpretation. That’s the right interpretation when you’re looking at how to give. But what is often missed is what these verses say about if we should give.

The answer to that question is in the fact that Jesus said, “When you give.” Actually, the full phrase in this translation is, “When you give to the needy.” Jesus says it twice. Other translations may use synonyms for “needy” but they all still say, “When you give.” In other words, there’s not a question about if we should give. It’s expected. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to give to the needy. We are to be intentional about it. And note that Jesus didn’t put any conditions on our own state. That’s not relevant. Yes, we may be struggling to make ends meet, but if we come across someone who is needy and we can help, we help. And we help without fanfare or applause because our reason for helping is simply because it was needed and we could.

I understand the implications of these verses. What God is saying here is something very, very simple: provide for others and I will provide for you. In other words, don’t look at your current state and think, “I can’t.” Rather, seek God and ask, “Should I?” If you are led by the Holy Spirit to do so, you should, regardless of your current state. God will meet that person’s need as well as your own. We will look at that more tomorrow by going back to the Old Testament. In other words, God is saying, “Trust me. Exercise your faith.” And this is where we often stumble. We look at what we can do and we say, “I’d love to help but…” and sometimes that’s exactly where God wants us. We can’t help if left to our own resources. He is waiting for us to call on Him and look to Him for what we need to be the providers of support, love, encouragement, and help in this world. We’ll look at examples this week where folks had to walk by faith to obey God, where they literally put their own lives and the lives of the ones they loved on the line as they trusted in Him. God always came through. So if you feel the Holy Spirit pressing upon you to provide for the needy, in whatever capacity, do it, especially when you know it’s going to require sacrifice. If you’re sure the leading is from God, follow His lead. Walk by faith. And live generously so that others may see Him through your hands and your heart.

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