Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Generous Living

These come from some scribbled notes I was writing at cell group last night - the passage we were looking at was Mathew 6: 1-6

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Again in this section think its important to note the situation Jesus is commenting on - Jesus is critiquing the "hypocrites". I've written about this earlier, Hypocrites literally means those who act. These people put on the act of Holiness so that they can look good in public.

In the case of giving this was usually done very publically, there would be a box where people would put their money and the amount you gave would be a sign of your "Holiness" or your social status within the religious community.

But does this mean that we are not to give? I think the answer to that is an astounding NO! Generosity has been an essential part of the christian gospel throughout the last 2000 years. Hospitality in particular has been an essential virtue of the christian church - particularly because of the long distances people travelled from place to place - itinerant preachers such as Paul needed places to stay on their long journeys.

Going further Generosity was a defining aspect of the christian church through the first 200 years. The christian movement grew because it cared for the needy, healed the sick and proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ wherever it went, generosity and generous living were essential.

Looking through church history, renewals of the church have occurred because of the humble generous living of Christians. The Franciscan order are testament to this. Francis of Assisi was from a well to do family, but after a run in with his father after selling some of his cloth to give to the needy he decided he would break from the world and the system of the world at that time and "follow naked, the naked Christ." Francis went about to create a new movement for the Kingdom of God. The movement was important because it was radically different from how those around Francis were acting. Historian C.H Lawrence describes the thirteenth-century church as an institution in crisis, which had no response to a changing world. In this period there was a newly arising secular culture, the friars of Francis were a fresh new way of seeing the world and challenging the emerging secular society. Francis' order challenged the institutionalised christian - which was a large concrete structure that had been acquiring wealth for itself - not for the formation of Gods kingdom. Francis entered this situation as a passionate young man - and as a result led to others following him - with the creation of the Order of Friars Minor and the poor Clare's. These communities of faith were able to be a source of hope to a desperate society

So enough with my tangent. Why does Jesus want to give money in private? Does Jesus want to give in private

Luke 21:1-4
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

The context of these verses is that Jesus is criticising the hypocrites. The poor widow gives all her money. In her giving she is sincere, becuase she gives every cent to God.

God wants us to be givers - generous givers - not because we will gain praise from human sources but because we want to serve God and see his kingdom established on earth.

Mathew 5:16
"In the same way let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly father"

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