For the week of 4 Lent, the writer was asked to meditate on the theme of almsgiving. Instead of individual daily meditations, the writer was led to tell a story, a portion of which is posted for each day of the week (you may click on prior days to get caught up).
COLLECT OF THE WEEK
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. - Book of Common Prayer, p. 219
…The man was determined to keep the love of God central in his life and hoped that doing that would provide guidance for his actions. Sometime, though, in spite this determination, his tether to God seemed to vanish. Not often, and not usually for very long, but sometime the relationship didn’t seem real. After all, on what did he base his belief in God? He couldn’t seem him (well, not since that time years ago in the parking garage-was that real?), and all he had to go on was a promise written eons ago and handed down verbally and sometimes mistranslated (some said). The man worked with physical constants every day, compounded substances that had predictable affects, knew the sun would come up tomorrow, that the world would continue rather or not he believed God had anything to do with it. Yes, he knew all this, but he also knew that, for whatever reason, God had blessed him with his faith. It was his choice to believe or not. The devil may tempt him from time to time, just to test him, but the man had once lived without God in his life, and he would never go there again. He knew with certainty that God works for good for those that love Him, and no power on earth can equal that promise. As for me and my household, he thought, we will serve the Lord.
Having finally figured out that it was God’s love for us that allows us to love others, the man started looking at his actions to see if that love was really behind the things he did. He occasionally encountered people that simply asked for help, usually money. Some looked like they could work, some not, but he couldn’t really know. Sometimes he gave them what asked for, thinking “but for the grace of God, there go I.” He usually left with a sense of having done something good, but was it really good? Had he really “loved his neighbor” by giving that poor soul a few bucks? Is helping out of pity different than helping out of love? The “helped” person still gets the help, but the motives are completely different. Pity often is motivated by a sense of pride in the giver, a sense, be it subconscious or overt, that the giver is better than the recipient, or at least, certainly more fortunate. But that is not God’s love at work, but human pride, and although pride in itself is not always destructive, pride of that sort is not of God.
The man went back to scripture and found much written about how we should handle our worldly possessions and giving alms to the poor. Do not let your right hand know what the left hand is doing when it comes to giving alms to the poor. Give your gifts in secret, and your reward will be great in your Father’s house. The admonition from God is to watch your motives. Gifts given with the expectation of reward in this life is not of God. Just as we are able to love others because God loves us, our gifts and alms to the poor should be done out of thankfulness to God for all he does for us.
As the man poured over the scriptures in search of direction concerning the giving of alms, he couldn’t help seeing the references to the “tithe” in the Old Testament. He had, of course, heard the term many times with regards to regular giving to the church. But the tenth referred to in the Old Testament did not seem to be a requirement in the New Testament. Perhaps it was just understood that the old ways still held, but it was hard to tell from reading the scriptures. Jesus, being the perfect judge of human nature, knows that our selfish nature often disturbs our relationship with God. Most of us work hard for what is “ours” and are loathe to give it up. The man knew he was no different. He was always a little uncomfortable when the offering plate was passed to him on Sunday, because he felt he wasn’t giving enough. Even though the tithe of the Old Testament wasn’t a requirement, strictly speaking, in the New Testament, it seemed to be God’s expectation, and as long as the man was not fulfilling the “letter of the law” as stated, he didn’t feel “right” with God. But Jesus, it seemed to the man, knew a lot about the human mind. Meeting the letter of the law doesn’t mean anything to God if our actions aren’t founded in God’s love. God doesn’t want us to give out of guilt, and since he knows our true motivations, we are wasting our money by trying to buy God’s favor. But it is true that we are God’s hands and feet on this earth and that we are responsible to carry His love to others through His body, the Church. One the surest ways for us to show God that we love him is to give freely to the spread of his Gospel of Salvation. That we do by giving of our worldly riches to the Church. The man would work toward the tithe because it is the traditional goal for faithful giving (we still like a measureable goal, God help us!), but God, through His grace, has lifted the burden of guilt placed on us by the law and accepts our gifts when given with a thankful heart …to be continued.
We encourage you to post your own reflections, questions, or discussions in the comment section located at the bottom of each post.
Thank you to the following for writing the 2015 Lenten Meditations: