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I want to give, but only for God

August 25, 2013

Giving to God “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others 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 others. Truly I tell you, 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”.

Matthew 6:1-4

The traditional topic for this Sunday is the love of God. The gospel text for this Sunday’s sermon comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wants to speak about two important things. One is to do good works for the good of our neighbor and for the glory of God. He also points out that everything we do should be fully intended to worship God, not for our own person or for us to show-off or to seek appreciation and glory from people for what we do. And what we do in the church should be especially designed to fully praise God. Jesus it is also crucially clear in his words when he states that our good works are rewarded by God as long as they come from a pure, sincere, humble heart that seeks approval only from God and not from other people.

What is the central subject of the reading we heard: to give offerings to God? No, that’s not the main issue. Jesus is using the gifts, such as giving money, as an example. The topic that Jesus is addressing is much wider. He’s talking about how our attitude should be when we decide to please and love God.

There are still many people who have not learned what it means to love and please God through the church. There was a woman in my family that I remember. Each day after returning from church she said: “Well, I’ve fulfilled it!” For her, going to church was the fulfillment of a requirement or law, and thus she felt she was making a sacrifice. Surely she had been taught in a church that God was something like a policeman who taught law and that we had to be careful not to commit offenses. For her, going to church was a must. Her sentiment towards church continues to this day. For others, going to church is opposite to this. They believe that God is love, that God loves them and so, all is well. Anything goes and everything is permissible; there are no rules and laws and I may do what I want because I’m free and I may do whatever I feel like and what makes me feel good. This perspective from the other end also comes from a person that does not understand at all what it means to please God.

We please God by participating in the life of the church or by giving money or any other material for the growth and maintenance of the church. Or we may give of our time and effort to the edification of the church and people which is an act of love for God. It is impossible to be a good Christian and a faithful follower of Jesus if we don’t understand what it means to love God first.

In the confirmation course I like teaching the meaning of the third commandment: ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ We chose to come to church because we want to give something special to God. We give him our time; we want to show him that he is the most important thing every Sunday, every day of rest. When we give money to the church and put aside our tithes or the money we received, we do it because we want to honor Him with the first fruits that we have obtained. When we give that way, it is an act of love, an act of surrender and trust that He will supply all we need and give us even more according to the love we show him when we give our offerings.

The other day I was told that a member of the board of my former congregation went to another church because of problems he had with some members of the congregation. While I was there, this person seemed to be a good Christian and a good member of the church. Before leaving he used the keys to the church that he had and went one night and took the plants and flowerpots that he had donated to the church. They were at the altar, yet he took them because they said they were “his.” Many people had to laugh about this. However, this gave me great sadness because I realized how stupid and poorly ignorant this person was in the eyes of God. I realized that his actions were as Jesus says in this passage: “as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.” Unfortunately, I realized that everything he had done was not done for God but merely for him to show off in front of people. When people give to God in this way, it is impossible to receive God’s blessings as a reward. That’s not giving. That’s not praise to God, that’s not love for God. That’s not being a Christian, that’s not the way of the Christian church.

God wants to reward us, also here in the material world, and this has nothing to do with believing in theologies of prosperity or believing that God is only a the material supplier. The blessings of God also include the material things of life. It would be foolish to believe that God does not want  to bless us materially as well. But for this, we have to show the right attitude and the right attitude is to love God. This means that whatever we do, even the smallest pin we give to the church or the littlest dime or the most valuable bill should be given only to God for his glory with total devotion and love for him only while expecting nothing in return.” Our Lord, you are the one

    who makes us rich or poor.

You put some in high positions

    and bring disgrace on others.

You lift the poor and homeless

    out of the garbage dump

and give them places of honor

    in royal palaces. “(1 Sam 2:7-8). God can give to us. But if we despise the church of God and we do not serve and give with the right attitude, God can also take all away from us and this must be taken into account.

We may assume that we know this, so we will focus on the joy that we know produces a love for God that has humility and total surrender. Today’s text speaks of giving, but in a wider sense. It tells us to help, to give, to share solidarity with those who suffer and with those who need help. But we are not talking about being proud and arrogant, but about being humble. God is speaking to us, asking us to help and give only for His glory while not waiting for something in return, not from people nor from Him. God will reward us well, that’s a fact, but only if we have the right attitude. Let us give without being proud or arrogant; let us give because God gives to us and therefore we can give. We should help others because He is not indifferent to us and because he is supportive and cares for the needy, for those who suffer, for the hurt and for the dispossessed. God is not individualistic and indifferent. God is merciful and loving and is waiting for the same from us and our congregation. It may be that God wants to bless us even more in some aspects of our life yet we wonder why we do not get answers or blessings from Him. Perhaps this is one aspect of our lives that has room for introspection.

Remember that God does not want us to show off with our good works. God wants us to shine with our testimony, our good behavior and our lives as Christians. But everything should be done entirely and firstly in a spirit of love to God. That’s the attitude that will be mightily rewarded by God with rich blessings in this life and in the life to come.

Let us pray:

Lord God, thank you for your words of love. Every word you speak in the Bible is for our benefit. Even when you are admonishing us, you want to bless us. Help us to humbly accept your word and to begin to give, to serve and to help with the right attitude of selflessness and humility, thinking only of pleasing you. Amen.

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