Should every Christian give to the poor? Hi, welcome to today’s Little Lesson, and we’re working our way slowly but surely through the Sermon on the Mount, and today, we’re finding ourselves right at the beginning of Matthew Chapter 6.
Now remember, Jesus didn’t give this sermon in chapters and in verses, and at the end of Chapter 5, there’s no indication that Jesus took a pause and said, “Now let’s all break for a little intermission here and then I’ll start up with a brand new subject in part two of the Sermon of the Mount.” No, Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 didn’t exist in the original Sermon of the Mount. It just flowed.
And so Jesus goes right from saying, in Matthew 5:48, that you are to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect, and it starts with the word, “therefore.” So he summarizes everything he says, up until that point, and it goes right into Chapter 6, in verse number 1, without any pauses and the first thing Jesus talks about is once again, how we should be living. How he expects his disciples to act. “Beware,” he says, “of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them, otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in Heaven.”
And so apparently, there’s rewards for those who obey God and we know that the Book of Hebrews says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. So God is a rewarder, there is an incentive program here that God uses to motivate us. He blesses us, and I believe not just in Heaven one day, but I think there’s plenty of scriptural evidence to indicate that there could be blessing in this life, as well. God blesses those who do what he says.
And here’s something he wants us to do. He wants us to live righteously, but he doesn’t want us to be doing it, motivated from our desire to be praised by people, but to be motivated by our love for God, and therefore we’ll receive praises from Him. All right? That all is perfectly understandable, and I think that’s an ethic that has been worked itself into the fabric of our culture. At least American culture, to a degree. That people actually realize that motives are important in the equation of righteousness and living rightly.
They may not have figured out that the motive ought to be loving God, because they don’t love God. But they know that it’s wrong to be doing good deeds just to be seen by other people, because that’s really hypocritical. Then you’re not motivated by your love for your neighbor, your love for your fellow man, you’re motivated more by love for yourself. “I want people to like me.”
This isn’t maybe the example Jesus gives, like about sounding trumpets before you when you’re about to give alms to the poor. May not be so applicable to us today, because we don’t see examples of that happening in our culture, but yet there are many equivalencies within modern culture. Of where people do stuff to be seen by others. Boy, one that I can think of right off the bat is Facebook. And how we selectively post things on Facebook that make us look good. Very rarely does anyone post anything that makes them look bad, and what we’re all hoping for is lots of likes. And so, you can see, human nature, we like to be liked. We like to be loved. We want people to think well of us.
And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but when we’re putting on a show and all the world is a stage, putting on a show just so people will like us, not really motivated from higher motives other than just loving ourselves. “I want the praises of people, I want people to like me, and so I’m gonna post this thing on Facebook, and they’ll like me, and I’ll feel good.” Jesus says, “Well, enjoy it, because you’re getting your reward in full when you advertise how wonderful you are.” Something to think about, okay?
So the first example, though, that Jesus does give here in Matthew 6:2, is when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by man. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. And that was obviously something that was happening. Scribes and Pharisees, no doubt, obeying the law of Moses, where they’re supposed to care for the poor, and so to announce their generous giving to the poor and to attract the poor to come, they’d blow trumpets and that would be a sign. “I’m about to give away some money here in the street, or in the synagogue.” And so that would be the sign for the poor to come. You need some money? Listen for the trumpet sound. There’s some rich guy giving some money away.
Now the comment that I want to make on today’s Little Lesson, is that Jesus took it for granted that his followers would of course be giving to the poor. That goes without saying. That’s a no brainer. The thing that Jesus was concerned about is when you give to the poor. When you give to the poor, he assumes you’re going to give to the poor, if you’re his follower. Don’t do it to be seen by men, your motivation shouldn’t be love of self, it should be love of neighbor, love of God.
And here’s the great tragedy, many Christians give to their churches, and of course they know their church might have a benevolence fund that takes care of wealthy people who meet on semi-hard times, it could be said. But they’re not poor by biblical standards.
Here’s the tragedy: so few Christians are in touch with this part of God’s expectations for them. To care for the biblically poor people. Those without food, or covering. The desperately downtrodden and poor. Christians ought to be deeply involved with serving those kinds of people, and working in those kinds of impoverished situations. And so many of them are completely out of touch with that.
I guess I, I’m sure God shows us some mercy in this regard, because we’re living in Disney World. Those of us who live in Western countries, that are so prosperous, and there really aren’t any poor people at all, for the most part. I know there’s exceptions to that rule. But I’ve had the privilege of traveling in a lot of the rest of the world over the years, 80 some countries, mostly developing countries, and I’ve got a little different perspective on what poverty really looks like. And it’s people who are desperately, desperately, desperately poor. That’s why I started a ministry called Heaven’s Family, and that’s a major part of what we try to do, is connect people who have resources with the desperately poor, those who Jesus referred to as “the least of these.”
All right, so, not if you give to the poor, when you give to the poor. So to answer our question at the beginning of today’s Little Lesson, “should every Christian be giving to the poor?” Yes. Unequivocally, yes. All right, thanks so much for joining me. God bless you.