“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.
2 So when you give to the needy, don’t announce it with trumpets like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full!
3 But when you give to the needy, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
At the heart of our discipleship is the question of what God wants us to do with what He has given us. The way of service is to respond to people we meet along the way as Jesus would have, in self-giving love. They are many more needy people in today’s world than when Jesus spoke these words to the show-offs in the Temple.
Charity was seen as one of the duties of the Jewish people, required by the Law. Jesus criticised the ‘hypocrites’ who made a show of their giving to draw the attention of others as to what a good person they were. Rewards in the Kingdom of God are not material things or prestige, but life-giving relationships and communion with God and his children. These rewards are given through grace and can’t be earned. Our loving Father is not an accountant. And Jesus, who fulfilled the Law, freed us to act in selfless love.
At the centre of life is God who created us, who sustains us, who renews us, and who in fact has given us every reason to be grateful for our life. There are many ways of responding to the needs of people we meet, not just with money, but also with our time, skills and knowledge. In sharing the love of God we do not trumpet our own goodness, we proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Peter Sanders is a Uniting Church Minister. He developed hope springs, a crisis support service for family and friends of people affected by mental illness.