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Lenten Devotional 2021: Day 27

Monday, March 15 – By Heimlich Gegeben

Giving in Secret Mathew 6:1-4

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

I was at a dinner party with my friends from the church and we were discussing the many voluntary activities at Islington. To my right sat the son of the host, a bright young man in his mid-twenties. He listened intently to our conversation and then suddenly turned to me and asked, “Why do you spend so much time doing the things you do at the church?” As I prepared to respond he continued, “You know, I really believe that there is no such thing as altruism. You guys just do all this church stuff because it makes you feel good.”

I had to smile because he reminded me of another young person long ago – and that person was me. But as the years passed, and my understanding of God’s message became clearer, I began to understand how little I really knew about Christian giving. I became aware through Bible readings and watching others at the church that giving is an essential part of being a Christian. I also came to realize that our time, abilities and wealth – in fact, all of our resources – belong to God. They are not ours; they are only lent to us for a cosmic blink with the understanding that it is our mission as Christians to marshal them wisely for God’s glory. But perhaps the most substantive revelation for me concerning Christian giving was understanding what motivates it.

Mathew 6: 1-4 admonishes us to be circumspect when we give: “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.” Mathew goes on to encourage us to give in secret so that God, seeing what we have done, will reward us.

Mathew compels us to give for the love of God alone and for no other reason, embracing that motivation makes all the difference. So, as Christians, we donate money anonymously, quietly deposit groceries into foodbank boxes, privately pray for those in distress, send notes to lonely people to remind them they are loved, walk with those during difficult times, and so much more. That’s what Christians do. It is our love of God that motivates us. It does not matter whether anyone knows … God knows it – and that’s all that matters.

But I must concede that when I have an opportunity to serve God through my actions,  it feels good. I feel closer to God and that nearness brings joy to my heart. Being close to God feels good – really good.

“So, you must admit,” the young diner guest pressed, his bright eyes sparkling, “the reason you guys do all this crazy church stuff is because it makes you feel good.” I smiled, looked at the young man and said, “You’re right. It makes me feel good – really good.”

Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the opportunity to give to others,
For in so doing I am drawn closer to you.
It doesn’t matter if anyone knows;
You know and that is all that matters.