When You Give to the Needy
When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Matthew 6:2
Occasionally, someone struggling with quitting drinking or using, will, out of frustration, ask for advice. I usually ask them what they are doing to quit. Have you talked to your sponsor, gone to meetings, worked the twelve steps? No? How about treatment? I usually get blank stares with crickets chirping in the background. I know that feeling. I remember the dismay of realizing that recovery activities were not optional if I wanted to live in recovery.
I recall a similar feeling when I read today’s passage once long ago. In it, Jesus insists we must embrace humility when we give to the poor. He didn’t say if we helped the poor. He just assumed that his followers were already doing this. I remember finding some small comfort in the fact that I didn’t expect to be praised for helping others, but that was only because I wasn’t doing anything to help others.
To Jesus though, being a disciple means abandoning our own appetites, loving God and loving our neighbors. This just automatically means we should be giving to those who are less fortunate. Helping the poor is not optional to the Christian. It’s a necessarily part of what it means to be one. If we say we follow Christ, but we live only for ourselves when it comes to our money, we have a pretend faith.
Now, as my family has begun giving to others, I’ve graduated to struggle with what Jesus is actually getting at in the passage. Now that I make some attempt to help the poor, I find I want to write about it here, so that you know what a good guy I’ve become in my recovery. In doing so, I expose my persistent self-centeredness. Once, I just kept my money because I wanted it all for me. Now, in giving some of it away, I want to be applauded for it.
Jesus teaches though, that as his followers, we must give selflessly, and we must be humble about it. We don’t give to feed our pride. We give out of love for God and neighbor. Being a disciple means we love others, hoping that it points them to God, not back to us.