An application from the giving of alms
Earlier this month, I was asked by a coworker about the things I do within my church. Instead of going into a lot of detail, I simply told him, “whatever the Lord places on my heart to do or anything I see that needs to be done.” I know that’s a funny answer and sounds a little awkward. But I believe there are several places in the Bible that teaches us we aren’t supposed to dwell on or brag about things we do for the Lord.
Within Jesus teaching about the giving of alms, he says, Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward (Luke 6:1-2). Alms refers to giving to those who are in need of the basic physical things to live. However, the focus for this application is we shouldn’t do things for the accolades of others. When we do this we become hypocrites.
Doing what we know is needed; keeping the focus on Jesus
Jesus continues the teaching on alms: But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly (Luke 6:3-4). It doesn’t take a grand proclamation or a lengthy discussion over what the Lord wants us to do. It is about keeping our focus on the Lord in all that we do. In my own life, I would often brag to others about my service in the church. And I felt a sense of pride when others would tell me they admired me for all I was doing. But in those moments, I was more like the pharisee than I was the repentant publican.
While living in Louisiana, I had a neighbor who prided himself in his garden. One afternoon, I went over to his house to help him with a few projects he was doing. After tilling up a few rows in his garden area, he stopped the tiller and began to brag on what he had done. We’ve all done it – whether it is gardening or helping in vacation Bible school. We stop, look back at what we’ve done, and a sense of pride comes over us. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). We often think of this verse as being for those who long for their old life before receiving Christ. But if our work for the Lord becomes a source of self-promotion, then maybe we are setting off fireworks.
My own walk with the Lord
Right now I struggle with the difference between self-promotion and simply explaining what I do within my church. My service to my Lord and Savior Jesus doesn’t begin or end at the threshold of the church door. I take it into my home, into my community, and to where I work. I use the talents and skills the Lord has given me. In my own mind, it is being faithful to the spirit of what James wrote, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17). I know what talents and gifts the Lord has given me and I owe Him the benefits of those talents and gifts. Anything else would be a sin for me.
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