Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Lenten Disciplines - Almsgiving (2)

 Give Alms!
Like this 

‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.' 
Matthew Chapter 6, Verses 2-4.

Yesterday I suggested that when considering the Lenten disciplines of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving, we may well  suppose the last of these three to be the easiest. After all - all we now need do is log on and give our credit card details to someone and the job's done.We are used to 'managing money' and whether we find it easy or difficult it is in our society a Good Thing to be able to do.Whereas fasting and Prayer seem to require more of us. Fasting makes us hungry and Praying takes time out of busy days. They more directly challenge our way of looking at the world. But is this so?

LIsten to Jesus' requirements re giving Alms? It has little to do with a way of giving that is immersed in managing Money. "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" - there is little here of a careful and discriminating use of Money. An unconscious Act is hardly a good way to go around managing Money.

Think for a moment, not about giving Alms, but about how we do it. Is it dare we say, thoughtless? Careless? Unthinking? Impulsive? Or do we imagine ourselves as Stewarding our money? Do we pray carefully about what we give? Do we take time to research perhaps a charity and make sure its aims are good? Do we give to the homeless on the street, or do we fear what they will do with it? 

[Listen to how wise this all sounds to our ears] 

BUT, put like this, how much is there of not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing in Our approach to giving Alms? Is not this approach as self referential as that of the 'hypocrites', in that we like to be able to tell ourselves that we have done a Good Thing by our giving??

We might be aghast at the idea of giving freely to whoever asks, to all and sundry, to those we judge as deserving AND those we judge as undeserving - but why? Does not God do the same? 

The parable of the sower is one of many illustrations of this - he sows without any careful plan or strategy - he does not seem to care where the seed falls. In our modern and 'oh so wise' ways he is a Lousy farmer, inefficient - indeed a Poor Steward of his riches. His ways are not our ways.

He is the Prodigal Father. Unlike his Prodigal Son he does not spend on his own fallen desires, rather he Spends himself on the World, without any careful calculation. In our approach to giving Alms are we like the Prodigal Father, or the careful elder son?

Perhaps this whole business of giving Alms is not so easy after all??

(to be continued)


  1. Eric,
    Surely God sowing and our sowing are not the same? Or perhaps in the end they may be. :) Perhaps I am looking for a reason to disagree, because what you say flies in the face of all prudence, but I do think this deserves more thought as to what is truly meant by this. The secret part seems to me to be the real message, rather than a call to cast stewardship to the wind. Still, you have me thinking, as usual, with your caution that He spends himself on the world. Are we so sure it wasn't careful? He is All Knowing and All Powerful. This puts careful in a somewhat different light? But your points are good challenges to our willingness too often to co-opt worldly wisdom, rather than Seek His Ways.

  2. annie
    Thank you for your comments
    I think the opening line is interesting - after all we are made in the image of God - the more we imitate him, the more his likeness his revealed in us.
    We are told to be careful for nothing by St Paul and Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow

    I am always a little hesitant of 'All Powerful and All Knowing' - only because his ways aren't like our ways - and as humans we like to turn things on their heads and make God in our own image.
    His way of Power, for example is strange - it looks like complete vulnerability - and as for his knowing - well our knowing is so partial. What is God's Knowing like?

    I guess our problem is that we think that His wys are perhaps at least similar to worldly Wisdom, that in the end we all just need to do a bit better

    Grace and Peace to you in your Seeking His Ways