Sunday, April 22, 2012

Matthew 6:3-4 - More Than A Tax Write-Off


When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks.  Just do it – quietly and unobtrusively.  That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. Matthew 6:3-4 (The Message)

Last week was an exciting mail week!  On two occasions large, bulging envelopes lounged inside the mailbox.  Bills present themselves in severe, thin, business envelopes, no promise of excitement there; but these were nothing like bills.  These held all the excitement and promise of unopened gifts on Christmas morning!

I tore them open and a cascade of letter writing materials poured out – greeting cards, return address labels (with my husband’s name and correct address), a gift bag, and even a pen!  “Cool, free stuff!” I thought...but then I saw it...a letter from the charity who sent the package asking for a donation. 

While a single word, “CRAP!” reverberated in my brain, my husband said, “You better send them some money.”

Let me clarify...I have no problem supporting charitable organizations.  There are a lot of groups doing great work locally and around the world that I fully endorse and support.  I DO have a problem when an organization tries to obligate me or guilt me into donating.

I understand the concept these organizations are using.  A few years ago while working on my studies in marketing, I wrote a paper on motivations in giving within the non-profit sector.  I get it...most people are more motivated to give when they get something in return. 

That something could be recognition, prestige, honour, material goods, gifts...whatever.  The point is a lot of people give to get something back, even if it’s as basic as a tax write off.  One paper I reviewed went so far as to coin the term “conspicuous compassion” which sums it up neatly.  We exhibit compassion but we want the world to know about it!

Jesus calls us to a higher standard.  The Message translation of the Bible uses a great analogy to explore Jesus’ teaching on giving....

The heading at the start of Matthew 6 is, “The World Is Not A Stage”.  Right away it tells us we’re not actors in this authenticate.  Speak and act from a true place within not from behind a mask you put on when you’re around other people.

Here’s the passage leading up to our memory verse...
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it.  It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. 

When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself.  You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure – ‘playactors’ I call them – treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds.  They get applause, true, but that’s all they get.” Matthew 6:1-2 (The Message)

Our memory verse for the week conveys this message... 
If you see someone who needs help just do what needs to be done.  Don’t look around to see if anyone is watching.  God saw and that’s all that matters. 

Be like God.  He quietly works in your life to provide for you, to look after you, to shelter you, to do good things for you and He doesn’t worry about how big a tax write off He gets.  He doesn’t expect to see His name on a donor plaque or be invited to a black tie dinner thrown in His honour.

I understand it’s hard to give and not expect something in return.  We all have mixed motivations when it comes to helping.  I’m not saying don’t claim your donations to charities on your income tax.  But if the personal benefit is our PRIMARY or ONLY reason for making a donation then it’s time to examine our hearts and re-evaluate our priorities.

The desire to help people through acts of service and financial contributions should flow from a place of deep compassion.  Making a positive difference in someone’s life brings great joy.  It’s a wonderful privilege and it doesn’t come from a place of guilt or obligation.  Shame on the church that makes the use of guilt appeals to meet a budget more important than the spiritual growth and well-being of their congregation!

Are you giving quietly and unobtrusively behind the scenes?  Please share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks.  Just do it – quietly and unobtrusively.  That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. Matthew 6:3-4 (The Message)

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