In the New York financial market, profits and bonuses are returning. [New York Magazine, A Fair Question: even monkeys might resent the return of record profits – and record bonuses – on Wall Street]. And I imagine that many of you are excited to become “cheerful givers” with your new items of stewardship.
As Christians, how should we handle our financial giving? Unfortunately, as most difficult (and meaningful) issues of obedience are, the issue of financial giving must be lived in the tension between two dangers.
On the one hand, we cannot be so private that we miss the opportunity to encourage one another to admire Jesus by the way we live. To this danger,
Jesus says: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Peter says: For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15).
On the other hand, we must be careful about what deeds we want to show and why we want to show them. Not all good deeds should be seen, and no good thing should be seen in order to advance our own recognition and praise. To this danger,
Jesus says: But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. (Matthew 6:3-4). And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:5). When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:16).
In order to live well between these two dangers, we must ask the Lord for wisdom and humility. We must dig deeply into our heart’s motivation and find out what it is we truly want.