Matthew 6. 1-4
Jesus says: 1. “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 4. So that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Giving anonymously is about giving without being known.. giving a helping hand secretly.
It’s about the person receiving not being about to thank you because when you say thank you, that’s the end. The cycle is complete.
It’s about knowing someone gave you a gift but only being able to say thank you to God for whoever gave you the gift.
– what is it? - Alms
is giving money or goods to the poor.
Is it different to charitable giving? Yes, with charitable giving such as ‘Save the Children’ the money goes into a large pot, that pot is then distributed to those that need it, that decision is made by those that run the charity, and a small portion goes to the organisation to help run it.
Alms giving is different it is personal. It’s giving directly.
Charity giving is easy, you just write a cheque.
But giving personally, to a family or individual is more delicate. It means getting involved and that means it gets complicated.
In the time of Jesus; there was no ‘Save the children’ or other charity, there were no social services, but there were widows, orphans, beggars, and lepers. Jesus had compassion for those who couldn’t help themselves, because of their circumstances and Jesus taught his disciples to have compassion as well and so that compassion is taught to us.
But should we give alms?
Surely these days’ people don’t need alms. There are times in life when we need a helping hand. Some people are happy to receive money/goods but there are others that would be embarrassed. They would hate people to know that they need help, they are trying to keep afloat themselves. It is those people that really need Alms.
Giving Alms should make the receiver stronger, more able to stand on their own two feet. Giving alms shouldn’t be enabling the receiver to remain dependent. The more you do for yourself the stronger you become, the more dependent you do for them the weaker and more dependent they become.. there is an old Chinese saying – Give me a fish and I eat for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.
We need to give to teach others to become independent as possible, so that in turn they themselves become givers and help others.
Why should we give? What’s your motivation?
Duty: if you give out of duty there is a chance you could become resentful. Wondering what they did with YOUR money. Watching to see what they do with it.
Guilt: if you give out of guilt the money isn’t freely given. You are giving because you feel you ought to. You feel guilty you have so much whilst others have so little. But actually there will always be people in need. Even if you gave all you had away – there will still be people in need. Jesus taught us that John 12 verse 8. Feeling guilty that you have an abundance could lead to avoiding all those with less than you.. and that wouldn’t help anyone.
So, Alms isn’t about duty or guilt – it is about compassion and gratitude to God.
Thanking God for your wealth, and feeling that compassion to help someone else.
But it doesn’t have to be money. It could be something you know the person/family might need. You could have a caravan and you know a family have really struggled – giving them a week’s holiday away from the situation. It could be food – a food parcel on their door. It could be clothes, your children have grown out of clothes they could be bundled up and handed on with love or toys at Christmas. All done with compassion, with love, but without being known.
Children can learn about this secret giving, by being secret friends.
It can be done at school, or a church group.
Put everyone’s names into a bowl, each child picks a name and that person becomes their secret friend. The challenge is that they have to do something nice for their secret friend without them knowing.
For example – they could make something (a card, a cake, a little craft) and leave it secretly somewhere they know the person will be. With a label with their name on.
Perhaps you could lead a session the following week on saying ‘Thank you’ not to individuals but to God for all we have and for the opportunity to share it with others.
I have had a secret friend – every day I am grateful for their compassion towards me, I am grateful to God for putting my name on their heart, I am thankful to God for his love and care for me and I hope that one day soon I will be a secret friend to someone else.