2 “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
Jesus and his disciples spent time praying and teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem. In the Court of the Women, there were 13 trumpet-shaped alms boxes. The top neck was metal and narrow where you inserted your coins, but at the bottom it flared out wider and was attached to a locked wooden chest. When you dropped your offering in, the coins made noise all the way down into the chest. The more coins you put in the trumpet, the more noise it made, so people could hear you and see you made a large offering to show how “pious” you were. There was also a room off the court, called “a chamber of the silent” (no trumpets), where devout Jews could give money in secret. Offerings could be noisy, reflecting on the giver, or silent, honoring God. When we give our offering, are we “blowing our own horn,” or are we honoring God?
Jesus is asking us to examine our motivations about why we give. We are God’s loved and redeemed children, we have our reward. All we have comes from God, and we give to those in need because we love God and we love our neighbor. We don’t give to be rewarded by what people will think of us, we give to honor God. Jesus shows us that God’s Kin(g)-dom turns our human expectations upside down. As disciples of Jesus, we give because we love and care about others. Our behavior points to God, not to ourselves. We serve God, not the world.
Jesus says only hypocrites seek the reward of the world’s attention, and that is all they will receive. They don’t care about the poor or God. Hypocrites are actors playing out a role on the world’s stage. They appear to be doing good for the poor, but their only motivation is about self promotion.
By Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Jesus shows us that giving to those who are in need is an act of mercy. We don’t do it to feel good or attract accolades. We don’t turn our backs on those in need because that Jesus has never turned his back on us. Acting towards each other out of love isn’t only an act of mercy, it’s an act of justice. We don’t serve the world, we serve God and we serve others. The reward we seek is not an earthly reward, it is in pleasing God by following the example of our Savior.
There has never been a more urgent time to give. As United Methodists, we make a promise to uphold our church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness to the world. Pick one or more of these to be your focus this week to show love to God and your neighbor.