Have you ever been to Chick-fil-A? Probably a dumb question. A few years ago, I lived in a town in Texas called Forney. It’s a small-ish town, about 30 minutes east of Dallas. The Chick-fil-A there was probably the place I ate the most in the year and a half that I lived there.
One of the things I loved was that people made a habit of paying for the meal of the person in line behind them at the drive thru. Sometimes, it was really nice. Other times, you realized that you were paying for an entire junior high while you had only ordered nuggets and fries.
One day, when I pulled up to the window, someone had paid for my meal, which was just an 8-count nuggets and fries. I offered to pay for the meal of the person in line behind me, and when I asked how much it was, they told me it was over $50. I almost fainted. Who spends $50 at a fast food restaurant? Sadly, I only had a $20 to offer, so I paid for $20 of their meal, and went on my way, but I left hoping that the trend would continue past me, and that the people in the vehicle behind me would contribute at least a little to the meal of the people behind them.
Today, we are continuing our series on the Sermon On The Mount by talking about giving to the needy. Jesus talked a lot about money, and the reason for that is that money has a tendency to have a very high priority in our lives. If we’re not careful, money can very easily become an idol to us.
Jesus not only warned against this, but also said that we should be generous with what we are given. Randy Alcorn said “The more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won’t let you out-give Him. Go ahead and try. See what happens.”
Today, I’m going to make three challenges to you when it comes to giving.
Our main text comes from Matthew 6:1 – 4 (NIV). It says “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. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” My first challenge is this:
1. Give From Your Heart, and Not Out of The Need For Recognition
I like the way The Message paraphrases Matthew 6:1. It says “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.” We are encouraged to give, and to give liberally, but we are also told not to do so simply for the approval of the world. When we give for the world to see, we are making our giving about ourselves, and their approval will be the only reward we receive. The other problem with that is that, when we stop giving, the world will take notice the same way it did when we began giving, and the applause will turn to disappointment. A few years ago, I went to the grocery store to pick up some things for baking a cake with my daughter. The problem was that I had forgotten to put my wallet in my pocket before I had left. I got through the checkout line and was ready to pay when I realized my error. I was more than a little embarrassed, but I told the young man working the register that I would just come back with my wallet and pay for my items. I had started walking away when the girl who was in line behind me stopped me and said that she would pay for my items. I did not know her, and she never said another word about it, but it was something I will never forget. That type of generosity is always hard to forget. My second challenge is this:
2. Always Be Ready To Help Someone
Romans 12:13 (NLT) says “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” I have worked in hotels for years, and it’s always been an industry that I love doing, mostly because you’re constantly getting to meet and help new people. Meeting new people has always been one of my favorite things. When I was a musician in a band, it was almost as exciting to me as being on stage and playing. Being willing to serve others was not something that came as naturally to me as meeting people, but over time, it became something that I genuinely looked forward to, and one of my favorite parts of my job. Ronald Reagan once said “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” It’s always amazed me that the most positive recognition I’ve gotten at work didn’t come from people who needed a lot of physical help, but people who I was able to engage in conversation and find out more about them and the needs they had that went beyond just physical needs. Hebrews 13:16 (NIV) says “And do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” We should take joy in helping others. In his book Everybody Always, Bob Goff talks about putting his phone number in the back of some of the copies of his previous book, Love Does. He tells of a phone call he got one time from a guy who was in prison, and had mistaken Bob’s number for that of his ex-girlfriend. The two ended up developing a friendship, and Bob learned that the man was up for parole, and needed to pay for an ankle bracelet, which Bob offered to pay for. The point of this story is that we only need to be available to people, and opportunities to help them will present themselves. My last challenge is this:
3. Be Willing To Give More Than Just Money To People
If you have kids, you already know what I’m going to say here, and chances are that you’re already doing this. You see, kids want our time more than our money (at least until they become teenagers). This is a very important thing to remember with people you meet every day as well. I told you earlier about working in hotels, and how the most memorable people to me were the ones that I was able to engage in conversation with. The reason for that is this; time is not something that can be earned back, and as such, it is much more valuable than money. We can always make more money, but time, once it’s lost or given, can never be regained. When you spend time with someone, you show them that they are more to you than just a commodity, and that changes people. We all know the golden rule, right? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Acts 20:35b (NIV) says “It is better to give than to receive.” Sometimes, people need help financially, and it is a wonderful thing to help them out in that way, but some people need more than just your money; they need your time and your attention. This is often the hardest gift to give, because time is irreplaceable, and let’s face it, we’re busy. This is why we so often walk right past the man on the sidewalk with tattered clothes and a worn down cardboard sign. We might toss a dollar or two his way, and while that might buy him some food, it often ignores the deeper need. James 2:14 – 17 (NIV) says “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” In Matthew 5, Jesus refers to us (the Church) as the light of the world, so my question to you is simple; How can we show the light of Christ to people if we aren’t willing to show them that they have value beyond a couple of dollars while we pass by and otherwise ignore them? We are called to be a light, so let’s start being that light. It’s possible that, along the way, we might even lead that person we’ve been ignoring or throwing money at to a relationship with Christ, and help them in ways we could have never imagined. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that “what we have done for the least of those among us, we have done for Him.” Imagine if we lived that challenge out, and if everyone helped someone. That would change the world. Let’s pray.
We are so thankful that You have given us so much. Lord, there are so many in our world who are not so fortunate, and I pray that You would give us all hearts that would go out and live out these challenges. Father, we pray for the people of Hawaii right now, as they brace for the hurricane that is headed their way. Keep them safe, Lord. Be with everyone who is hurting right now. Be with our kids as they have all started back to school. Guide them each day, and help them to be a light to others for You, Lord. It’s in Your name we pray