Engage the Enemy More Closely | Charles Auld
Giving to the needy
1 ‘Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 ‘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 honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 ‘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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 ‘This, then, is how you should pray:
‘“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 ‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Treasures in heaven
19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Engaging the Enemy
Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar sent a signal to his fleet: ‘England expects every man to do his duty’. Then he signalled that they should close in on the enemy.
In our daily battle as Christians, people are never the enemy. Jesus, our Commander, is calling us to close in on the enemy today in what is a spiritual battle. The weapons available, as this text outlines, are prayer, fasting and giving. Prayer, because it is our vital communication with God. Fasting because when we fast, we proclaim that food is not the most essential thing in our lives. And giving, because money has many of God’s attributes: it brings power and it appears to give security although unlike God, it is unreliable. Jesus makes it clear that we have a choice: God or money. Money wants to be our master but by giving it away we can break its spiritual power and turn it into the servant of God.
Some people for medical reasons cannot fast, but there is no similar dispensation for giving! We can all give in proportion to what we have. But if don’t learn to give when we are poor, we won’t learn when we are rich. Our attitude is what matters. As St Paul said ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’ One can be very poor and still love money more than one loves God.
So what motivates us to give? If it’s in the expectation of receiving something back in return, you’ll probably be disappointed and give up. But if you have other motives you can keep going. So, firstly we give out of obedience. Jesus doesn’t say ‘if’ you pray, fast and give’, he says ‘when’ you do these things. He expects it of his followers. Secondly we give out of gratitude to Jesus who gave everything for us when he died on the Cross. Thirdly we want to let everyone know that they can have salvation and their own relationship with God, so we need a church with the resources to make this happen.
It isn’t easy to keep on giving, and we can find lots of reasons not to. If you are a student, you won’t have much money, but this is a good time to learn giving. If you have children and so many calls on your income, giving is still possible. And if you are further on in life without such responsibilities any more, there is no excuse not to give generously.
When praying and planning each year how much to give, it is good to make it a little more than you think you can afford. That is how you come to trust God, whereas staying in one’s comfort zone, there is no need for such trust. It is good to plan structured giving, using Standing Orders, and then also to give on impulse when a particular need is put before you.
So are you ready to close in on the enemy, break the spiritual power of money in your life and turn it into the servant of God? Will you give regularly and gladly, out of obedience to Jesus and in gratitude for God’s great love?