I was asked once to go and get money for my ministry.
I felt sick when I left.
It turned into a contest.
It was the first time I had gone up in front of a panel and I won’t be going back.
I was glad I was the first to get up in front of the panel of people who had money and make my pitch. There were four of us and only three slots. As one presenter after another got up it felt like we were all trying to outdo each other. Each story worse than the last about depravity and destitution of, “all the poor children.”
Sure I needed the money and so did they but…
There has to be a better way.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the exchange of money for goods and services, but to put your hand out and act sad? That just doesn’t appeal to me.
A better question is, why have I, in my life, ever given money? I sensed a need? The Holy Spirit? Guilt? Obligation to a Biblical standard of tithing?
The heavy sigh I let out internally as the money slips from my hand into the offering plate is never a good sign.
So I go to my Bible and pray.
Jesus said, In Matthew 6,
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Ok, so good advice, er, I mean a command. (I hate how our Lord and Savior is relegated down to to a helpful advisor, as though His advice can be thrown out at our whim; “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is not a neat idea that I’ll take under advisement, it’s a command.)
Getting back to the verse – who are the needy?
That’s much harder to determine.
Back to to my Bible – who does God qualify as needy?
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Widows and orphans is a good start.
I take my wife out to nice dinners, and the kids to the movies, and spend money on toys for all of us at birthdays and holidays, but…when I start to feel indulgent I become deeply concerned. Do we have to go out for dinner every weekend? Can the date be just MOD Pizza and laughing and talking until late at a Starbucks? Do we have to go to every new movie that comes out, or is one a season fine and we check out the rest at the library for free? Three gifts each at Christmas is enough. It really is. You don’t NEED more than that. Especially since one of the excess gifts is used to hit your sister over the head because you’re mad at her.
Once you start to address your NEEDS in your own life, it frees you from the financial race of always trying to have more. There is a need for joy and pleasure but to excess is a dangerous road. There is something so satistying about eating a well prepared meal, presented by someone with the gift of hospitality; but to eat that meal until I throw-up would make others around the table sick as well.
I am the needy. I need Salvation. My soul cries out and longs for everlasting water. I need to never thirst or hunger again, and that satisfaction is only found in a personal relationship with Jesus.