Giving Anonymously: Matthew 6:1-4

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:1-4 (GW)

“Be careful not to do your good works in public in order to attract attention. If you do, your Father in heaven will not reward you. So when you give to the poor, don’t announce it with trumpet fanfare. This is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets in order to be praised by people. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.

Read Matthew 6:1-4 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He covers a number of broad topics. Matthew, one of Jesus’ followers and the author of one of the four gospels, dedicates a good portion of his gospel to sharing the details of this famous message. In this message, Jesus taught briefly on the subject of giving, and about the significance of giving anonymously.

One statement that strikes me as interesting is when Jesus says, “When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (v. 3)

While this statement is most likely figurative – representing the “body” of the church (also called the “body of Christ”), is there a practical reason for being anonymous other than simply to avoid receiving praise from others?

As I think about it, not only does anonymous giving help keep one clear of the appearance of hypocrisy and pride, it also keeps the giver in control regarding the giving. A gift that is received anonymously is harder to track and it can deter the one receiving the gift from becoming entitled. Perhaps if many people anonymously gave to the one individual over the course of time, they could become entitled, but they really wouldn’t know who or where to go to receive more help. Giving anonymously makes it harder for the one receiving the gift to become entitled and try to “milk” the generosity by asking for more.

But while this is very practical, Jesus is talking to those who are the givers in the crowd. He concludes by telling us to “Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.” (v. 4)

When we give and help others privately, it changes us as individuals. Jesus (i.e. God) wants us to be givers by nature. He wants giving to be a central part of our character. If our good deeds always became public knowledge, and they were a part of our character, then we may become a target for those with an entitlement mentality.

Our good deeds should be common place in our lives, not one or two big fanfare-laced events for the crowds to look and speak in awe. Many of those who glorify their good acts are likely to have very few good acts, because if their acts become too regular, then they would lose their audience because it will have been expected. If you do something in secret, then there is no limit on what you can do (only your available resources would limit you then). You may even have more fun giving as well.

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Coming Back Empty-Handed: John 7:37-52

Focus Passage: John 7:37-52 (NIV)

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Read John 7:37-52 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the final days of a major festival that happened in the middle of Jesus’ ministry on earth, the chief priests sent guards to arrest Jesus. Jesus had chosen to finish the festival teaching and preaching in the temple, and the leaders saw this chance to arrest Jesus.

So they sent guards to arrest Him, but the guards end up returning empty handed. The Pharisees demanded to know, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” (v. 45)

The guards responded, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (v. 46)

It is here that the Pharisees reveal their motives and their character. The Pharisees believe Jesus to be an imposter and a liar. We can see their thoughts through their response: “You mean he has deceived you also? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” (v. 47-49)

The Pharisees and chief priests have incriminated themselves. They accuse the crowd of being cursed, but the crowd’s true thoughts are divided. A curse on the crowd could cause confusion, but this statement simply shows how closed-minded these leaders have become. They claim the mob knows nothing of “the law”, and in the context, they are referring to the Old Testament scriptures – but just a few verses earlier, John points out one cause of the crowd’s division being over something that was prophesied in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament prophecy stated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and Jesus was raised in Galilee. The crowd’s division over this apparent contradiction shows that they all knew the Old Testament writings.

And this leads into a big truth I see displayed in this passage: When someone has closed their minds to an idea, they will then begin to justify their decision in often irrational ways. The Pharisees and chief priests irrationally claimed the crowd was cursed just to emphasize their point to the guards. All this ended up doing is confirming that they had chosen to stand against Jesus and what He was doing, and regardless of what happened, they were closed-minded towards anything that didn’t confirm that Jesus might be the Messiah people were believing Him to be.

While the chief priests had closed their minds to believing in Jesus, the guards returning empty-handed tells us they were still undecided regarding whether Jesus was the Messiah. We are in the same position as the guards today. If we are still on the fence regarding who Jesus is, it is worth wrestling out this question for ourselves because our choice on this matter has eternal results!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Unwrapping The Earth: Matthew 24:26-35

Focus Passage: Matthew 24:26-35 (NIV)

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Read Matthew 24:26-35 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Sometimes when reading passages in the Bible, my imagination takes over, wondering what the scene or event that is being described will be like. Often times, I imagine myself living at the time of this event, but in today’s passage, Jesus describes an event that has not taken place yet – at least in the way that He seems to describe it.

Four things will happen immediately after the distress of those days (days that included the persecution of God’s church):

  1. The sun will be darkened.

  2. The moon will stop shining.

  3. The stars will fall from the sky.

  4. The heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Then to conclude this traumatic, earth-shattering event, Jesus appears in the clouds, and angels gather all of His people together to be with Him.

Some scholars point to some specific days in history when the sun stopped shining, when the moon was covered up, and spectacular nights filled with falling stars. They say these events may be fulfillments of what Jesus is describing here.

However, in my probably overactive imagination, I see a different event described here. I see the setup for the climactic conclusion of earth’s history.

Currently, the earth is a round sphere floating in space. Jesus tells us that when He returns, every eye will see the event, but unless you use a series of mirrors, you cannot see all parts of a sphere, and from the sphere itself, there is not ever one stationary point in space that is visible to everyone at a single point in time. To explain it another way, if we imagine the sun as our stationary point in space, it is not visible to the half the earth that is experiencing night at this point in time, while it is visible to the half of the earth that is experiencing daylight.

So when Jesus returns, for every eye to literally and physically see Him come back, the earth’s round structure may have to change. God might have to set the stage by “unwrapping” and flattening out the surface of the world. If this is the case, what would it be like from our perspective?

  1. The sun would be darkened – if the earth unwraps with everyone facing in a direction opposite to where the sun is;

  2. The moon would stop shining – if it no longer has access to the sunlight to reflect off of (or if it too is behind the direction the flat earth is facing);

  3. Stars would fall from the sky – when we see a “shooting star”, it is a rock, or some object in space, breaking through the outer layers of our earth’s atmosphere and burning up. If the earth itself breaks apart and flattens out, I’m sure there would be hundreds, if not thousands of objects that would collide with our atmosphere and be burned up –> which would appear like shooting stars.

  4. The heavenly bodies would be shaken – not only would there be lots of burning up debris from the earth’s structure changing, every star in the sky would move and appear to change position. However, in this case perspective matters because while it looks like they are moving, we are the ones who really are moving.

In my imagination, Jesus is describing how God will set the stage for His return by unwrapping the outer layer of the earth. A “flat” earth would allow God/Jesus to return so that every eye could see Him.

So why would Jesus tell us this? In my mind, it’s for one clear reason: Jesus wants us to know that when this event happens and when the stage is set for His return, we don’t have to be afraid. When the world feels like it is breaking apart, God is still in control – and the future of all His people is safely in His hands.

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The Judge of Humanity: John 5:16-47

Focus Passage: John 5:16-47 (NIV)

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Read John 5:16-47 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the times Jesus is confronted by the Jewish leaders over something He did, Jesus shared some amazing truth with everyone present about the final judgment – and in this truth is a powerful idea regarding who is the judge in this event.

While sharing about His role and the Father’s role, Jesus tells those present, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” (v. 22-23)

This in itself is powerful because Jesus shares that the only way to truly give honor and glory to God is by also giving honor and glory to the Son.

But before we miss seeing the other big thought in these verses, we should pay attention to the fact that Jesus also said that the Father entrusts “all judgment” to the Son. The purpose of this transfer of judgment is that the Son would receive our honor.

In case we miss this idea, Jesus continues by sharing it in a slightly different way. He continues by saying, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (v. 24-27)

Jesus shares in this statement that not only are those who believe in Him not going to be judged, but that by believing in Him, they have crossed over from death into life. This life is not just a figurative expression about living a full or satisfied life, but it is instead about receiving the assurance of life with God both today as well as following the resurrection. This isn’t because we have life in ourselves, but because God and Jesus have life in themselves.

But Jesus also touches again on the topic of judgment – and He gives us the reason that God the Father has entrusted all judgment to Him by saying, “And he [God the Father] has given him [the Son] authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (v. 27)

Jesus doesn’t say He has the authority to judge because God is His Father, but because He is the Son of Man. Jesus has received this authority because He became human. Jesus’ humanity validates Him as the only one worthy of being the judge of our race. God the Father could easily judge, but He doesn’t have the same perspective that Jesus has because God the Father is not “one of us”.

However, Jesus also shares a few verses later about how He will ultimately judge humanity. Before thinking that He pardons everyone regardless of what we have done (i.e. siding with us and against the stereotypical “angry God of the Old Testament), Jesus tells us, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (v. 30)

God gave Jesus the right to judge humanity because Jesus is human and because God the Father wants us to give His Son the honor He deserves. With this responsibility, Jesus isn’t interested in making us happy, but in pleasing God the Father who gave Him this role and responsibility. Jesus’ judgment is valid and just and the way we can receive God’s gift of eternal life is by putting our faith, trust, hope, and belief in Jesus, who is our Judge, our Juror, and our Redeemer.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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