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By Mike Stickler
“Be careful not to practice 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 honored 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.
In the years I worked with people who support ministries, by far, most of them are humble and generous blessings to the Kingdom.
But then, there are those few who make me scratch my head in bewilderment.
Years ago, we were preparing a Christmas dinner for the needy in our community. It was amazing. The outpouring of love, service, and joy to those who had so little was a great blessing to my heart. If you can picture hundreds of volunteers, vendor trucks, tents erected for the meals, sound systems set up, and all the commotion surrounding what was to be a first-class Christmas dinner had me extremely busy with long hours and sometimes-serious logistical issues. To add to the commotion and chaos, media coverage was huge preceding and during the event.
And through all this, one single voice penetrated the hubbub. It was Mrs. ‘Smith’ (not her real name). She had called the office multiple times, persistently asking to speak to me and me only. She used phrases like: “This call is of the utmost importance” and “Mr. Stickler will want to speak to me personally on this matter.” Our office did their best to screen the calls but Mrs. Smith was so grandiose in her approach that someone finally felt it necessary to take the message to me in the field where we were setting up the Christmas celebration.
When I had a moment to breathe, I called Mrs. Smith. When we connected, she addressed me very formally: “Mr. Stickler, I have a donation for you. I’ve heard of the work you are doing downtown and I wanted to thank you with a donation check. But I want to meet personally with you to present it. May we meet at your office at 2:30 pm today?”
Of course, my answer was yes!
As the conversation concluded, I thought, “Wow! She must have a very significant donation planned, since she made such an ordeal for the meeting, the presentation of the check, and the significance of me personally receiving this check. It must be going to make a real impact for those in need. So, I took the time I really didn’t have to spare, drove home, cleaned up, changed clothes, and then hustled back to the office in time for the meeting. We had a modest little office, so I made sure it was picked up and a fresh pot of coffee made in case she wanted to chat for a bit.
At 2:30pm she pulled up in front of the office in a newer model, black Mercedes Benz. An elegantly dressed older woman stepped from the car and made her way to the office, where I met her in the foyer. After introducing her around to the other staff members, she, as though standing on a stage in front of thousands of people, proclaimed her admiration of our work and formally shook my hand. As she did so, she passed to me a folded up piece of paper – almost like it was a secret note. I very tactfully slid the note into my front breast pocket, thanked her and continued with small talk until she left.
I have to say, I was excited. The anticipation of those in the room was palpable. So after I was sure she was gone, I reached into my pocked and opened up what she handed me. I was sure it was a check, but what size donation could it be? In those few seconds of thought, my imagination ran wild.
I had received thousands of checks in the past. Was this to exceed those?
I began to unfold it from the left side. The first number I saw was 40. I thought how many more zeros would be there? I unfolded the rest of the check trying to contain my anticipation (which was at its highest!).
But there were no more zeroes.
That’s right, the check was for 40 dollars.
Suddenly, Matthew 6:1-4 became real to me. More than that, God showed me something about my own heart (but, more on that later…).
Have you ever found yourself giving beyond your means? Bidding at a charity auction two or three more times than intended just because you knew people were watching? Giving to someone personally as our Mrs. Smith did, with the hopes of garnering a favor later or to exert some kind of control?
If so, Jesus clearly states you have been paid in full—with the admiration of others.
Today’s Generosity Challenge:
Reflect back on today’s verses. Can you see now that this is not the generous heart of Christ?
Write down your reflections here.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, and a highly sought after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column.