July 10th, 2007

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The Disciplines: alms or charity. Matt. 6:1-4

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, among others, have reintroduced the spiritual disciples to many Protestant and lay Christians. In the next portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus looks at three of the classic discipines–alms, prayer, and fasting. Peterson identifies the basic, underlying position regarding these three disciplines, do not make a performance of them when you practice them.

In this passage, Jesus tells us to not help other folk in such a way that we call attention to ourselves, and I assume so as to not embarrass the person for whom we are providing assistance. Many of us struggle with this. I suppose our sinful nature is reflected in the desire to be praised.

The ways of giving alms in our society are varied. There are massive plans such as United Way, the Red Cross, and UNICEF. There are denominational appeals. My denomination calls for World Hunger funds on the Second Sunday of October each year. There and the needs of friends and neighbors. The massive efforts provide an easier way to comply with the teaching of Jesus here. Helping a neighbor often get known by others. Yet many of us feel a special pull toward helping those we know and whose situation we understand.

Often there are more needs than one has resources to give. This brings guilt. I have noted that often poor people are more ready to share their resources than those of us who have more than enough.

Jesus does not say anything here about the “deserving poor” and yet this has become something of a criteria for many of us when needs arise. Another point at which guilt and issues can come into our hearts.