Almsgiving- #LentExp2017

Ideas to accomplish this week’s challenge are at the end of this blog post.

hand-683909_960_720Alms.  It’s a word that’s not used much anymore.  We’re not sure what it is, much less how we would give it!  The word comes to us in English through a few languages.  At the heart of the meaning of this word are compassion and mercy.  Almsgiving is an act of love by which we meet someone else’s practical needs.

Our hearts are beating more in rhythm with the heartbeat of God when we are actively and sacrificially giving to meet the needs of others.  I need this reminder regularly because I live in an affluent, suburban area.  It would be a great act of self-deception to think that I am not affected by the selfishness, self-absorption, materialism, excessive consumption, and selfish ambition of the area in which I live.  It’s all around me and I fear it has a greater effect on me than I may even realize.   It’s an honest assessment to ask this question:   Am I becoming more like Jesus or more like the culture in which I live?

God has always been concerned for the weak, the needy, the marginalized, and the defenseless.  Furthermore, He is concerned that we are concerned as well.

LEAVE SOME FOR OTHERS

When God established his covenant with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, he communicated with great clarity what was expected of His people.  While these stipulations (laws) seem stale to many, they actually reveal much about the heart of God and what He values.

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Set some aside to share with others. Lev 19.

Lev 19:9-10  NIV

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.  I am the Lord  your God.

No…we don’t get a pass because the vast majority of us are not farmers.  The idea here is that the people of God should care about one another by caring about the needs of others.  Did you notice that this included “aliens” too?  This challenges us to care for those outside of our normal relational sphere.  This should show up in our lives in very practical ways.  God expected and still does expect His people to limit their own consumption in order to provide for the needs of others.

AVOID RELIGIOUS CHARADES

James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

God has never really been ambiguous about what He thinks about us going through the motions of religion.  He’s not much impressed by our singing on Sunday if our lives sing the song of selfishness the rest of the week.

Understanding “true religion” is as much a heart issue as it is an intellectual issue.  God loves people.  God cares about how people are treated.  God cares about how we treat people to the extent that it seems to be at the very heart of how he evaluates how genuine our faith in Him really is. It’s like He’s saying “You love me?  Good.  Then love them.” This makes me uncomfortable because I’m not so sure I would give myself high marks with this.  So what do I do?

To be clear, we don’t earn our salvation and entrance into the eternal kingdom by doing kind things.  Nor does this mean that God is saying that our gatherings to worship and hear His word taught are not important.  It is, however, clear in Scripture that we demonstrate our faith in and loyalty to God by living it out in our homes, our churches, our business offices, our schools, and our communities.  True religion and genuine faith is evidenced by living a life that increasingly includes acts of mercy, justice, and giving oneself for orphans, the poor, the widow, the struggling single mom, the fatherless kid, the prisoner, the sick, etc.

Here are a few more references for you to consider:  Is 58, Mt 6:1-4, Mt 22:34-40, Mt 25, Gal 2:10.

idea-1195914_960_720THREE IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK.  PICK ONE AND GO FOR IT!

  • Idea 1– Keep your eyes open.  Simply ask God “Who do you want me to help and what do you want me to do” and then go throughout your normal day looking for the answer.  You’ll likely be surprised at how much more you notice all around you.
  • Idea 2- Explore donating to your local church or a local organization that meets the needs of people.  This could be time, money, food, giving things you already own, buying new things, etc.  You may be surprised at what you learn about what’s going on in your community or things your church does of which you were not aware.
  • Idea 3– That idea or person that’s in your head right now.  You’ve thought about it, but maybe have put it off or haven’t been sure exactly what to do.  Do it…this week…even if you do it imperfectly.

Eric Ferris is the Executive Teaching Pastor at Vineyard Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eric grew up Roman Catholic, attended a Pentecostal bible college, and has been on staff at churches with both charismatic and reformed theological leanings (and probably likes you more if you have no idea what that means). Eric created the Lent Experience to "help those of us who grew up observing Lent ritualistically to discover the meaning and heart behind Lent and for those who grew up in evangelical churches or no church at all to discover how valuable it is to get in touch with some of these practices that Christians have observed for hundreds of years."

Posted in The Lent Experience 2016