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Relational Generosity
Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4; Matthew 5:43-45; Matthew ...
Track 6 of 8 in the When Helping Hurts series
Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes, 32 seconds.
I want to look at some scriptures a minute and read a warning Jesus gave us when giving to the poor. Jesus warns us about doing something good for someone else but losing the intended effect. What good is a good deed when it hurts the person we are doing the good deed for

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

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Relational Generosity

We learned last week a very important principle when dealing with the poor, they have assets and their assets need to be used to help them with their poverty. Their assets are important, not because we don’t want to give our assets, but when the poor discover that they have more than they think, then they can learn how to solve their problems and become stewards over the many blessings that God has given them.

Too often the Church or Christians are too quick to give over assets to solve problems when relief is not what is needed. Most of the people we will meet will be in stages 2 or 3 which requires a much different approach to the problem. There is no question that MPCC wants and desires to help those in need. And we do a lot. But the question is, even though we are generous and help many, are they really served? Through our generous help we have to ask the question, are we helping or are we hurting.

Before we switch gears here I want to look at some scriptures a minute and read a warning Jesus gave us when giving to the poor. Jesus warns us about doing something good for someone else but losing the intended effect. What good is a good deed when it hurts the person we are doing the good deed for?

True or False: The poor are not very impressed by charity.

Of course, the poor will accept our charity but they usually aren’t impressed. All over TV and in the news we see and hear about the awards and the recognition people get because of their benevolence. But when talking with the poor, they suspect that most giving from the well-to-do is little more than guilt therapy and image management. St. Vincent de Paul who devoted his entire life in service to the poor said:

“It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them”

Two neighbors were sitting on the subway heading home. In the newspaper that day there happened to be an article about a volunteer group that had helped clean up some yards in their neighborhood. “Have you ever noticed”, the neighbor said to the other, “that every time those folks come over here they bring a camera?” He’d noticed and he wasn’t impressed.

Here is a warning Jesus gave those around him concerning their acts of righteousness (helping others).

Matthew 6:1 Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

By nature, are we impressed by wealth? Are we impressed by people who have enough to be magnanimous – to make a name for themselves with their giving?

Jesus noticed that people who are given access to the abundance of God’s creation have the incredible ability to believe that it makes them important thus the reason for the warning found in Matthew 6. But like the neighbor who wasn’t impressed by the group cleaning up his neighborhood, Jesus isn’t impressed either.

What is the problem? We are missing the point if our generosity shines the light on ourselves, highlighting the division between the haves and the have-nots, the giver and the receiver (The God-Complex).

True or False: If we try to step into the limelight, we have forfeited the very abundance that our Father was trying to shower on us.

In Matthew 6:1, the reward Jesus is talking about, is it future or in the present?

Jesus considers our generosity in the limelight as spiritual sickness and isn’t very impressed. Nor are the neighbors we are trying to help. But there is antidote to this sickness, we give “in secret”.

Matthew 6:2-4 “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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

We don’t hold press conferences to announce our generosity. We give simply to the one who asks. Because we treasure our relationship with others above all else, we do everything we can not to highlight their need or diminish their dignity. Our Giving Is Not the Big Deal. The big deal is our relationship with one another and the communion with our Father that grows deeper as we are reconciled with people we think of as enemies.

True or False: To give in secret is to give privately.

Again, anything that causes us to build up our egos is wrong. Private giving builds up our egos through the false humility of an anonymous gift.

What is fundamentally wrong with anonymous giving? How can our generosity be relational if we never come face-to-face with people who are in need? So what then is a secret gift? What is secret giving?

Secret Giving: To give without concern for our image or for results. We are to give like our Father gives:

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

So when confronted by this kind of giving, what are the first questions that come to our minds? We here Christians ask these all the time, even in this class, what are they? How does relational generosity challenge our concepts about “good stewardship”? What is “good stewardship”?

Matthew 24:45-51 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Based on Matthew 24, what is your definition of good stewardship? Then how does this principle get used when considering relational generosity?

True or False: Good stewardship can be summed up as follows: with careful calculations, we try and we try to get our giving right.

BUT, Jesus says:

Matthew 6:3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

How many of you run your homes or your businesses this way? What are the consequences when we operate our lives this way? Then why does God want us to give this way? Does God want chaos in our giving?

What happens when people give grudgingly or for show? Their hearts are not in their gift. How many people would give to the Salvation Army to cover the needs of the poor if they weren’t standing outside the stores ringing their bells? When being compelled to give or when your giving is with a grudgingly attitude, what do your hands do?

What Jesus is saying with his illustration; our concept of being a good steward is when we with both hands count out carefully the exact amount we wish to give. Every deed of generosity is thought out and recorded and due pride is taken therein.

When confronted by the bell ringers, how many of you give? How many of you do happily? Have you ever felt good in doing it? Why? What amount do you normally give? The change or do you go into your purse or wallet to give a little more? How many of you just reach in and give everything without even counting it, just give it all?

When people give in secret or from the heart, they reach in with one hand and take out all that there is and hand it over. They don’t take the time to calculate how their gift will be viewed by others or whether it is the most responsible use of the resources. They just give to the one who asks. They simply love the person in front of them and so create the possibility of a whole new relationship.

Now, how does this attitude and secret generosity work with picking a number between 1-3 or with ABCD? How does this type of generosity help the poor without hurting them?

At the core, what hurts the poor and ourselves? At the core, what causes us to lose all that is laid up for us in heaven? Focus on the wrong thing. The God complex is a major hindrance in serving and helping the poor. Before we should ever attempt to help, we must have our giving attitudes in the right place. We must be secret givers, secret in generosity and focused on loving all those who stand in front of us. Picking a number or using ABCD will only result in actions through a program. Those needing help won’t be impressed nor will Jesus. Our impact on the world to be ministers of reconciliation will fall flat. We simply will do more harm than good.

Jesus wants you and me to be like Him. He invites each of us to this unique ministry. He wants us to speak the Good News that he has a radical abundance and that He is a Father who loves without limit and gives without calculating the cost. If we become like him, then he will draw hundreds if not thousands to us to hear the Good News.

What do you think will happen in Quincy if people begin to understand that MPCC is a church who gives without calculating the cost? How does that work and how do we get there?