Lenten Spiritual Practice: Giving Alms
The traditional way the church starts Lent and invites us to participate in Lenten Spiritual Practices is by reading a section from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 6:1-18). In this section Jesus is encouraging the people to use spiritual practices as a way to deepen their connection with God and not as a way to be praised by others. Jesus lists prayer, fasting and giving alms. Yes, Jesus says that giving is a spiritual practice.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:2-4
How is giving a spiritual practice? It re-orientates us from think about ourselves to think about others. That $20 could be eating lunch out for you or can provide lunch for someone else. From your blessings or abundance or even your scarcity, when you give you sacrifice something of yourself for the benefit of others. It is following the example of Jesus who sacrificed for us.
So how do we give:
1) Jesus asks us to give to help people in need and not to be praised. We have seen people do give so they will look good and it feels unauthentic. I have often come across people who do not want their giving to be known just so they don’t fall into that unauthentic group. Step one is to have pure motive in your giving. You want to help someone.
2) Giving is not just to the church. While I believe it is important to give to the church and that AUMC uses the gifts wisely to further the Kingdom of God and helping people in need, Jesus is talking about more than giving to the church. We are called to respond with a generous and gracious heart to the needs around us. Giving can look like:
Giving to our local church.
Giving through church agencies such as UMCOR and Great Plains Conference cleaning kits for those impacted by Nebraska floods.
Giving to non-profits that are associated with the church such as Andover Community Food Bank and Thrive Butler.
Giving to an organization that represents a common goal or concern you have either for the world such as Heifer International or locally such as Youthville.
3) Start small. It may seem like you have to give large amounts to make a difference but the truth is even little donations have large impacts. Organizations such as The Life you can Save or Kiva (a micro loan organization) show how small gifts make big differences. Even locally, small gifts provide support and resources for people in need.
I challenge you to think about how and to whom you can give this Lent as both an act of personal sacrifice and an act of love for your neighbor.